The LGBTQIA+ community is not immune to racism or sexism; homophobia and transphobia are also pervasive because even in marginalized groups, more marginalization exists — and being queer doesn’t automatically make you a decent human being. And because sexuality and gender identity are not the same thing, yet are grouped under the same “inclusive” rainbow that exists outside of a heteronormative world, folks have strong opinions about whose rights are more valid and whose label should be given more respect. My point? Every family has a d-bag uncle who makes everyone uncomfortable, and sometimes the d-bag in the queer family is the lesbian who doesn’t support transgender people because she somehow thinks their identity is about her.
If you are not a white, cisgender, straight person, it can be hard to find yourself in the media, on television, and in movies. Representation is so important for those of us in the queer community, so when celebrities come out as gay or transgender it feels like a victory to be seen, even if through another person.
Representation normalizes non-heteronormative identities so that over time queer people don’t have to work so hard to explain ourselves or prove our worth as human beings. Elliot Page was, and still is, a wonderful example of this representation. He is a beloved actor and activist and when identifying as a woman who was in a relationship with another woman, lesbians used him as an extension of themselves. But then they felt betrayed when he transitioned, as if he abandoned them and stomped on the lesbian label on his way out of the gay closet to become a straight man.
This issue is not new within the cisgender lesbian community; the rift is often between transmasculine folks and folks who label themselves as bisexual. Some lesbians feel like they are losing a member of their circle when someone moves into a new identity that sheds a female label, or when a woman who calls herself gay then sleeps with a man. I have seen this firsthand and know that the root of this is their belief that to transition into something closer to masculine is to gain male privilege and to benefit from the patriarchal society that not only holds back women, but especially queer women. A woman passing as straight is a privilege. A transgender man passing as a cisgender man is too. However, no one’s identity should be defined by anyone else, and it’s never any transgender person’s job to pass as a particular gender. Unfortunately, both situations are safer in many cases, though. And to “conform” is to sell out, or so some lesbians think.
Elliot Page and all of the other folks who have transitioned between genders are still here and are still role models; the only loss is my respect for members of my community who show their transphobic asses instead of celebrating someone’s authentic self and happiness.
Cis lesbians who say they are depressed, angry, or disappointed when someone lets go of the female label for masculine or gender neutral pronouns are transphobic and hypocritical. Mourning the loss of Page’s female identity is as gross and wrong as a parent mourning the loss of their straight child or who they thought was their son or daughter. Page, like all transgender folks, is on a very personal journey and it’s a privilege to get to know their story; the lesbians who are mad at his transition can fuck off. They are as bad as the gay men who won’t date or sleep with transgender men because they don’t see them as “real” men, as if being born with a dick is what makes you real.
Lesbians who are mad about transmasculine folks are as bad as TERFs (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists) who think transgender women are a threat to cisgender women because they believe biological sex is ultimately what determines your gender; science says otherwise but TERFs rely on the term “gender critical” as a defense to “protect” women from transgender women in private spaces. Lesbians who are TERFs feel that their womanhood is under attack by transgender women, because somehow having a uterus is a prerequisite for she/her pronouns.
Of course there are jokes about whose team someone plays on, but there should never be serious animosity when someone switches teams. First of all, if this is an “aw shucks, now I will never get a chance with Page” sentiment, what makes any lesbian think they had a chance with Page in the first place? And what if they did? Would they hold onto their lesbian, purist identity so tightly that they wouldn’t give Page or another transmasculine person a second look because it may challenge their sense of self? This is a giant mess of intersecting sexualities and gender identities, and it’s closed-minded at best when some lesbians decide what is best for all lesbians. Also, Page has every right to still call himself a lesbian. Cisgender women don’t have a trademark on that word. There are plenty of transmasculine and nonbinary folks who are lesbians and every one of them are valid and deserve respect.
Thankfully, even in a community that is not always united, the majority of us are accepting of all our queer family members and are ready to celebrate every coming out story.
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