I first heard about homosexuality as
a child growing up in rural eastern Colorado. My parents had purchased
a set of Funk & Wagnall's and they were kept in the bookshelf in
my basement bedroom. I was an avid reader and spent countless hours
reading article after article. It was the article on Sappho that I read
the most often. I related to that article on a deep soul level, even
though I knew by then that I could never be a lesbian. Still, I could
not stop reading, and eventually found a slim volume of her poetry by
Mary Bernard that I kept well hidden. It was some of the most beautiful
poetry I have ever read. In fact, I need to find a copy of that book
and read it again.
In those days, there were only gays and lesbians. At least that is how the whole community was described, and often with a disparaging tone. I knew it was not considered a good thing to be a member of either of those groups. And that was long before kids commented "that's so gay!"
I was probably in my twenties or thirties
when I first heard the term "bisexual." I heard it from a
girl I worked with who thought she might be one. I remember thinking
how sad it must be to not know who you are attracted to. Ah, the innocent
ignorance of a kid that grew up quite literally in a little house on
the prairie. But it was around that time that I first heard the acronym
LGB. It was in a news article about some center located in Denver, that
teeming cesspool of iniquities that I had always longed to plunge into.
I figured the LGB's were wild party animals and couldn't wait to join
in on the fun.
When I graduated from seminary in 1986,
I moved to Denver to start an independent non-denominational church.
The AIDS epidemic was just coming to the forefront of national news.
I am proud to say that my church was one of the first in the Denver
area to offer HIV prevention classes and education. I quickly got the
reputation as the AIDS minister because I was one of the few who was
not afraid to go to the bedside of those who were suffering, or to conduct
a funeral for those the disease took. I officiated at many funerals
during my years in Denver.
I became good friends with the pastoral staff at MCC Denver and quickly updated my language to using "LGBT" as the new descriptor when referring to the community. I am sure I knew that the "T" stood for transgender, but I doubt I understood what it meant, and certainly never considered it applied to me. If I was any of those letters, I identified most closely with the "L."
Now I am an out and proud transsexual.
I have been a member of the Central Valley Stonewall Democratic Club
for about a year. I live fulltime as a woman and when I do choose to
share that I am transgender, people often say they had no idea. That's
nice. I know that L's, G's and B's have many things in common with us
T's. But there are some big differences as well.
One difference is that sexual orientation
is not the same as gender identity. Being L, G, or B is about whom you
are attracted to, whether a member of the same sex, or to both sexes.
Sexual orientations include the LGB, as well as straight, metrosexual,
and asexual. There are likely others I haven't discovered yet. None
of those have anything to do with gender identity, which is central
to being transgender. A trangender person can have any of those sexual
orientations and still be transgender.
So, is a male-to-female transgender person
straight if she sleeps with men or is she a gay man? Is she a
lesbian when she sleeps with women or is she straight? Don't labels
drive you crazy sometimes? Yet I wear the label of lesbian quite proudly,
and I know most folks in the LGBTIQQ community are happy with their
place in it as well.
I think the time has come for us to simply say we are the Queer Community. Maybe there is a better name that would encompass all who have sexual orientations that are not heterosexual, and gender identities that are not cisgender. But for now, I think I'm going with QC. It reminds me of quality control, and I like the sound of that too! Otherwise we may end up with more letters than the alphabet. What do you think?
Elena Kelly is the Director of the
Stockton Transgender Alliance. She can be reached at email@example.com. Stockton's first ever Transgender Day of Rememberce is Sunday, Nov. 22nd. Click here for more information.