Here at the GLBT National Help Center, we’ve seen a fairly dramatic increase in the number of people who are contacting us to discuss gender identity issues. In 2013, 1 out of 6 of our conversations had to do with that. It’s wonderful that so many more people are reaching out to discuss this.
At the same time, we have seen an increase in an attempt at positive trans visibility within the mainstream media (which basically means from virtually zero visibility to something a little more than that). But within this visibility, we are seeing a trend developing, particularly in the depiction of trans women. Ads for Marriott have featured a glamorous trans woman, the District of Columbia city government has run ads showing two beautiful women, and the cover of Time Magazine did the same.
And while visibility is good, what’s not so good is that we are getting a very one-dimensional view of what a trans person is. In effect, according to these depictions, a trans person to be held up as a role model, and imitated, is one who can absolutely, positively, pass.
And that simply isn’t the reality for many trans people. At least not based on the definition of what passing means to the media. According to this, in fact, you might not even really be transgender until you look unmistakably like the gender you feel. And of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
We’ve seen this same separation happen within other parts of our community before. For lesbians, an “acceptable” person to the mainstream media was a lipstick lesbian. For gay men, it was someone who wasn’t too effeminate, and if you were a gym rat, even better. Outside of our community, the African American community has had to deal with those with “light skin and straight hair” being viewed in a higher social status than those without those traits. This has helped none of us.
So let’s hope that as the transgender community finally is given the visibility it deserves, that we don’t allow others to define us, and determine for us what is considered trans. It diminishes us all.
Sadly, we are all getting too accustomed to reading about the horrendous news of another shooting in our nation’s schools. We see it in middle schools, high schools and even colleges. And there’s been lots of attention on the possible causes, most notably the ridiculous ease of getting hold of a gun, the gun culture that prevails in so much of our country, and the appalling lack of resources for parents when they know their child needs help, but real mental health resources are way too far out of reach.
But we do a disservice to our children and to our compassion as a country if we ignore the other ingredient in some of these acts of violence. It’s the pervaciveness of school bullying that takes place in almost ever school in our children attend. And after speaking to literally thousands and thousands of young people, that bullying almost always has a homophobic component to it. It seems that the greatest insult you can hurl at a kid is calling him gay. Whether it be the subtle, but oh so belittling, “that’s so gay” to the outright name calling of “fag”, faggot”, “queer” and so many more, it gets interpreted by many of these kids as an aspersion against their masculinity. While of course being gay, or even being perceived to be gay, has absolutely nothing to do with manliness or toughness, in the minds of some of these kids, it’s an outright accusation.
And so for kids with no safety net, no safe place to get support and talk about these things, whether it be a supportive teacher, a home environment which sends the message that sexuality is wonderfully varied, or a mental health system that makes support available before a tragedy occurs rather than after it, some of these kids go off the rails. And in our sometimes warped culture, what better way to prove masculinity, and thus in their mind disprove the accusations of their sexuality, than to bring in the family gun, and show everyone that they were wrong all along. That they aren’t gay. That they are real men. And the poor kids who get caught in the cross-fire, and we as society find ourselves mourning another loss that didn’t have to happen.
Does every school shooting have to do with anti-gay bullying? Of course not. But with bullying shown to be such a causative effect, and with homophobia running rampent in many of our schools, with some schools standing silently by while this name-calling increases in volume until it becomes a crescendo in some people’s ears, we would be foolish to ignore the connection, and see how devestating it ultimately is to all of us.
FOUR LITTLE LETTERS THAT CAN MAKE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PROVIDING FOR YOUR FAMILY AND POVERTY: E-N-D-A
There are only 17 states that have state-wide protection from being fired at your job because of sexual orientation or gender identity (plus another four that only protect sexual orientation). That means that the majority of states in our country offer no state-wide protection from being called into your manager’s office one day, after getting wonderful reviews for 20 years, and being fired simply because your new manager didn’t like gay people. And recent polls show that most Americans don’t support this type of discrimination, and in fact think it is already illegal to fire someone because they are gay. But it’s not.
And there’s been a bill languishing in Congress for years and years called ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. And it’s really the most simple bill. It says that you can’t be discriminated at your job because of your orientation or gender identity, regardless of what state you happen to live in. It says that people should be judged on their abilities at work, not on what their orientation happens to be. It’s frankly what America is supposed to stand for – equal opportunity for all.
