LGBT – there was a time when none of us were accepted or tolerated. And then, things began to change. Here’s my take on how it happened, why it happened and where things are or are not headed. And please forgive me if it appears I’m generalizing and using stereotypes.
The “T” part of LGBT is falling dreadfully behind in attaining the tolerance and understanding of the western world. And I believe there are several reasons for this. But to understand it, I think it’s wise to look at the “L”, the “G” and the “B” to get an idea how they’ve accomplished what they have.
I’ll start with gays. From my experience, part of the gay community is … ummm .. detectable. Mannerisms, speech, appearance, a feminine edge .. the stereotypical stuff. But the other part just looks like average hetero guys. Very nondescript.
In the lesbian world, a similar split exists (with a touch of androgyny in there for good measure). Some ladies have a distinctively masculine edge in mannerisms, speech and appearance .. again the stereotypical stuff. But many present to the world the way society expects hetero women to appear.
I’ll mention bisexuals just for the sake of inclusion but, to me at least, they’re the most invisible portion of the LGBT population. And the hetero world seems to think that bi women are hot, and bi men are not. But no one sees a person walking down the street and thinks “there’s a bisexual!”. So they benefit from recent legislative or social changes, or not .. based on their current situation.
It’s all about appearance
The vanilla world is comfortable with the status quo … those who look like them; those who act like them. And their queeziness is usually only triggered by those who don’t conform in appearance or mannerism. So because of this, half of the gay and lesbian world .. the invisible half .. gets a pass by default.
I remember some research done years ago regarding appearances. People of all ages were shown photos of people with varying degrees of “prettiness” or “handsomeness” and were asked to make assumptions based on what they saw. Were the people honest, trustworthy, intelligent, pleasant, miserable? And the result were uncanny. Those on both ends of the attractiveness scale didn’t rate too high but those on the attractive side of normal rated very highly. They were automatically considered more trustworthy, honest and intelligent than those on the other side of the median. Applying a slight amount of makeup changed the perception towards the positive.
Of course getting to know these people would probably change our opinions of them drastically but, if they climbed out of the photo and sat beside us silently, they would have a leg up on the others. The good feelings we had towards them were theirs to lose simply because they made us feel comfortable initially.
We’re built to size each other up quickly. Even if we’re presented with lots of evidence to the contrary, we’re attached to our initial impressions of people—which is why you should be aware of the impression you make on others. – Psychology Today
Now in the transgender world, the number of genetic males identifying as women (M2F) far exceeds the number of genetic women identifying as men (F2M, or trans men).
Trans men, for whatever the reason, on average seem to be more articulate in the way they present than t-girls (like me). And they rarely get a questioning look.
Trans girls, on the other hand, (and I’m generalizing again) rarely do a good job of presenting as an attractive, likeable person, and often appear (I’m being kind here) on the plain side of the median. And that presentation makes the uninformed around us very uncomfortable.
Let’s pretend for a moment that you are the court of tolerance; the court of public opinion. As the lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders lobby, discuss, educate and try to rally support for their respective causes, the lesbians stand before you looking like the woman next door or the somewhat tomboyish woman from down the street; the gays stand before you either looking like the guy next door or a really attractive guy from GQ magazine (giggle*) while the transgenders usually stand before you either looking like nothing you’ve ever seen before or like a scraggly, old chick from the hippie era. The “L” and “G”‘s, by appearance alone, have hit the ground running.
You hear their pleas, their “LG” points and counterpoints because your first impression is positive and their appearance didn’t distract you. But you didn’t hear a word the transgender said because it took you so long to adjust to the unfamiliar image in front of you.
The reason I bring all this up now is because of the lovely Panti Bliss. Panti (aka Rory O’Neill) is a gay drag queen in Ireland who is singlehandedly changing the way the Irish, their legislators and media think about gays and homophobia. Signs are appearing in shop windows proclaiming “we support Team Panti”. T-shirts are on the streets. She’s pretty, well-spoken and sincere and a fabulous spokesperson for the gays in Ireland. And because of her likeable character, talking about how things make her feel is causing most people to want to help; to want to see the good side in people; to want to be less cruel.
Here’s Panti’s video that continues to draw so much attention. As you watch this, consider how different it’s impact would have if Rory was not in Panti-mode when it was done.
Do you understand what I’m trying to say?
As I prepare to head off to yet another conference where I’ll feel obligated to sit through boring keynote speeches by non-charismatic, non-Panti-like activists, I offer this: To those of you who carry the torch for us, please know that, like it or not, your appearance, your physical presence, your charisma are important. Maybe more important than the legal or constitutional verbiage you quote.
Learn from Panti!
I know … most of you feel the world should accept us as we are. Absolutely! But until that time comes, let’s drop the “I gotta be me” and “dress for success”.
Or better still, lets find spokespeople who are a little more like Panti. Because the way we’re doing it just isn’t working regardless of the insignificant trivial tidbits our activists keep throwing at us as their successes.
Please note: I don’t believe that inherent attractiveness is a deciding factor in gaining acceptance. Large, small, tall, short, pretty, ugly, race, age … none of that is relevant. It’s all about the effort we put forward. And on a personal note, if I didn’t try hard to appear presentable, you definitely would not be reading this nor visiting my website. I could definitely be the queen of the scary ladies! Trust me on this. 🙂