I think we have a long way to go in terms of education and communication, Phaylen Fairchild, but I think I’m a tad more optimistic than you are about cooperation among various communities and organizations that classify themselves under the LGBTQ umbrella.

I’ve been an activist since the early 1990s, a member and minor leader from time to time with Act Up and Queer Nation, among other groups.

Almost all the serious activists I knew then and who I continue to know, are very supportive of trans people and of the struggle for full and equal rights for trans people.

Sure, dialogue and communication lines need always to remain open. Minds need to remain open as ideas and positions evolve and gel.

And assholes will always abound.

Get any substantial number of humans together, and you’re gonna find some self-absorbed jerks. That’s the sad reality.

That doesn’t change the fact that we LGBTQ people, in all our sexual orientations and gender identities, have a lot in common. We face enemies who can’t or don’t distinguish among us anyway.

The big trans public restroom bruhaha all started, for example, when some religiously conservative assholes figured out that they could leverage public transphobia to shoot down broad-based, affirmative LGBTQ civil rights legislation.

Well, I think our various communities, or at least the leadership, are coming down pretty strong on that issue. We’re demanding access to public restrooms for trans people and we’re pretty darn loud and insistant about it.

What nobody’s done so far is say to a state legislature that they could have a win on the trans issue if the LGB legislation got passed.

We’re standing firm on this one.

I’m personally standing firm. I’ll never throw trans people under the bus. I may not always get things right, given that I may sometimes lack understanding or education.

But to the best of my ability, my activism will always and must always include trans issues.

One of the reasons for that is that I recognize how inextricably intertwined homophobia and transphobia are. I know how much of the same fight we share.

I also recognize that it’s only in the past generation or two that we’ve understood the differences between gender identity and sexual orientation in such a way as to even fully separate them.

Lots of the heros of our movement have been trans people who didn’t even have language to call themselves trans people. Back in the day, we were all suspect, all pariahs, and all lumped together.

Now that our social constructs and our understanding are increasing and gelling, we need to be very careful to remember the histories and issues we share in common, rather than focusing on differences that can alienate and divide us.

On a personal note, I’ve had to learn some hard lessons about how social media can be a really toxic environment for us activists, Phaylen.

We can end up swallowing the backwash of a lot of venom that we’re better off not exposed to.

Fringe opinions and fringe people can become overly magnified. Their voices can embitter us to the point that we become discouraged and lose focus on our work, even though oftentimes nobody is really listening to their negativity but us.

We need to concentrate on building our networks, on educating people, on getting the good word out.

I’m deeply involved in a project right now as it happens, writing for queer youth, talking about conversion therapy.

This is an issue that impacts all of us - lesbian, bi, trans, gay.

So, I include all of us in the work I’m doing.

Many of our issues intersect like that. We have to stand together, because we’re stronger together.

Me?

I try to ignore the naysayers and the assholes. I try to work hard on my own projects while collaborating with others who share our dream — the dream of a day when gender identity and sexual orientation are no longer important, a day when no more kids have to grow up hurting because they’re stigmatized and oppressed for who they are inside.

Sometimes, when the toxins and the venom start to build, I just have to close my eyes, take some deep breaths, relax a moment …

Then get back to work.

Cause what else can you do?

You know?

Written by

Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot. jamesfinnwrites@gmail.com

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