Tuesday, September 15, 2015

GLBT backwards

On The Asexual Agenda, I wrote a satirical piece which imagines an alternate world where instead of gay men being the central example of queerness, asexuals are.  Rather than starting with the acronym GLBT and arguing that asexuals should be included too, I start with the acronym AABT (asexual, aromantic, bisexual, transgender) and feebly argue that gay people should be included too.

Silliness aside, I've long thought that the acronym GLBT is completely backwards, and reflective of backwards priorities in queer activism.  Let's not even talk about asexuals and aromantics because I am biased on that point. Compared to bisexuals and trans people, gays and lesbians are more privileged, and should not be the center of the movement.  We really should be talking about TBLG or BTLG.

A few quick citations.  Basically no one denies that trans people have it the worst off, attempting suicide ten times more frequently than the general population, and twice as frequently as the LGB population.  That's just the tip of the iceberg though, and you can read about many more problems in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.  From my understanding, trans people are less common than gay or lesbian people, but if you care about raw numbers you'd have to prioritize bisexuals.  Bisexuals are more numerous than gays and lesbians, and fare worse on most measures of quality of life.

It seems to me that the reason so much money and attention is given to gay and lesbian issues is precisely because they are relatively privileged.  It's not that there aren't real concerns worth addressing for gay and lesbian people.  But rather, bisexual and trans people have problems that run so deep that they even infect the focus of activism.

And when I started thinking about it this way, I started seeing its effects everywhere.  For example, in my satirical essay, I mock the way that "queer" is seen in opposition to "straight".  If trans people ruled queerdom, then the opposite of "queer" would be "cis", and then we'd spend a lot of time arguing that gay people were still queer despite many of them technically being cisgender.

Or consider a recent drama where a well-known blogger said a bunch of transphobic things (and is continuing to say them from what I hear, but from a position of more obscurity).  Her defenders complained that critics are taking ideological purity too far.  But would we take this defense so seriously if she was instead expressing homophobia?  No, because we simply have higher expectations with respect to homophobia.

Put another way, we're more likely to let transphobia slide precisely because transphobia is more widespread than homophobia and has done more harm.  There's a logic to it, but it's also fucked up.