By ASHLEY LOVE
The medical condition transsexualism is neither equivalent nor subservient to gay, lesbian or bisexual sexual orientations or to transgender identities such as gender queer, cross dresser, transvestite, drag queen/king or gender non-conforming, yet this appears to be the perception some in the LGBT establishment inadvertently communicate to mainstream society, the media and educational outlets.
This complicated matter of conflation, colonization and censorship of transsexual issues lies at the heart of MAGNET’s boycott of GLAAD and American Apparel’s Pride month T-shirts with model Isis King (America’s Next Top Model’s first contestant born with transsexualism) wearing shirts that read “Legalize Gay.”
Professor Joelle Ruby, Ph.D. headed two feminism panels at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference earlier this month. She recently stated on Facebook: “[GLAAD] hires TRANSSEXUAL model Isis King to model…t-shirts that say “Legalize Gay” and “Gay is OK”. They erase King’s transsexualism (AND TRANS RIGHTS in general) to forward their gay-centric agenda. And then they wonder why we critique Gay, Inc.???”
The slogans of the shirts, perhaps unintentionally, send misleading and non-affirming messages of the transsexual community. Isis, who has undergone sex reassignment surgery, is actually a heterosexual female, not “gay.” “Gay” isn’t an umbrella term or interchangeable with “transsexual.” The advertisements feed the misconception that all women like Isis are “gay” males, rather than who they truly are — women, period.
Chanel International, transsexual and transgender communities based counselor at New York City’s Anti-Violence Project, stands with the boycott. In her statement to MAGNET she says, “As my past and present experience working with the community has taught me, those of us who are straight don’t like to be considered anything other than a heterosexual woman. Just as damaging as physical violence could be mental violence, like erasing one’s accurate identity, such as misgendering, causing psychological abuse. I support equality for all; however, Isis should respectfully be recognized as a woman, not a commodity to be co-opted for a gay and lesbian only demographic.” Her remarks reflect her personal views; she was not speaking as a representative of AVP.
GLAAD frequently does good work benefiting the transsexual community. MAGNET has previously worked with GLAAD on successful campaigns. On a personal note, GLAAD played a role in inspiring me to choose to be more visible and to help people in my community tell their stories and harness the media to make change. Yet we won’t follow the transgender umbrella subsidiary of Gay, Inc. that remains silent or professionally profits when GLAAD makes mistakes and condones messaging that misrepresents and mocks us. The cost of voicing dissent may be censorship, character assassination and conniving cyber-bulling, but the cost of choosing silence is worse: A future that puts us into a third gender and sub-woman mold.
It’s unethical to enforce sociopolitical opinions onto another group’s legitimate medical condition, such as how transgender umbrella theorists started doing in the mid-1990s to transsexualism. Our patients’ rights are not a political bargaining chip for gender deconstructionism activists to appropriate.
In theory, the coalition known as LGBTTIQQ is different communities aligning themselves to accomplish a common goal. But what happens when that coalition’s top priority ranks the needs of a particular, more privileged group over the more discriminated against groups? An uprising is what happens. The “Transsexual Spring,” the widespread and growing resistance against misrepresentation, calls for major reform in education concerning our birth challenge. Our health care, medical-based narrative and social well being won’t be compromised or worked against by notions of pro-segregation, malpractice, history revisionism and the tolerance of sex discrimination. We hope our educational campaign will spark dialogue that leads to honesty, healing and harmony. Our much larger goal is promoting media depictions with messages that affirm, rather than misgender.
MAGNET asks supporters to buy tees with alternative slogans such as “Legalize Transsexualism,” “We Will Not Be Erased” or “‘Transsexual’ Will Not Be Censored.” Join the online discussion at the ‘Transsexual’ Will Not Be Censored Facebook page, facebook.com/#!/groups/242017769243699.
More than this boycott, we ask GLAAD to foster respect, democracy, responsibility and accuracy by reforming its practices and media guide section on transsexual-related representation.
Ashley Love is a transsexual and intersex advocate and an organizer of Media Advocates Giving National Equality to Transsexual and Transgender People (MAGNET). Reach her at [email protected].