Our Trans-Family

By Melanie Yarborough

Note:  The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Neutral Corner.

Our transfamily is pretty diverse, that’s for sure.

Our Drag Queen sisters are the founders. Underneath the sequins and fierce makeup, queens identify as gay men, and want you to know they’re gay men. They’re not trying to pass. The transgender mainstream is often uncomfortable with them, just as the gay mainstream often is. Both communities have accused Queens of being loud and flamboyant, and of giving each a bad name. But until recently, Drag Queens were the most visible members of our family. For centuries on stages and in cabarets, they reminded the straight world that we existed. And almost 50 years ago, the Drag Queens of Stonewall fought for OUR rights, and for OUR freedoms.

Our Female-To-Male brothers bring a unique dimension to our family. Through their experiences of growing up as women, they’re often nurturers and caregivers. They bring HEART to manhood, a dimensionality to maleness that’s sometimes lacking in many cisgender men.

The intersexed bring to us the biological reality of the diversity of nature. They share experiences of growing up feeling “different” from other children, of the shame and fear of being outed, of the sense of not being complete as a man or woman.

Crossdressers are the silent ones. Crossdressers have been accused of being gay men in denial. Or of being hypocrites who want to enjoy masculine privilege while slumming as faux drag queens. Because they’re closeted and live and work in the straight world, they’re seen as not willing to take the risks the rest of the family takes. But crossdressing does not mean just going back and forth between two genders. It means opening oneself up to new possibilities, being able to explore the gender continuum and find a unique space in it.

Our spouses, partners, family and friends are also affected by transgender but in different ways. They’re not in the background; they’re  on the front lines. They often wind up as our explainers and defenders. They didn’t ask for this role. It was thrust upon them. And they often take it up with quiet heroism.

The Gay Community is part of our extended family.

The Lesbian and Gay community first used the word FAMILY to describe sexual minorities. It is to them that we owe some of our most important concepts: The idea of COMING OUT. The idea of GAY PRIDE, and by extension, TRANS PRIDE. The idea of a GAY HISTORY, and by extension, TRANS HISTORY- those famous people and events who came before us, and to which we can look up to as examples. The idea of IDENTITY SYMBOLS such as the pink triangle or the rainbow. The gay community has paved the way, and we owe them our gratitude.

Some may want to distance the trans from the Gay community. But those who killed Matthew Shepard and Billy Jack Gaither, are the same people who killed Brandon Teena and Tyra Hunter. Those who fight same-sex marriage are the same people who fight opposite-sex transition. And those who make snide jokes about lesbians and queers, are the same people who make snide jokes about men in drag and she-males. To the STRAIGHT SUPREMICISTS of the world, there is NO difference between a faggot and a tranny.

But like many families, the Transgender Community has its own internal quarrels. The biggest single threat to the Transgender family is the threat from within. Psychologists even have a name for it: HORIZONTAL HATRED. It’s when we dump on our own more than we dump on the outside world that harasses us. Why? Maybe its the need to feel superior to someone, after years of being told we’re inferior to everyone. Maybe its the basic drive in human DNA, the need for power and control. Maybe it’s a mirror of the straight world, a desire to create our own little “uniform” space where everyone thinks and acts like ourselves. Whatever the reason, this kind of self regulation is ugly and has no place in our community.

We can all acknowledge our differences in a positive way. We lose nothing by respecting ALL  forms of trans-expression.  Crossdressers can honor transsexuals by appreciating the nerve and the verve that it takes to transition, even if they themselves do not feel called to that path. Transsexuals can appreciate that crossdressers have found their own space on the gender continuum, one that suits them. And we can all continue to seek out and embrace all members of our family: drag kings, the intersexed, bisexuals, sissies, butch lesbians, leather-people, and all genderqueers.

The basic idea behind family is “There’s room for every one of us”. In this family, let’s be sure that the ties that bind us together remain greater than our individual differences. A dysfunctional family is one that feels anyone who is different is a threat to  family unity and is punished. A healthy family is one that embraces differences and allows them to flourish.

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