The difficult situation of the T in LGBT

Although by now most everyone knows what LGBT stands for (and many even know the expanded LGBTQQIA), it is clear that the transgender community has not reached anywhere near the levels of acceptance that the gay and lesbian (or even bisexual) community has. They still face all manner of serious discrimination, apart from the other complications of living in a society that is not being prepared to deal with this issue.

Part of the reason may be that for many people it is a new phenomenon that they have not quite been able to come to terms with. In my own case, growing up I knew that there were gay and lesbian people but transgender was completely outside my experience and I did not know that the category was even possible let alone existed. My first experience with it was only about a decade ago when a colleague told me that his son was changing genders. He was having a hard time dealing with it initially but he fully accepted his (now) daughter and supported and helped her through the transition.

Since then I have got to know about a half dozen people both inside and outside the university who are either transitioning or have made the change. Thanks to enlightened leadership right from the top, our university has made great strides in trying to create an environment where we hope everyone feels welcome and not so hesitant to reveal themselves, though we are by no means completely there yet.

But for most members of the transgender community, life is very hard since often they lose their family, friends, and jobs when they start making the transition, and many of them become homeless and destitute. NPR had a program today that provided some poignant stories. One of them was of Kimberley McKenzie.

McKenzie lost her job, along with many friends. Family members just didn’t understand.

As for society, “I was humiliated. I lost, like, my dignity,” she says. “It’s like you’re an alien; it’s like you’re not even real. People stare at you, and they don’t realize that they’re staring at you. But you take it all in. You take the whole world in.”

Yes, she still encounters the whispers and stares. But every once in a while, McKenzie says, “people just look at me and smile.” That, she says, gives her hope for the future.

I hope that greater awareness of the difficulties faced by them speeds up the process by which transgender people become accepted fully into our society as equals.


  1. wtfwhatever says

    Bob Tur’s Transgender Process Started With Suicidal Thoughts, Disconnecting From Friends

    Bob Tur is a macho man. He is known for flying helicopters into chaos, capturing famed footage of the O.J. Simpson low-speed Bronco chase and documenting the explosive Los Angeles riots in South LA. Bob Tur, 53, is a self-professed adrenaline junkie. But the Bob Tur that everyone knows is about to die. The well-known LA helicopter reporter announced on Facebook Wednesday that she has gender dysphoria and is in the process of becoming a woman.

    When HuffPost LA called for an interview, Tur answered the phone, saying, “Hi, this is Robert.” But she has already changed her Facebook page to Robert Zoey Tur. Tur has also started to post photos of herself now that she is undergoing hormone replacement therapy….

  2. carolw says

    As I get older, I am learning that more and more of my friends and acquaintances have transitioned or are in the process of transitioning. I know it’s still not easy, but it’s so much better now. They are all apparently much happier. Good luck to anyone walking that path.

  3. sosw says

    Lack of familiarity is almost certainly a big part of it; personally, at 37, I can’t say I remember ever meeting anyone I knew to be trans* face-to-face. There have been two in near-enough social/work circles that I know their names, but I never ran into them (AFAIK, anyhow).

    I’ve also noticed that some people talking about trans* individuals can’t help but do so with a sort of awkward amusement. I’m not sure it’s inherently offensive, and it’s certainly better than outright rejection, but it does serve to further the “othering” phenomenon.

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