3 min

A heated trans action

There’s been a storm of controversy regarding the public posting of a trans woman’s birth name on Xtra editor Danny Glenwright’s personal Facebook page. People were upset. As a queer trans woman, I was upset.

To clarify: a trans person’s birth name is not something to be shared lightly. It is not their “real” name and it is not their “correct” name. To share such a name without consent is tantamount to saying “Well, they go by ****, but their real name is ****.” It de-legitimizes their transition and repudiates their chosen gender. To be shackled to a mistake of birth for the rest of our lives is heartbreaking — that all our work, all our fight could be so easily and unceremoniously undone with the simple phrase “Born: ****.”

This mistake raised the ire of a cross section of the queer community, inducing calls for a boycott of Xtra. The furor continued as Glenwright initially failed to remove the offensive post and with his post of a rejoinder on the blog. While the blog detailed a complicated history with the trans woman in question, its defensiveness was seen by many as a justification for posting her birth name. While that may not have been his intent, it was the effect.

Though Glenwright’s Facebook sin was great, for many it was just the latest in a series of errors and blatant transphobia by Xtra staff. Whether it was the refusal to refer to Elisha Lim in their chosen pronoun (the gender non-specific “they”) or a series of 2008 editorials ridiculing inclusive policies at other organizations and bemoaning past and future financial burdens on gays and lesbians in securing trans rights, there are far bigger fish to fry here than one man’s indiscretion on his personal Facebook page.

Rather than politics of division and calls for boycotts, let’s admit what even Xtra has thus far failed to do. We are, all of us, a community. We have fought together, suffered together and overcome together. At our best, we have worked together because gay and trans rights, and the fights for those rights, are inextricably linked. We’ve done this together because gender and sexuality are linked. And while they are not the same, they are allied by nature. Any separation imposed upon them or the communities that have arisen between them is artificial and false.

That’s why when the cops raided Compton’s, we were there together. When they raided Stonewall Inn, we were there together. When they raided the Pussy Palace, we were there together (hell, I was working security). We were there, together, because our interests were aligned: our mutual desire for the rights denied us brought us together.

To that end, let’s recognize what so many deny: gender rights and protections are rights and protections for gays as well. Though sexual orientation is protected, it is only one facet of the discrimination faced by gays and lesbians everywhere. All too often that discrimination is rooted not in who you fuck, but in your gender presentation: whether it’s the butch lesbian, the effeminate gay man, the drag queen or the drag king. From there it’s only a short trip to trans woman or trans man. They’ll use the same epithets and hurl the same hate, but in the end it’s the visible among us who are attacked — gay, lesbian, bi or trans.

I’ve been working with Pink Triangle Press for 12 years because I believe in the activism that formed it. Yet in all the time I’ve been here, out loud and proud, I’ve never had an experience as positive as the one set in motion by Glenwright’s post. People here are genuinely eager to understand more about trans issues, etiquette and experiences.

Let’s capitalize on that enthusiasm, embrace our shared history and recognize our mutual goals. Let’s push aside our differences and recognize that trans and bisexual people are essential contributing members of our community. Let’s urge Xtra to join the 21st century and call for trans and bi people to be included in the Xtra page header. It’s time we recognized that Xtra is a paper for the entire community and for its cover, content and policies to reflect that.

Xtra: Toronto’s gay, lesbian, bi and trans news.