Skirting the Issues: House Tranny

By Ellen Krug March 19, 2015

Categories: Causes, Dating & Relationships, Our Affairs, Our Lives

I recently heard from a reader who thought I had unfairly characterized a transgender activist. At the end of the email, the reader stated, “(Y)ou don’t usually deal with any controversial issues, especially those related to the interactions of the GLB community and the transgender community…” The reader then suggested that some might label me Lavender magazine’s “house tranny,” although the reader added, “(b)ut I won’t call you that.”

While I appreciated the reader’s perspective, I answered that we had “some differences of opinion.”

Still, in thinking about it afterwards, I must admit the email caused me to wonder if the reader’s commentary was indeed accurate. Have I avoided difficult issues relative to how gay, lesbian, and bi folk treat trans people? Do I avoid upsetting people? Should I be more radical, even confrontational?

Even worse, is it true: am I in fact the “house tranny” for Lavender? (By the way, I hate “tranny” and employ it here only because the reader used the word.)

Do I go along just to get along?

I certainly understand that in the years following the Stonewall Riots, the gay and lesbian communities wanted nothing to do with trans people — we were an impediment to their movement forward and too much baggage for obtaining societal acceptance.

Similarly, it’s true that nearly 40 years later (2007 to be precise), the Human Rights Campaign made a tactical decision to not press for transgender inclusion within the then-proposed federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Not long after that, a HRC fundraiser called to ask me to renew my membership. “You threw us under the bus,” I answered and reported that I’d be giving them no more money.

Then of course, there is how trans people, particularly trans women of color, are the victims of violence and that it’s primarily only Ts and cisgender allies who show up on Transgender Day of Remembrance. As a gay friend once confided, “That name reading of dead people is way too depressing.”

Yet, I remind myself that all meaningful change is incremental, including change for trans people. Thus, the HRC has since fundamentally altered its stance on transgender inclusion, a point that HRC Executive Director Chad Griffin made clear to me personally after I confronted (oops, there’s that word) him about the HRC not doing enough for the Ts.

True to Chad’s word, the HRC now includes at least two gender non-conforming persons on its board of directors. An employer can earn a 100% rating on the HRC Corporate Equality Index only by making gender identity a workplace protected class and only by offering trans-positive health insurance that includes hormone and surgical benefits that conform to World Professional Association for Transgender Health standards.

Locally, many on the GLB alphabet are extremely trans friendly; some are even crucial to our success. For example, it’s a G — Phil Duran of OutFront Minnesota — who’s directly or indirectly responsible for most of the pro-transgender court cases, ordinances, and administrative rulings in Minnesota in the last fifteen years.

Similarly, it’s a pro-trans L gynecologist — Dr. Deb Thorp — who treats hundreds (maybe thousands?) of local transgender people, allowing them to transform their lives and live authentically. How many people has she saved from getting to the point of suicide?

Then there are two B women — Anita Kozan and Marge Charmoli — who operate Bi Cities, a television show which highlights many in the transgender community (note: I have appeared on the show and Anita Kozan has donated to my nonprofit).

Certainly, I have many friends and acquaintances who are gay, lesbian, and bi. Sometimes, I’m the only trans person in the room. Is that because I’m someone’s Aunt Thomasina? Am I failing the trans community by not getting in people’s faces about past injustices? Should I ignore the “transgender tipping point?”

On the other hand, could we Ts sometimes be our own worst enemies?

A few months ago, I was at a book club of a dozen retired gay men to speak about my memoir. The topic quickly shifted to living as a transwoman with a deep voice that keeps her from passing 100 percent. There were frank questions and frank answers along with much good-natured humor; eventually, I heard how I was the first trans person some had ever really gotten to know. As one person put it, “Before this, I had only a negative stereotype of transgender people. It’s refreshing to meet you.”

I share this not because of ego but because one can be a trans advocate in a variety of ways. Some march in the streets. Others angrily remind about the past, believing it’s the only way to equal footing today. There are even those who criticize that a person isn’t “trans enough.”

My advocacy involves simply showing up. As soon as I speak, anyone within earshot knows that I’m trans; I don’t need to say it. Still, I go forward leading a legal nonprofit, meeting people from all stations in life, trying to make the world a better place. I even give “Trans 101” presentations where I talk about compassion and kindness for all humans regardless of gender, sexuality, or race.

For many, I’m the first out trans person they’ve ever met and most seem to accept me. That’s the point.
And no, I’m not anyone’s house anything.

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Ellie Krug welcomes your comments at ellenkrugwriter@gmail.com.

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