The LGBT movement is facing a crucial dilemma. Although the movement presents itself as a coalition of gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals, many Americans accept and approve of the former (LG), but not the latter (T). Opponents of LGBT rights have capitalized on this social and political disconnect in local ballot measure campaigns, convincing voters to repeal sexual orientation anti-discrimination laws by highlighting that the statutes also contain gender identity protections. There is thus a sufficiently large gap between the identity categories that lesbian and gay legal victories have not built support for transgender rights, and yet they are integrated enough that one can be deployed against the other.
Drawing on extensive original primary source research—including archival materials, newspaper articles, television advertisements, legislative histories, and court filings—this Article uncovers the debates, conflicts, and decisions that shaped the place of transgender rights within the coalition, and argues that national LGBT rights organizations’ legal strategies inadvertently contributed to this contemporary disconnect. This Article demonstrates why it is so important for LGBT rights groups to address this problem by chronicling anti-transgender rhetoric in local ballot measures, where citizens are increasingly voting to repeal LGBT rights. It concludes by identifying several options for how LGBT rights groups can eliminate the gap between lesbian/gay and transgender, which it uses to develop a taxonomy of social movement mobilization.
The full paper is available here.