Open Letter to Cyndi Lauper

May 26, 2008

(Please Distribute Widely)

Cyndi Lauper

True Colors Tour

North America

I am taking this public way of contacting you because I deeply believe your good will and generosity have been diverted to ends you would neither approve of nor permit if you knew.

You have on many occasions declared your concern for LGBT people, such as recently to the Xtra.ca website in Canada

You could still be fired from your job in 31 states if you’re suspected of being gay, bisexual or transgendered. So I mean, things are hard right now. I don’t know what our story is [in America], but I think… lack of information…?

http://www.xtra.ca/public/viewstory.aspx?AFF_TYPE=3&STORY_ID=4792&PUB_TEMPLATE_ID=5

Your song, True Colors, has become an anthem for those among the most marginal who live in Canada and the United States.

Yet your support for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in the United States and Egale Canada in Canada will not reach the most marginal of LGBT people. Neither the HRC nor Egale Canada will provide either you or the public certain information regarding their history and current focus. The public, despite this silence, is beginning to understand the dire situation of transgendered people.

“Transgendered people,” The Ottawa Citizen declared last week, “are even more marginalized than drug addicts” http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/editorials/story.html?id=f68e086c-6a0e-48b2-b67b-d20d70ab04a7

There is no focus on this most marginal part of the LGBT population by either of these two organizations, even as the article in Xtra.ca suggests when it refers to “Canada’s gay and lesbian lobby group Egale.” Egale Canada, and other LGB(T) organizations in Canada, are beginning to focus on gay and lesbian people in other countries rather than transgendered people in Canada. It is difficult to understand these two organizations are anything other than part of the problem for transgendered people across North America.

HRC through its president, Joe Solmonese, declared its support only for a trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the Congress at Southern Comfort 2007 and then proceeded to abandon transgendered Americans when they supported Rep. Barney Frank’s non-inclusive ENDA. This after many years of a troubled relationship with transgendered Americans.

HRC was the only LGB, LGBT or T organization in the United States not to stand by transgendered Americans.

These are Joe Solmonese and HRC’s true colors.

In Canada, other than North West Territories, there are no formal human rights protections for transgendered people, unlike the universal formal protection for gay and lesbian people.

This despite the recent all too common misinformation sent out by the Executive Director of Egale Canada, Helen Kennedy:

“We may have human rights for LGBTQ people in Canada, but you’d never know it based on these results,” said Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale.

Two-Thirds Of Canadian LGBT Students Feel Unsafe At School http://www.365gay.com/Newscon08/05/051208bul.htm

This routine misinformation, spread by Canada’s LGB(T) organizations following Egale Canada’s lead, is an ongoing serious barrier to the hopes of transgendered Canadians for formal human rights protections taken for granted by gay and lesbian Canadians for a decade.

It is worse than silence.

The prospects for passage of such rights became dim when Egale Canada abandoned the national capital in 2007, thereby abandoning its long declared commitment to advocate for our human rights in the national Parliament and across the country.

I chaired Egale’s Trans Issues Committee in 2005, drafted and facilitated the passage of a detailed policy on advocacy for transgendered Canadians at the national level. I have watched in utter dismay as even lukewarm support for this formal policy was systematically removed—culminating in the 2007 purge of almost a generation of transactivists.

These are Egale Canada’s and Helen Kennedy’s true colors.

Transgendered people have never been hired as staff, nor been given ongoing significant roles on the boards of directors of either organization. The board of Egale Canada has always worked in complete secrecy and repeated rumours of a major “Trans Campaign” have never been fulfilled. There is simply no foundation of good faith to believe it ever will.

I ask you to reconsider your support for these organizations.

The situation of transgendered people in the United States and Canada is more dire than either of these organizations, their boards, executives and staff have ever acknowledged or ever accepted. Their deliberate actions have further marginalized transgendered people across North America.

In the United States there are many T and truly LGBT national organizations that deserve your support, that truly work NOW for the rights and lives of transgendered people—the most marginal of all LGBT people–not in some undefined time in the future.

In Canada, there is yet no national T organization, due in large part to Egale Canada’s siphoning off the energy and imagination of transgendered Canadians. There are, however, many organizations at the provincial and municipal level that deserve your support to carry forward the struggles Egale Canada has never committed to and has now made itself a barrier to.

Your support could very well lead to the formation of a national organization truly dedicated to the struggles of transgendered Canadians.

There are many across North America, transgendered people and true allies alike, who would be happy to provide you with any details you require.

Thank you for your consideration.

Jessica Freedman

Ottawa, Canada

(Please Distribute Widely)

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Related commentary on Egale Canada:

https://jessicalive.wordpress.com/2008/05/13/marginal-among-the-marginal/

https://jessicalive.wordpress.com/2008/05/19/inconvenient-divisive-and-ultimately-unnecessary/


Why is the Term Transgendered?

