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One of the most constructive ways to build alliances is through umbrella groups, where several marginalized groups that share similar concerns band together to work on their shared issues. Transgender activism came about as a way bring together transsexuals with other gender-variant groups (e.g., crossdressers, intersex people, two-spirit people, genderqueers, butch women, femme men, etc.), not because we are “all the same,” but in order to fight together against a mutual problem we share: The way in which our society marginalizes all people who do not conform to gender norms.While not perfect, that coalition has positively impacted most of our lives.Anyone who has ever been an activist for any social justice issue can tell you that minority groups, on their own, are never able to fully achieve the positive change they seek in the world without first forming alliances with those who do not share their experience.This becomes even more crucial when the minority group in question is especially small.After all, it is the common assumption that a person’s sex, gender and sexuality should all nicely and neatly align that lies at the root of the oppression that all of us face.
But when people stoop to the level of sexualizing those they disagree with, or dismissing them as “fakes,” then they are engaging in name calling rather than intellectual debate, and I want absolutely no part of it.
This may be true, but this point has nothing to do with the rationale behind why trans people were initially included in the umbrella - specifically, because LGBT individuals are all discriminated against for similar reasons (i.e., because, in one way or another, we challenge the assumption that sex, gender and sexuality should all be perfectly aligned).
This is evident in the way that gays, lesbians and bisexuals are often targeted for discrimination for their gender nonconformity, and in the way that transsexuals are often targeted for discrimination because people fear that sleeping with us might “make them gay.” In other words, while sexual orientation and gender identity may be different things, homophobia and transphobia are very much intertwined.
So, for the record, I am in the pro-umbrella camp, even though I acknowledge that sometimes umbrella politics are messy and less than equitable.
In other words, I believe that the pros of umbrella politics outweigh the cons.
That person is Vivianne Namaste, an amazing Canadian trans activist, writer and theorist who is sadly underappreciated here in the States.