Eyewitness To LGBT Foundation

TransGriot Note: Guest Post by Denise Norris

I want to share some eyewitness history about the founding of LGBT and
the original meaning of Transgender. As some of you know, I
participated in the formative events back in the early 90s in New York
City.

A Transgender Nation

The word transgender dates
back decades, well before it was used by Virginia Prince in the 1980s.
Overtime, it has been used to represents all types of people who
transcend society’s definitions of gender, from episodic crossdressers
to transsexual woman. It was first publicly re-purposed in its modern
incarnation by Anne Ogborn when she started Transgender Nation in 1993
which she modeled on Queer Nation, a predominately LG radical young
activist organization that arose out of the AIDS crisis and lack of
civil protections for Queer people. More and more people began to
substitute the work transgender when referring to themselves to avoid
the stigmatization associated with ‘transsexual’ Over time, this has
lead to many cis-people thinking that transgender only applies to people
who have, are or intend to change their sex.

That being
said, Transgender is actually an umbrella sociopolitical term intended
to cover all aspects of non-conforming gender. It is not a medical term,
it is not a condition, it is not something to pathologize. It was
adopted to represent all the people who face discrimination because they
have a non-conforming gender in the eyes of society.

So why
was it important that the term was so broad? Simply put, we realized
that all the groups under the umbrellas (including drag, intersex,
crossdressing, butch women, fem men, transsexuals, etc…) alone lacked
the numbers to effectively reform society to stop discrimination and
achieve equality.

But even then, we still lacked the numbers to
effectively press forward an agenda for equal rights and stopping
discrimination.

Enter LGBT

While transgender was
slowly becoming an accepted term within the Queer world, there was still
great resistance with the older gays and lesbians who represented a
majority of G&L community. Trans people were frequently frozen out
of G&L support centers or we were tolerated, but a member of the
family.

Things soon came to a head. 1994 was the 25th
anniversary of the riots at Stonewall in NYC and we found ourselves
completed excluded from the Huge Pride March that year. We were told we
would have a place in the alternative march. Even worse, in the slew
of Gay history books that appeared at that time, the role of what we now
call transgender people in the riots was completely excised. Needless
to say, we fought back and won inclusion in the parade. I recommend http://books.google.com/books?id=KmMEAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PP1&ots=YuNwga5SVH&pg=PA59#v=onepage&q&f=false to those who want to get a better understanding of the dynamics of the times.

Getting the G&L community to back down and include us acted a seed
crystal in a supersaturated solution. More and more of the progressive
G&L thinkers reconsidered the demands of bisexuals and transgenders
for inclusion. Many people were pushing for the adoption of a word
like queer, but for many, it was too loaded with negative history and as
a result, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender was adopted, building
on the existing Gay and Lesbian theme. Eventually this was changed to
Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Transgender to place more focus on the needs
of woman and so, LGBT was born.

It was never intended that LGBT
stop at Transgender. The original intent was for a rainbow of people,
celebrating diversity and inclusion, while fighting against
discrimination and for equality for every one under that rainbow.
According to Gilbert Baker, creator of the rainbow flag, this rainbow
included everyone.

Forward to the Future

Eventually, I
believe that we will find a better moniker than LGBT to describe our
rainbow, but like the old G&L guardians that sought (and still seek
to exclude) T, there will be people who have found safety in the
identity of LGBT who will resist the changes still necessary to have
equality for all people in our spectrum. I, for one, look forward to
true equality for all people who don’t comply with the gender binary, be
they gay, lesbian, bi/omni/pan, trans, intersex, questioning or any
other member of my family.

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