Transgender: The Forgotten T
LGBT: gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender. For many years now, this has been the acronym under which people of alternative sexualities have been listed. For many years, this was deemed to be adequate. After all, alternative sexualities are all related, are they not? This paper takes the position that they while they are indeed related, there are subtle as well as not-so-subtle differences between them. It is these differences that cause a need for a separate group identity for transgender men and women.
Sexual orientation and gender identity are seen to be identical issues in the minds of many people when they are, in fact, separate issues. By “gender identity” is meant the way any given individual identifies with a gender category (man, woman, both, or neither) regardless of that person’s biological sex (Ghosh, 2009). Sexual orientation — that is, whether one is gay, lesbian, heterosexual, or bisexual — has nothing to do with how a person identifies as a man or woman. It can be defined this way: “sexual orientation n. The direction of one’s sexual interest toward members of the same, opposite, or both sexes, especially a direction seen to be dictated by physiologic rather than sociologic forces. Replaces sexual preference in most contemporary uses.” (sexual orientation, n.d.)
The idea that orientation and gender identity are the same ignores the fact that transgender people can be lesbian, gay, or bisexual. It also ignores that fact that many of us are heterosexual. In fact, at one time in history, one of the classic tests to determine if a person was indeed transgender was that he or she had to be attracted to the opposite sex.
This, then, is at the heart of the argument for a separate transgender movement: while we can be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight, this has nothing to do with our gender identity.
It is important to point out that there is no objection to trans folk belonging to the overall LGBT movement. As seen above, the transgender community is a diverse one, with our sexual orientation ranging across the entire scale. So in that sense, there is solidarity with our non-trans brothers and sisters. In many ways, we have supported and continue to support our gay and lesbian brothers’ and sisters’ struggles to achieve the same equality under the law that is enjoyed by the rest of the citizens of our nation.