As a gay person and as vice president of my high school’s gay-straight alliance, I’ve always intended to be able to teach the youth of America (or for now, my school) acceptance of the LGBT community. Or if acceptance isn’t possible, tolerance would be a decent goal. The path ahead isn’t necessarily an easy one for those who come out as LGBT, and more tolerance from others can only help.
As I have worked toward greater understanding, I have observed that in today’s society, the T in LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) is unfortunately pushed under the rug and discredited in ways that disappoint me to the point of sickness. Transgender people should not have to feel conflicted about what restroom to use or be denied employment because the gender they were born into was incorrect. They shouldn’t be denied a gender-designation change on their birth certificates (Grey v. Arnold, a court case in Illinois).
Let’s look at the idea of identity more closely.
In my eyes, three things make up a person’s base identity, and each lies on a spectrum: sexuality, gender identity, and romantic attraction. This adds more layers to what LGBT can cover — not only homosexual, bisexual, and transgender, but also cisgender (the opposite of transgender, or when one’s behaviors do match society’s expectations for the person’s gender), and even bi-gender, plus homoromantic, panromantic, transromantic and biromantic. For a complicated example, take a homosexual man (sexually interested in men) who is biromantic (romantically interested in both men and women) and cisgender (his behaviors match societal gender norms).
People in the L, G, and B categories are typically cisgender, but the moment those lines start to blur, they become transgender (or gender-fluid). Cisgender (or “cis”) people have been established as the norm for today’s society. So when a person announces themselves as “transgender,” there’s going to be an uproar: “How COULD they be? That just doesn’t make any sense.”
As much as I hate to admit it, attempting to educate myself about these multiple and varying sexualities has clouded my understanding of the world I thought I knew. Not to a point of feeling betrayed, but to a point of asking myself “how?” and “why?”
The difficulty with me — and many others, I’m sure — is that I’ve honestly never been transgender. I haven’t been biromantic, I haven’t been bisexual. I haven’t been heteroromantic, panromantic, or felt like I was anything other than what I’ve always known myself to be — gay.
And it’s sad, to a point. I’m so stuck in my ways that I just can’t seem to grow to understand these other genders, romantic interests, and sexualities. Although I support any person who owns these genders, sexualities, and romantic interests, sometimes I feel as though I can’t understand how these varying ways of life can come around.
The irony, of course, is that my difficulty in understanding this is comparable to the problem that homophobes seem to have in understanding the sexuality of LGBT people.
The difference is that I have no hatred for anyone. And that is a huge difference.
So as I try to spread acceptance and tolerance of the LGBT community, in all of its complexities, I’ll try to remember to have some empathy for the heterosexual, cisgender people who are just having a hard time understanding.
But hatred? That is something that I can certainly understand, but absolutely cannot tolerate.