Belonging

Posted by – February 23, 2006

Donna mentioned recently that she won’t join some organization (I think it was an alumnae association) until they add the T for Transgender as right now the group’s title is the Gay and Lesbian ________.

And it got me thinking that one of the ironies of being someone who writes about trans issues but isn’t trans myself is that I can’t join the LGBT Writers’ Group, or Authors Group, or Alumni Association, or really anything. I’m not, per se, LGBT. And yet obviously I am by association – actually by marriage, which is even more ironic – and maybe even embarassing – in LGBT groups. It occurred to me that there is something odd, & mayhaps political, about this issue, because in some ways it’s not just about social groups, but about interest, and that because membership in groups that discuss LGBT issues are generally only joined by people who are LGBT themselves, there is an assumption that no one who isn’t LGBT would be interested in LGBT issues.

I’m not quite sure what to think of that.

I’ve been asked if men can join feminist organizations, and for the most part, they can (unless the org in question is a radical lesbian or separatist or both type of feminist organization). Because there’s no requirement that you have to be a woman to be a feminist: you simply have to believe that women are equal to men and should be treated so economically, educationally, legally, etc.

Having been to a very multi-culti college, it never occurred to me, at the time, that many people I knew belonged to student associations that had to do with their identity, as the ones I belonged to were based on interest – things like NYPIRG, or the fiction magazine editorial team, and later, PBK. I can’t say I sought hard for a Suburban-but-Working-Class Women Writers of Polish extraction group, or a Youngest Daughters of Large Catholic Families group, or some other group of which I could have been a member because of my identity, and I certainly didn’t start any.

But it is odd, isn’t it? Maybe I should just start a group for Allies of Causes Not Directly Influenced by Said Ally’s Identity, or The Underdog Society, or even a group for Partners of People with Important Minority Identities.

But maybe not. Maybe I should just get one of those I’m not a lesbian but my girlfriend is t-shirts and call it a day.

8 Comments on Belonging

  1. caprice says:

    Different organizations have reacted differently to this problem. They long ago renamed the National Organization of Women to the National Organization for Women precisely to address this problem. CDI remains Crossdressers International, but the by-laws speccify that anyone “with an interest in crossdressing” may join. The Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Assn officially renamed itself the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Lawyers Assn, but everyone still calls it “LeGal” (accent on the Gal). We’re actually voting on making a similar change to the name of our 501(c)3 foundation at the next meeting, but I’m sure it will continue to be called the “LeGal Foundation.” Five years ago I join the New York County Lawyers Assn “Committee on Lesbian and Gays in the Law,” before it was changed to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues Committee.

    The NGLTF has taken to calling itself the “Task Force.” The Human Rights Campaign and the Empire State Pride Agenda always were vague.

  2. Rikki says:

    My wife and I have noticed two similar problems. (Does it make any sense to say “allied problem”? Do problems form alliances?

    One is that married people are an anomaly in LGBT organizations in general. There is an assumption that if you’re married, you’re either in denial, or you lucked out and got married in a country that legalized gay marriage or something.

    The other is a trans-specific issue, an occasional subtle (jealous?) discrimination against spouses who are accepting, participating, etc. We see this at certain bars especially. Like her presence is a painful reminder to so many of what they left behind?

    The answer for us has been simple. Don’t internalize other people’s problems. After all, we have enough of our own! We just join the organizations we believe in, and form friendships where we find them. Works for us.

  3. Ethan says:

    I think that as a movement we need all the help we can get.
    It’s great to see people who are not GLBT stand up and give us
    a hand just because they believe it’s the right thing to do. Hell,
    as far as I’m concerned we are in no position to turn down that
    kind of support and should be welcoming it with open arms.
    This is a civil rights movement and everyone is invited.

  4. gendercrash says:

    I think it depends on the organization…. MTPC, the trans organization in Massachsuetts, many of members are friends, sibilings, partners of trans folks… at least half the members are not trans… but the focus of the organization is about trans rights…

    I think as to do with more of how you perceive yourself… I see the transgender and the LGB umbrella wide enough to include partners of LGBT in that… because as you know, some of the issues do affect you directly and indirectly because you are married to a trans person.

  5. Zoë Vars says:

    I’ve never really joined a club that was based around traits or characterisics either (if you can call them that) and I understand what you’re talking about there. I’ve never found one that apealed to me. “Middle child of Middle Class Irish Catholic Families of New York” It just doesn’t make sense to me. I joined skiing clubs, camping groups, bicycling groups, vegetarian…
    Of course it’s different (to me anyway) when you are talking about lending support (financial or strenght in numbers) to an advocacy group. I’m a member of a few of those, I just don’t feel all that conected to any of them. I give them cash, I show up at rallies occassionally. I’ve tried because I thought I should, but I never seem to connect. I think part of it is what Rikki said.

  6. nicole says:

    I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member.

  7. kristapark says:

    Somewhere between 1995 and 1999 (my years as a student), American University’s student group changed its name to Queers & Allies (I believe it has subsequently changed) and the university’s support group organizing body went with Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Trans & Allies Resource Center (GLBTARC – pronounced as Glibtarc at the time). The point was to expressly include allies. I may have been against that later decision at the time because I thought “Allies” was implied by the whole concept of “resource center.” And, that would have remained my argument until now: since I date guys more now –it was a “zero” thing during the college years– it’s much easier to become invisible, to pass. So, I can see how be explicitly welcome eases the pain at points.

  8. BearGrrl says:

    I’ve been considering making t-shirts that say: “I’m not a lesbian but my boyfriend is.”

    Good to see you both last week. Hope you’re well.

Leave a Reply