By David Mixner -
In the early years of the movement there really was no LGBT community. There was real separatism - and sometimes even bad blood - between the gay male community and lesbians. Many men refused to come to terms with issues of concern for women. Gay men were not immune from the sexism of the times. Many women passed judgement on what they thought to be 'the gay male lifestyle.' The Transgender community, with few exceptions, was relegated to the fringe and many forced isolation on them within the community. Many gays and lesbians didn't even believe bisexuality existed and that all bisexual people were simple closet cases.
Over the years, many of us worked hard to create a respectful, honest and needed coalition between all these communities. The path to reaching the historic place of an inclusive LGBT community was not an easy one. There were angry meetings, tests to be met and long difficult discussions and decisions to be made. The fact of the matter is that those decisions were made and it created a great civil rights movement.
A crucial part of that struggle over the decades was to include Transgenders - a critical part of that coalition. Often,even in today's world, people (even myself at times) have to be reminded that there is a big old "T" in LGBT. The attempt a few years back to exclude Transgender citizens from ENDA in some ways reminded all of us how important our long-fought for coalition was to the community. Freedom for not part us but for all of us.
In many ways, Transgender Americans bear the brunt of our oppression. The reports of job discrimination against Trangender people sometimes run higher than others in the coalition by 20%. Hate crimes have taken a particularly bitter toll on our Transgender brothers and sisters and have numbered in the hundreds if not thousands. Dozens have been killed in vicious, ugly and brutal crimes. The suicide rate is the highest among Transgender youth and even older citizens. While many LGBT citizens have seen progress in civil rights, job protections, military service and other areas of full citizenship, often Transgender Americans are excluded from those advances.
More than anyone else in the LGBT coalition the Transgender community needs our unflinching support. They have to know we have their backs. Their battle is our battle. Our straight allies need to know that this is how we feel and we are all in this together. No one has the right to take the "T" out of LGBT.
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