Over recent days I’ve found myself contemplating what the GLBT community is, or is supposed to be. I live in Melbourne, and base my experience of “GLBT community” from my personal experience of “it” here. It’s many things to many people. To some it’s everything. To others, it’s a “lifestyle” they’d rather not participate in. Yet for many of us, it’s an integral part of our lives, and something that for the most part enriches our experience of being not “straight”, in one way or another.
So why have I been pondering this? Something has happened that was for me so radical to my understanding of “GLBT community” that it made me begin to question if this amorphous notion of cohesiveness was simply something in my imagination, or if there was actually something going desperately wrong. What am I talking about? Specifically, it involves a well-known transgender activist signing her name, as a representative of Transgender Victoria, to a document that opens with the statement:
The reference group recognised that Jewish Halacha prohibits gay sexual behaviour and, according to orthodox rabbinic interpretation, lesbian sexual behaviour.
That a transgender activist had signed her name to a document making this statement troubles me deeply. This sends a message of approval, tacit or otherwise, that the aforementioned religious prohibitions against homosexual and bisexual behaviour cannot be challenged in any way. It shows that the transgender activist in question supports the notion that she is working under a framework of religious intolerance of homosexuality and bisexuality, and that in order to be accepted onto the reference group that this document was formed out of, there can be no dissent on this underlying principle.
The statement in question is misleading, divisive and dishonest whilst the “Jewish Halacha” being referred to is not qualified as being “Orthodox” and whilst there is no mention of a different and accepting interpretation of homosexuality and bisexuality by the Progressive and Conservative Jewish communities.
I sincerely believe the term “Sold Out” applies here. There is no plausible excuse that could convince me that a representative of an organisation whose mission statement begins with the words “To achieve justice and equity for all transgender people” could put their hand on their heart and say that acknowledging immutable religious intolerance of homosexuality and bisexuality doesn’t sit uncomfortably with them, in the slightest.
Sure, homosexuality and bisexuality are independent of transgender issues, but in the context of GLBT issues and the GLBT community they are inextricably linked. The bigotry that GLBT people experience is shared collectively. The suicide rates our youth suffer are shared collectively. The hurt and intolerance are shared collectively. Hurt one of us and you hurt all of us. Sit on a panel of people who accept an understanding that gay people are sinners and you are furthering the collective hate, bigotry and intolerance against all of us.
The actions of this renegade transgender activist who has allowed her principles to be steamrolled by a homophobic Jewish community council has left me staggered and in shock. If this is what GLBT has become then I want nothing to do with the T, and will have to make do with a diluted GLB community, a community that is less, a community that is not as rich and as fulfilling as I believed it previously was.
However, perhaps this is not what GLBT has become, and perhaps there is simply a person whose actions and beliefs are misguided and has not understood that by allowing herself to be blinkered by the hate and intolerance of some religious bigots, she has let the team down, and that she can at any stage simply say she’s not going to put up with the religious intolerance and the hateful guidelines of the reference group in question and return to the community that has supported her and the values she previously stood for.
Ultimately this is about reducing harm, saving lives and making better of a woefully bad situation. Suicide and mental health issues amongst trans and same-sex attracted people are very real. Any intolerance of us, of our relationships, of our community is unacceptable and there is no excuse for it. Supporting people who are intolerant of us is just as inexcusable.
Only time will tell whether this transgender activist will understand the harm she has done to her cause, and to ours collectively. It is possible to repair the damage, and I hope that it happens soon.