Why umbrella community activism?Trans Progressive Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Commentary: Trans Progressive
There is an Asian-Pacific Islander (API) community, and there is API community activism. There are differences between those of Samoan ancestry and those of Chinese ancestry; there are differences between those Americans who have familial or ancestral ties to Japan, and those Americans who have familial or ancestral ties to Indonesia. But along with differences between ethnic groups that fall under the API umbrella, there are also many similarities and many commonalities between the subcommunities of the API community. And the commonalities include the discrimination they experience that’s based in racism. Many of those who discriminate against API community members can’t tell a Korean-American apart from a Chinese-American from a Japanese-American; those who discriminate against all who’ve gathered under the API umbrella have banded together.
Sociopolitical umbrella communities still exist even if individuals who could define themselves as members of a sociopolitical umbrella community choose not personally to step under a particular sociopolitical umbrella.
In other words, not every person who identifies as Chinese-American, Samoan-American, Korean-American, Japanese-American, Indonesian-American, chooses to identify as an API community member.
For similar reasons, there are commonalities between lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people that have resulted in LGBT people forming a community. The subcommunities share the experience of discrimination if not conforming to the heteronormative sex and gender norms of broader society.
Here in California, by banding together we’ve seen antidiscrimination legislation laws passed at the statehouse for the entirety of the LGBT community, as well as marriage equality that was overturned by popular vote. We’ll see repeal of Prop. 8 in the state soon whether it’s by the Supreme Court of the United States or by popular vote should the appeal fail – our legislature will make sure it comes up for a vote again should our community lose in the federal courts.
There is a transgender umbrella too for the trans subcommunity of the LGBT community. We’ve gathered under community umbrellas in part because the prejudice and discrimination we face.
With legislative or regulatory language, there is no way to protect against discrimination of the gender identity of transsexual people without protecting the gender expression of genderqueer people, cross dressers and drag performers.
When a newly out transsexual comes out in the workplace, protecting gender identity doesn’t necessarily protect the gender expression of that person who is not yet legally the gender to which he, she or ze identifies. If an employer defines a person as male, but the gender expression of that person is female, the lack of protection of gender expression means an employer can fire someone in the first year of transition.
Here in California, one can’t go back and forth – conforming, let’s say to workplace dress codes for males one day and workplace dress codes for females another day. One has to pick a gender to which dress codes will be followed, and that will be the gender-specific dress codes which apply to an employee.
But protection of trans people in schools and workplaces don’t just benefit trans people. If sexual orientation becomes a protected class without gender identity and gender expression, then peers and employers can discriminate against or harass gays and lesbians not because they are (or are perceived to be) gay or lesbian, but instead because they are perceived to be not conforming to societal sex and gender norms.
Working for the common interest of LGBT people is a reason why there is an LGBT sociopolitical community umbrella; working for the common interest of trans people is a reason why there is a LGBT sociopolitical community umbrella.
There is a case to be made for LGBT community activism; for trans-specific community activism. And, that’s even if a significant number people who could fall under the LGBT and trans specific community umbrellas choose not to.
There are sociopolitical umbrella communities; these are all here to stay. Community activists in these communities are here to stay too.
Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=36867