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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Angela Brightfeather, January 24, 2002. Interview K-0841. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Tensions between the transgender community and the gay and lesbian communities

Brightfeather discusses tensions within the GLBT community, particular between gay and lesbian groups with transgender groups, and draws comparisons between those tensions as they existed in the North and in the South. According to Brightfeather, there were very marked parallels between the experiences of transgender people and gay and lesbian people; nevertheless, she notes how the groups sometimes found difficulty working together because for political reasons. The passage concludes with Brightfeather's comments on the "abysmal absence" of a transgender community and the overwhelming need for one in North Carolina at the turn of the twenty-first century when she first moved there.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Angela Brightfeather, January 24, 2002. Interview K-0841. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

CHRIS MCGINNIS:
So, they are actively trying to make sure that the transgender agenda is not connected with the gay agenda?
ANGELA BRIGHTFEATHER:
Right, because they feel that it is tainted, and that they have not done enough education, they keep on saying that. You have not educated people enough. You have not—
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
They are two separate struggles is what they are saying.
ANGELA BRIGHTFEATHER:
Right.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
And you are saying, "Well, we have really been intertwined from the very beginning."
ANGELA BRIGHTFEATHER:
Well, it is like when I came here and I met the publisher of the paper here.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Jim Baxter.
ANGELA BRIGHTFEATHER:
Yeah, Jim Baxter. When I came into town and I immediately said, "If I can help you, I have read your paper, it is great. But, there are no articles there on transgender people." And, he said—
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
I have his recorded response to that. He said something to the effect of, "It is not all about gender."—
ANGELA BRIGHTFEATHER:
No, what he specifically said that stuck out in that conversation all boiled down was that, "Gay and Lesbian issues are diametrically opposed to transgender issues." Which is a very sophisticated—a very sophisticated argument that we could use miles of tape on. But, he has never given me the opportunity to meet one on one and debate him on that in front of the gay and lesbian community, which I would more than love to do. Because, I think that that is the type of discourse where the person that needs to be had in order for people to understand and make up their minds, one way or the other. I feel as though the majority of the gay and lesbian community, the vast majority of the gay and lesbian community believe that we are not the same, but we are linked together in many, many areas because of the oppression that we live through and are living through, because of the issues that we share. Everything from custody of your children to serving in the military and all points in between. Treatment in jails and other institutions. I would go right on down the line. Our issues are so much the same, and they are for the same reasons, because people just don't understand or agree with the way that we live. That, it just all makes so much sense, and we have been together for so long to disassociate us now, would be literally unthinkable. I think that a majority of gays and lesbians feel that.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Oh yeah.
ANGELA BRIGHTFEATHER:
I really do. And I think—
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
I think sometimes politically they are scared that transgender people will make it that much harder, to bring on the issue I think the—
ANGELA BRIGHTFEATHER:
So what we are talking about is legal legislation and laws, and it all boils down to the fact that gays and lesbians say that, "We have been working on this a lot longer than you have and we have vested interests and we are not willing to give up those vested interests." And that is very true, very true. They have been out longer than transgender people because they have been able to be out longer than transgender people, most people consider it less of a crime or distinction to go and do something in your own bedroom than to put on another genders clothes another sexes clothes and go walking outside and try to use a restroom. So, they don't think it is impinging upon your freedom as much. So yeah, they have been out, they have enjoyed their freedoms a lot longer than we have, because we are more persecuted, that doesn't mean in any way, shape or form that we should not be part of the movement, a large part of the movement, or now that things are happening for us, that they should forget the fact that we were there all along.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
How is that different from the South. This is the Northeastern gay political structure.
ANGELA BRIGHTFEATHER:
Yeah, when I moved down here in the South, I found that coming down here, I found clicks of people; gays, lesbians, bisexual, fetish people, straight people—especially straight people that live in different areas and different pockets. Durham is traditionally a black town. Much better for Caucasian to live in Cary.
CHRIS MCGINNIS:
Right.
ANGELA BRIGHTFEATHER:
It is that type of discrimination that has been left over; I think in the South that I noticed right away. And then I started to get involved in the gay and lesbian community down here. I found an abysmal absence in the transgender community, but did find a lot of people in the transgender community down here that were starving for information, eager to come out, wanting do something, wanting to participate but not knowing how. They had no idea.