There is a problem in the LGBT rights movement. The problem is that even LGBT people discriminate against transgender women.
Transgender women statistically face the lion’s share of homophobia and transphobia and were the explicit target of HB2, according to Republican legislators. Despite this, groups that market themselves as pro-LGBT employ trans women at a rate significantly lower than they employ cisgender homosexuals and trans masculine people. Cisgender is the term for non-transgender people, as heterosexual is to homosexual. Cis has the been the opposite prefix of trans since the Roman Empire divided France in Cisalipine Gaul and Transalpine Gaul.
This discrimination, specifically called transmisogyny, causes real harm. Because of issues like HB2 and changes to insurance policy around covering trans health care, there is a currently a little money in the do-gooder world right now to help trans people. Because of LGBT organizations and institutions’ bias against trans women, those resources are monopolized and go to paying cisgender homosexuals and transmasculine people while trans women are left with as little as ever. It’s immoral.
I recently received an invitation to an event that appeared to be a general transgender community event at my local LGBT center. When I arrived it was obvious that something was off.
It turned out that what had been marketed as a transgender community event was actually the launch party for a gender therapy clinic run by cisgender women looking for paying transgender clients. I felt like I had been tricked into an Amway hard sell. When I asked one of the providers if there were any trans women leaders or employees at the clinic I was told no, but that they had one trans masculine intern.
Later I posted that I had attended by mistake, and that I would have appreciated a disclaimer that the event was not a trans community event, but instead a marketing event by cis women looking for trans paying customers.
Two of the staff members responded. Neither would confirm whether or not the clinic employed any trans women. One of the clinic’s providers became upset when I continued asking specifically about trans women being employed, and lambasted me for “assuming” they didn’t employ trans women. She apparently didn’t understand that I already knew her clinic didn’t employ trans women. I told her I felt their whole deal was dishonest and left.
Later a higher-up in the company contacted me to say that, no, the gender therapy clinic is neither run by nor has trans women employees. She thanked me for my advocacy and assured me that they would reconsider some of their marketing. She did not say whether the company would add an explicit disclaimer to its marketing saying it did not have transgender women employees.
This was an unpleasant experience, but it’s common. One of the reasons I had to deal with this clinic personally is that there was no one to go to for help on this issue.
Equality North Carolina doesn’t currently have trans women on its staff. The Duke Gender & Sexual Diversity Center, the UNC-CH LGBT office, the Raleigh and the Durham LGBT centers, even the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, none of them employ trans women. When the national LGBTQ organizations were hiring trans organizers around HB2 work, they hired out-of-state trans masculine people and masculine of center lesbians. Unfortunately the presence of trans men is often used as an excuse for having no trans women.
When trans masculine people have a strong preference for cis women over trans women, when cisgender homosexuals have a strong preference for trans masculine people over trans women, trans women can’t even get jobs in LGBT world.
I propose that every organization that markets itself as pro-trans to raise money or waves that pink and blue trans flag, that if they do not employ trans women or have trans women in positions of decision-making authority they have a moral responsibility to include a disclaimer on all their marketing that they do not employ trans women.
Vivian Taylor is a U.S. Army veteran, a North Carolina transgender advocate, the former executive director of the national gay rights organization of the Episcopal Church, and is currently a graduation student studying divinity and public policy at Duke University