When the acronym LGBTI hit the headlines the first thing a friend’s sister said was, “I don’t give a toss about all that Lesbian, gay, transgender, transsexual stuff if you ask me. We are all human, all that is about identity”. I wasn’t asking her but she said it, anyway. When I told the friend’s aunt that with a traumatised life like hers that it did not befit her to talk about other people’s identities in such adverse terms, she admitted. “I do not know anything about it!” Talking about something you do not understand to those that shared your transphobia is overt participation in a hate crime. But what happens when members of the LGBTI themselves engage in internalised homophobia or transphobia?
Events are often used to propagate some of these subtle criminal acts as I have found of late but when an online magazine known as Topix asked the question, “are gay men and lesbians transphobic?” finding that the answer is a simple, “YES!” was a gut wrenching turn of circumstance. Is this what mainstreaming the LGBTI does to gay men in particular and lesbians in general at the expense of everyone else? When the gay community bind together in homosexist indulgence in the very abuses we are still exposed to?
What does one call it when gay men overtly show aspects of what a friend called, “‘lesbophobia’ or putting it in simple terms ‘a hatred of lesbians’?” It came as no surprise. I saw the malaise in action myself to my own cost. During the Lambeth Conference when two Nigerian Lesbians were basically put on a short leash by their asylum saved, regional director and victim of homophobia who then turned abuser of others in his care painted a damning picture. I thought it was odd that he held their tickets and passports as assurances that they would not abscond without giving them the benefit of doubt. Worse; coming from the said group leader was the decision to criminalise a female ally just because you do not get on with her is abhorrent. Although one of the women seemed alright with their misogyny they faced in that duplicitous manner a person looking to gain favour adopts, the fact remained that one made it known that she felt mistreated!
What made this worse was that lesbians and gay men were the last to admit their homosexist attitude to all sexual or gender identity minorities. Is this why organisers of games do not tend to see the invisibility of an all black lesbian team for instance? When one appears, a sort of “pitch bullying” over takes the game and if not that, some officials loose their heads to a sort of racialist support. For instance, watching “Chosen Few” FC from South African play home grown, “Hackney Women” FC was one such example. Most of the Chosen Few footballers ended up injured in the face of in such shameful official over-indulgence which I experienced myself: bias, an official cheering on of one of the teams. What would you think if you heard a Referee shout, “hey, guys, you’ve got the advantage!” I couldn’t believe he was the official in charge of the game but there he was. But worse still was a little aside I picked up. If all these sounds petty, how does one make sense of a carefree request for a “pride rainbow” bangle that turned abusive? The laughing provider of the said gift said, “It’s the only one I could find. Don’t fight over it; it’s not worth crying over!” For me, that summed the temperature of the racist misogyny in the entire event up.
Talking to a Pastor I met at the Lambeth Conference last month brought it all back to me. Although he had belittled everything I said in that subtle abusive way. I choose to communicate what I had observed to him without conflict. I put it to him that,
“when I call myself a transwoman that identifies as a lesbian I did not mean that I was a man,” he seemed startled. He asked if anyone had said anything. I told him what he wanted to hear. I emphasised the subtlety of some gay men and lesbian in this impasse. How such approaches were steeped in denial and how they threatened to undermined LGBTI unity went unmentioned. The worse indictment against the gay community I’ve ever heard came from a friend who intimated that transphobes did not exist in Brighton because it was the gay capital of Britain. What a farce, I thought? Personally, I thought that statement was dehumanising. Although she was supposed to be a friend of mine nothing stopped her outing me in the public house as a transgender person because to her mind; it was my word against hers in what she saw as her, “space.” When confronted with her own internalised homophobia she only saw the surface; her experience. Admittedly, she has never been alone in that attitude. Translesbianism is a form of speaking out, a position of empowerment, a protest within the LGBTI and beyond are deeply rooted in transgender narrative. Transwomen that identify as lesbians are lesbians no more; no less and we are here to stay and the closed gay community needs to open up lest it become like heterosexist homophobes.
What came as a surprise to me was that he, like the friend sister above, admitted not knowing much about trans-experience. What made all this apparent to me was that as a translesbian I was aware in a mindful sense of “conditioning conferred insecurities” in the LGBTI and the outreach work required is still very much untouched with regard to transgender people specifically at some point it fall to all members of the LGBTI to make amends here. However, at times, this seems to fall on deaf ears, which is a shame. Remember, if one falls, everyone falls.