For some reason tonight, ideas of marginalization and gender and transgender popped into my head. I thought to myself in my wine-and-diet-coke fueled early morning reverie that I could easily be a lesbian. I like comfortable shoes, boxer shorts, and monogamy. But then I thought deeper. Unfortunately even among gay and lesbian men and women (or lesbian and gay women and men if you’re one of those who think the order in which the parties are mentioned is some sort of subliminal gender bias) some sort of “adversity hierarchy” still seems to exist.
Some say lesbians have a double hit against them because they’re not only homosexuals, they’re also women. I can definitely understand that, but I think it’s merely a matter of personal preference when one looks at whether choices for men and women are really equal. Sure, lesbians might be seen as women first when it comes to pay parity, but what about men (especially some decades ago) who entered caring professions typically held by women, such as nursing, early elementary education, or being a flight attendant? Who’s the bigger “failure”? A childless woman who chose career over family, or a man who’s doing “women’s work”?
Americans seem to be in love with their own invented adversity. Our national creation myth is built right upon it. We love to play the underdog when, in reality, we’re not. Our founding fathers in the modern context were really part of the “one percent” (they were landed, educated, and wealthy) and they had a difficult time convincing anybody that their rights were actually being violated (the tax rate in the colonies was a mere fraction of what it was in represented Britain at the time); in fact, the majority of their backers were either mercenaries (who also fought for the British) or the French (whose participation in the revolution was little more than a dick-measuring contest with the British revenge for the colonies they had lost in the War of 1763).
We like to pretend our lives are difficult. We use words like “horrific” and “atrocity” and “outrageous” to describe things like airline delays and traffic jams and bad customer service. We complain about tipping in restaurants and high gas prices. And when we don’t get everything we think we deserve as Citizens of the First World, we invent adversity. The flight’s delayed because people are incompetent. The traffic’s bad because the politicians wouldn’t approve spending. The customer service is bad because the employee was being racist.
I don’t care much for the “Who has it harder?” argument, because the answer is either going to be “me”, or “someone I’m trying to buy leverage with” or “someone who I think will win the argument”. I think a better question than “Who has it harder?” is “Who needs a stronger voice?” We all struggle, but many of us have a strong voice in our corner. The support for Gay and Lesbian men and women continues to crescendo. The voice of African Americans, women, undocumented workers, and people with disabilities also grows.
I feel one of the more misunderstood groups, who needs a stronger voice, is Transgendered individuals. For them, the lines aren’t as clear, because transition is a difficult situation to put in a box. Are Transmen subject to the adversities of women when they identify as men? Are Transwomen subject to the same adversities because they identify as and are transitioning to be women although they were born men? There is even misunderstanding among the broader group of gay and lesbian men and women about gender identity and sexual orientation. Some even wonder if Transgendered people should even be included, because many of them identify as heterosexual (although I know of a few who are bisexual or even gay).
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not discounting the struggles that any other marginalized group faces. I’m merely making a small, insignificant plea for a second look. Joe Biden has called transgender discrimination “the civil rights issue of our time“. I think it’s time we all understood a little bit better.