By E. Jaye Johnson
Originally published on Advocate.com March 18 2014 5:30 AM ET
Many of you might remember when our community’s acronym was GLBT. Then it was somehow decided that the L should lead, and LGBT became the default abbreviation. When exactly was that decision made? Was there a committee? Did anyone ever chime in and fight to lead with the T?
The LGBT acronym is a symbolic representation of the priority level placed on transgender issues and concerns and how they are addressed by the community. As part of LA PRIDE’s Transgender Coalition, this year we are committed to moving closer to trans inclusivity and understanding by boldly placing the T at the beginning of the acronym. This is an effort to initiate and inspire conversations about the lives, triumphs, struggles and challenges of trans people and illuminate the fact that lack of trans equality is and always will be inequality for all human beings.
Decades after trans* women of color led the Stonewall riots, the general public still has to learn a lot about our issues. Yes, language and pronouns are a good foundation. And we need to talk about why we are targeted at higher rates for hate crimes and other violence, not to mention our higher rates of homelessness, unemployment, and access to proper health care, among other disparities. But the idea to focus on trans issues isn’t solely directed at educating the straight community. We need to start enlightening the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community too.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we haven’t done the groundwork in unifying the community. We can start by engaging in meaningful dialogue that creates relatedness, connection and understanding of each other’s journeys.
When I was questioning my own identity, I heard the lack of respect and disregard for trans people all the time within the lesbian and gay community. It definitely played a role in why I felt more comfortable first coming out as a lesbian. I didn’t want to be labeled as trans because it carried a lot of stereotypes that gay men and lesbians also buy into and then advance. I knew I would be more accepted and embraced as a lesbian.
After following a spiritual path that allowed me to fully accept my authentic self, I was better prepared to let go of the judgment that I felt and embrace myself as a trans man. But this is where the journey of trans people is very different from coming out as lesbian or gay. It’s a completely different evolution of having to explain your identity while pushing through ignorance and stigma. And that’s while also often being judged within our own community.
Admittedly, one could argue that transgender men may have an “easier” journey than transgender women. It may have something to do with the fact that trans women are objectified and are primary victims of hate crimes around the world. It saddens me to know that some of the hate and discrimination trans people experience comes from within the community we know and love, our own.
No longer will trans people sit idly by and quietly wait for anyone to acknowledge, approve, support, or empower them. The trans movement is passionately pushing forward. It’s a young movement and ideally benefits from the experience and knowledge of our LGB community members and our allies and we cannot wait any longer. Christopher Street West gets this, hence the creation of the Transgender Coalition to utilize the power of LA PRIDE to educate and celebrate, and the reason I am honored and proud to be a part of it.
Taking massive action is the way to get folks to wake up and get present to what’s going on around them. Moving the T to the front of the acronym is massive action. Our community gets to be present to the fact that every time a crime of hate or discrimination or oppression is committed toward a trans person, it is committed toward all of us.
So, at least for the foreseeable future, LA PRIDE is the TLGB Celebration. Are we pushing for other organizations to do the same? Not necessarily, but we want it to create conversation and get our own community to engage when it comes to transgender issues, just as much as it does with marriage equality, HIV and AIDS, and bullying.
Hopefully, changing the acronym may get the L, G, and B to understand us a little more because you’ll start asking the questions, and celebrating us for who we are.
DR. E. JAYE JOHNSON is the chief executive officer of KingMakerz Consulting, Marketing and Branding. Johnson is also the vice chair of the Transgender Advisory Board of the City of West Hollywood.