But although there is now bi-partisan support for this in the U.S. Senate, it looks like the House of Representatives won’t even allow its members to vote on it. And while we are not a political organization, the truth is that there are three words that are preventing a vote from even being allowed: The Republican Party.
It’s incredible to me that in 2013, our representatives in Congress won’t even be allowed to vote on the bill, because the Republican-controlled House of Representatives knows that if a vote were allowed to take place, the law would almost certainly pass. So let’s just not let anybody vote. Not exactly the American Way.
So please, call your representative and urge them to support ENDA, and to allow people to vote on it. Because it’s hard for us to protect ourselves and our families, when we never know if tomorrow will be the day we’ll be fired, just for being ourselves.
Brad Becker, Executive Director
Gay. Lesbian. Bi. Transgender. Curious. Grrrrl. Twink. Queer. Bear. Chub. Questioning. DL. Bear. Pansy. Boi. Metrosexual.
What is your label? Is that the REAL question? Or is the real question: “Do I need a label?” We get lots of callers who ask the question: “Am I gay? Am I straight? Am I bi?”
Many of our callers feel a sense of urgency to slap a label on what “they are” and proceed with life. However, the use of labels can be confusing. Self-identification can be tough to face.
Coming out and identifying with a label can be even more challenging. With so much “grey area” running between each label, it can be hard to identify just what we are feeling.
At the GLBT National Help Center, we are here to help you to chat with you and help you find the answers to your questions. We help people all over the U.S. talk about the important issues they are facing in their lives.
Call us. Let’s talk.
For one caller to the GLBT National Help Center, coming out to his parents started with a phone call that went like this:
Son: “I have something I want to talk to you both about. But I’m really not sure how to put it.”
Mom: (short silence) “Then why don’t you just PUT IT.”
Son: (another short silence) “I’m gay.”
Mom: (gasp) “I knew you were going to say that.”
Dad: “Are you just feeling like you are gay? Or are you living the gay lifestyle. Because if you are that is what is wrong.”
Son: “Yes Dad. I’m living the gay lifestyle. If that is what you want to call it.”
The caller said that he was living on his own and had a stable career when he made this call. The call ended by the parents telling him that they still loved him and they would work through this together.
That evening he called the GLBT National Help Center to talk to a peer councilor about the call and was equally upset and relieved.
By the end of the his call with us, he had not only talked through some of his frustrations, but he also had a list of local services in his town that may be of help to a gay man living alone.
While coming out and “being gay” is becoming more acceptable for some, it is still a very painful and traumatic process for many.
The GLBT National Help Center is here for that reason. We offer not only peer counseling and facts about safe sex, but we also offer referrals through our massive database of GLBT related services.
Toll-free 1-888-THE-GLNH (1-888-843-4564)
Monday thru Friday from 1pm to 9pm, pacific time
(Monday thru Friday from 4pm to midnight, eastern time)
Saturday from 9am to 2pm, pacific time
(Saturday from noon to 5pm, eastern time)
For gay, lesbian or bisexual people who are closeted, sexual desires can often be alarming or even frightening. Because of a fear of discrimination or rejection from the ones they love, they often don’t feel safe asking for guidance about even the most basic biological questions concerning their bodies’ sexual reactions. We’ve heard words like “perverted,” “unnatural,” and “sick” to describe typical sexual fantasies or arousal.
We speak with many people about this issue, and let them know that attraction and arousal are normal reactions, and that thinking about sex is natural too. We can also answer questions about safer-sex, and keeping yourself as safe as you want to be if you are sexually active.
Here at the GLBT National Help Center, we focus our discussion around feelings, rather than actions. If you have a technical question about the mechanics of sex, we are able to refer people to the San Francisco Sex Information Switchboard, a wonderful organization, independent of us.
Please read this great article from Matthew Carnahan, the creator, executive producer, and writer of “House of Lies” about creating the young character of Roscoe who is “based loosely on several children I’ve met over the years whose gender identities have come differently from those of the majority of their peers.”
It’s an interesting read about how best to think about children who might identify as transgender (as themselves). It also speaks to the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation. In its most simple form, gender identity is the gender that you identity as, and sexual orientation is the gender of who you are attracted to.
Check it out here.
Do you have questions about what it means to be transgendered? Please call or start a chat.