In recent days a wonderful TED talk has been doing the rounds; Lesbian Ash Beckham spoke movingly about coming out as a “difficult conversation.” She listed other difficult conversations people have also, like telling your relatives you have cancer.
But lumping all coming out conversations as “difficult conversations” like this is as mistake, because it misses the problem for many, especially trans people. Coming out as LGB can have huge negative consequences in some cases, coming out as trans often has negative consequences. Not all difficult conversations are the same, because of the potential for different consequences.
A young person coming out to his or her parents as trans still runs the risk of rejection by their parents. In my research so far I have found that those trans people coming out to their parents and being accepted are very much in the minority. It also seems that some are completely rejected by their parents to the extent that they are thrown out of their homes. One young trans guy was even asked by his mother “Why can’t you just be a lesbian instead?”
So whilst coming out as trans and coming out as LGB are, as Ash Beckham said, both “difficult conversations” we need to acknowledge that they are not the same, and they have different consequences. This is why, in LGBT Labour we are starting a slightly separate section for trans people; to acknowledge that, whilst in the main we have much in common with our LGB brothers and sisters (and indeed many of us identify as LGB also) we need to recognise that there are differences and issues specific to trans people that will be different in some cases, from LGB people.
My personal instincts are always towards solidarity, and that is why I believe in groups like LGBT Labour; we all need to stand in support with each other in the face of what are usually the same forces ranged against us. That does not mean however that we should not have our own spaces and discuss issues from a trans perspective. That will only strengthen alliances and bring greater solidarity, enabling us to point out to people like Ash Beckham where it is different for us.