Letter to the editor: Reply to transphobia

We received this letter to the editor this week but don't have space for it in print so we're posting it here. 

Columnist Jim Longworth's initial article, that Parker Hurley is responding to, is available here. Below is Hurley's full letter:

"I’m not surprised about the adamancy of Jim Longworth's article (“Parents of transgender kids...” June 13) or the historical inaccuracy in which the transphobic analysis is grounded. Gender, like race, is something deeply entrenched in our culture. We all have real, intense emotions about sex, sexuality and gender and how gender is racialized and how race is gendered. It affects how we feel about ourselves, how we build relationships and all of our social institutions. Like race, gender is a social construction, a story that we tell ourselves-that has no biological basis. Still, within these stories and within our formal education the lives and contributions of those living outside of these socially constructed binaries (gay/straight, black/white, boy/girl, man/woman, male/female) of been omitted within our textbooks, curricula and media. Transgender and gender non-conforming people have been a part of every culture and community since before the beginning of recorded time and have been on the frontlines of many social justice movements, including a gay and lesbian liberation movement (not to mention that transgender people are gay, straight, bisexual, queer and lesbian identified).

Contrary to popular belief and “The LGB Movement” in the US was not launched by middle-class, white, cisgender, gender-conforming people who posited marriage equality as the epitome of social and economic justice. It was the work and the resistance to state violence and policy brutality of trans* and gender non-conforming people of color. Their struggles were the ones that incited the Stonewall Rebellion and whose efforts we celebrate annually during PRIDE celebrations. To this end we need to further problematize the assertion that there is even one homogenous LGB movement to begin with and think about who is left out in the struggle for “equality. In the cultivation of a one size fits all version of “equality,” we further marginalize those of us on the fringes of the fringe, those of us who are genderqueer, people of color, sex workers, and/or im/migrants, etc. whose histories have been subjugated and narratives left unheard.

This kind of social stratification damages everyone, and it’s disconcerting how easily these damaging binaries and false boxes can be perpetuated to the detriment of many. While the column is disappointing, it isn’t surprising — We are used to hearing the voices and opinions of the more privileged of us within LGBTQ communities that unknowingly or purposefully try to speak for us, drown out our voices or argue that we do not or should not exist. These are voices that would also have us believe that our struggles and our liberation are not intertwined and interdependent, when they very much are.

As a queer, mixed-race transgender man (I was assigned female at birth and formally identified as a gay woman), I am not replying to this article in search of the limelight as asserted in Longworth’s article, but rather to unearth the reality that cissexism (the supremacy of cisgender or non-transgender people whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth) as well as racism, sexism, ableism, classism, etc. are all alive and well within LGBTQ communities-as exemplified in the Longworth article. This kind of horizontal oppression allows for the narrow definition of “LGB” rights as put forth in the Longworth article, has us even fighting which bathroom to use and helps perpetuate the culture of violence that makes possible the disproportionate murders of transgender women of color and the high suicide rights within queer and questioning youth. All of us, our youth especially, deserve the opportunity to express the fullest extensions of ourselves at any given time, knowing that what that might mean or look like will vary throughout one’s lifetime, if not daily. Furthermore, I could not be more grateful of the work of my twin sister and to all of the parents and guardians who make room for their own and their children's’ social, spiritual and physical transformations.

Feeling safe — in school, on the streets and anywhere else — is a paramount concern. It may be easy to dismiss something we don’t understand as silly, unnecessary or unwise, but such ill-informed conclusions can never outweigh legitimate desires for safety, recognition, dignity and liberation. Regardless of where you fall on the oppressor-oppressed continuum, all of us equally share the responsibility to dismantle oppression in all of its manifestations. Together we can make room for the fullest expansion of human expression of identity, love and honor the self-determinism of individuals within our communities. This is a call to action: Get connected. Listen. Learn. Unlearn. Own your privilege and be accountable to queer/trans*/people of color communities. Stay busy dreaming and building the world you would like to live in and have it be one that makes space for the reality that there are more than two sexes and more than two genders. Your freedom and my own relies on it.

Parker T. Hurley is a doctoral student in UNCG’s Higher Education Department, directs The Bayard Rustin for LGBTQQA Activism, Education and Reconciliation as the LGBTQ Coordinator at Guilford College, and is currently acting as the Deputy Director of the Trans* People of Color Coalition. For more information and to get involved feel free to reach Parker directly at: hurleypt@guilford.edu."

1 comment:

JRK III said...

I would have still found a way to at least print some of this very important response to bigotry in the paper, perhaps with information on how to read the full letter. Readers of Yes! Weekly deserve to see some kind of response to Longworth's truly disgusting sentiments (not to mention the simple fact that opinion pieces should not be breeding grounds for lies and untruths such as Longworth spreads in his original piece).

Still, thank you for doing at least a little bit to spread such a thoughtful, powerful - indeed prophetic - response.