A C o m p r e h e n s i v e M a n u a l
are transsexual, people who are into
reinforce stereotypes. This notion of the
"gender bending," drag queens, and so
good gay person must be challenged.
on. In short, many who do not fit within
the rigid confines of our society s gender
The same types of issues may arise con
norms consider themselves transgender.
cerning bisexuals. Many lesbians and
Transgender issues can bring up all kinds
gay men do not understand bisexuals.
of feelings for people who have never
Try to keep your group from categorizing
encountered these issues and who don t
too much. Be inclusive of everyone.
understand them. However, it is impor
Most of all, try to create a group norm
tant to bring up them because, especially
where it is possible to listen and ask ques
tions so that you can better understand
the needs of individuals in your group.
One of the most significant internal issues
in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgen
der community is our differing degrees of
outness. Many psychologists have
described the various stages of coming
out, from intense denial and self hatred to
openness and pride. It is easy to see that
someone just coming out will have dif
ferent needs and a different perspective
from someone who s been out for 5 years.
Do you make assumptions about people s
degree of outness or comfort with being
gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender?
Photo 1995 Alex Zaphiris
Someone just coming out may not feel
in lgbt groups, issues will arise and it is
comfortable with the "campy style" or
our responsibility to educate the members
"playful cruising" that goes on in some
of our community. We often categorize
lgbt groups. On the other hand someone
ourselves into subgroups based on gender
who s been active in "ACT UP" may feel
(e.g., a lesbian rap group or a support
put off by the low key approach and
group for gay and bisexual men). What
"secretiveness" of some other groups.
happens to the individual who feels, for
instance, that he is a woman trapped in a
man s body? Does this person categorize
himself as a woman or a man? As you
The second thing for any group to under
can see, the issues can become quite com
stand after "who" is WHY? Why does
plex. The best thing to do is to try to
this group exist? What needs does it
understand what the person is experienc
meet? The raison d etre of your group
ing, and try to meet the individual s needs
may be directly tied to the make up of the
in whatever way possible.
members of the group. It is possible that
you will find that you are a group of new
Often our communities try to distance
ly out students who need support to feel
themselves from the transgender commu
good about yourselves. It is a small leap
nity because they feel transgender people
to understanding, then, that the reason for
D e f i n i n g Y o u r G r o u p