As a movement, our struggle with inclusiveness is to some extent about how to understand justice and injustice in ways that cover the experiences of lots of distinct and overlapping people. We struggle to include trans identity and experience in meaningful ways (or at all).
We struggle to include non-binary folks – genderqueer, agender, neutrois, genderfluid, genderflux, two-spirit, polygender, pangender folks – or to even know these folks exist and how they express themselves. We struggle to recognize how representations of trans people on tv and in film tend to skew toward binary, white, middle- and upper-class models and toward a standard that is conventionally attractive, able to “pass,” respectable, and thin. We struggle to challenge the framework in which trans people of color are measured by a standard of gender based on white norms and ideals and are therefore forced into a deficit from the outset. And so on.
We lengthen our acronym in our hope to exhaust the ever-expanding universe of people and peoples in the LGGBTQQIAAAPP communities (lesbian, gay, genderqueer, bi, trans, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, agender, ally, pansexual, polyamorous), which still already leaves out the NGGTPP folks mentioned a minute ago and a few dozen of the Facebook gender and relationship options, the many, many folks who are creating new names for and understandings of themselves, and so on. We can’t necessarily create an exhaustive list of initials that will bring everyone in and leave no one out, and why do we try, I wonder sometimes, when we still struggle so much with basic inclusions of just the T in our branding and messaging and program materials and accommodations.
And so I wonder whether it might transform our movement, and how we approach inclusion, and how we understand our similarities and differences, and how we talk about experience and spirituality and justice and injustice if we reframe our movement: Rather than beginning with sexualities and tacking on genders after the fact, instead beginning perhaps with another vulnerable location shared broadly, beginning perhaps with our overarching and underlying experiences of gender nonconformity.
Would we then finally talk about God and marriage equality and oppression and our goals and mission as a community in ways that reflect all of us — regardless of whether we are deviating from our assigned gender at birth, or deviating from our assigned gender in sexual partners, or deviating from our assigned gender in roles and mannerisms and interests and clothing, or deviating from our assigned gender by acting as gender traitors who encourage and support deviations from assigned gender?
I wonder whether, starting from a shared identity as gender nonconformists, we would then finally fully begin to understand that we were all assigned gender at birth; that we all have gender identities; that we all have preferred names and pronouns; that there are as many expressions of gender as there are colors in one of those really big Crayola crayon boxes and that we really need to talk to and ask everyone how they identify; that straight folks and non-trans folks are also harmed by rigid gender rules and standards of beauty and bathroom policing; that hegemonic masculinity and feminine ideals promote rape culture, disbelief, victim-blaming, and re-victimization; that police brutality and mass incarceration is tied to black bodies being hypermasculinized as super-strong, super-danger, super-predator; and so on.
This is not to argue that the root of all oppression is gender-related or transphobic or that all of race oppression or sexual oppression can be contained in a single rubric; still, it is possible that understanding the implications of not conforming to (white) (affluent) gender norms and expectations may go some distance toward improving our understanding of all oppressions as related and imagining the vast coalitions we can create in our shared goals of creating change. It may, at least, considerably improve our inclusion of trans and genderqueer experiences in our life and our work.