May 25, 2008

Ever since Kinsey created the spectrum/continuum between Heterosexual and Homosexual we’ve been cursed with lines. The only thing that commends itself about lines is that they are easy to read–for most us, at least, most of the time.

And we have, over the years, created/discovered a number of other lines that have become the way we in the GLBTT2IQQA (I think that is all of us) and straight allies, and others, have used to explain that we do not live in either/or but in gradations, spectrums and continuums.

I think I’ve captured most of them below:

Man———————————————————Woman

Masculine————————————————-Feminine

Male———————————————————Female

Heterosexual——————————————-Homosexual

Transgendered—————————————-Transsexual

Look closely, the usage of four of them is the same–the fifth, however, is quite exceptional–and I say marginalizing.

Forgetting the use of the past participle (that is, adding “ed” to transgender) it is the only spectrum/continuum in which the term on the left is used as the category and umbrella term for the whole line.

For the first two, the umbrella term is “gender.”

For the third, the umbrella term is “sex.”

For the fourth, the umbrella term is “sexual orientation”–or “orientation” for short.

Why is the umbrella term for the fifth “transgendered?” Why the special treatment?

Women have never accepted the idea they should be called “men” for, say, convenience sake. They would never accept the argument that the term “man” or “men” is used to include them has derived from history and is why they should accept their erasure from discussions that would otherwise include them.

In fact, feminists have long argued for the power of language and the necessity for specific inclusion for the term “woman” or “women” in discussions that include them or are about them.

Logically, in the second and the third line, it would be absurd to call feminine and female masculine and male, respectively; and it would be just as absurd to do the reverse.

Why, it would be like calling apples oranges.

Now, what would be the point in erasing the existence of one or the other?

In the fourth line, it would more than absurd to call homosexual people heterosexual–we would see that for what it is, heterosexist or heteronormative privilege, erasing the minority with the majority term. Gay and lesbian people do not have to endure that indignity.

But in the fifth line it is considered convenient to call transsexual people–a minority among a minority–by the term denoting the majority of the continuum.

This in violation of the rules of absurdity, logic and what we can now say cissexism and cisnormative privilege that can be gleaned from our scrutiny of the first four lines.

A personal experience.

In organizing for the last Transgender Day of Remembrance–called in many parts of Canada Trans Day of Remembrance–there were some early concerns regarding the way it would be called. Most of the people I was working with represented an organization that describes itself as a transgender support organization. At least half of those present were transgender, that is, were not concerned with surgery.

Numerically, the number of transsexual people in its membership has increased more than a little in the four and half years I’ve been aware of its existence–and since I was, for a short time, a member. Today, I believe all of its executive are transsexual people.

That is, those who have had and those who are intending to have surgery.

In our first discussions, the majority of those present desired to revert to “Transgender Day of Remembrance” from the three previous years’ usage. I argued for the use of the term “trans” as inclusive of all transgender and transsexual people. It was, at one point, suggested that since I had used this term, why not call the event “The Trans-Transgender Day of Remembrance?”

For some reason, possibly because I had used a term I believed inclusive, the use of the term transsexual in, say, “The Transgender-Transsexual Day of Remembrance” or maybe “The Transsexual-Transgender Day of Remembrance” was not on. Both of these usages were dismissed out of hand with clearly no understanding of what I was pointing at.

For quite a while now, I say “transgender and transsexual people” or “transsexual and transgender people” because I realize what we have, and must have if our campaigns are to work, is a coalition.

This logic has been a difficult one to sell–and especially at meetings of this group–because it is seen as inconvenient and probably divisive. The line often used is that there are too many divisions among GLBT people, with the implicit consideration that gay and lesbian people have used a forced singular identity, or oneness, based upon sexual orientation, to great success.

Among the most prominent casualties of this forced adherence to a singular identity have been Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Beth Elliot, Sandy Stone, Reed Erickson. The many transsexual women who were the Compton Cafeteria Riot. All transsexual people and most, if not all, quite unknown to those I was working with and the current generation as a whole.

Exclusion, and of course marginalization, an inherent result if not goal of the strategy of forced singular identity.

I have argued against this in previous blogs.

This terminology becomes all the more absurd in the current discussion in Ontario when one hears the things like ‘sex-change surgery for transgenders.’ Now, I don’t know any transgender person who wants surgery, because the definition of the term ‘transgender’ does NOT include a permanent movement from male to female or female to male. Permanent movement is the definition of the term ‘transsexual.’

Yeah, I know this is inconvenient, especially for those who reside in the territory of the majority.

I am reminded of gay men of a certain age who speak nostalgically of the time when everyone who wasn’t straight was gay–lesbians, bisexual people, transgender people, transsexual people. Sure it was convenient and not divisive for them but it obscured increasingly marginal populations while retaining their hold on power. And it is the most marginal people who most need to be recognized.

Silence for marginal people means our death.

So why the special treatment for transsexual people?