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Larry King is why L, G, B, and T are together

Autumn Nicole Bradley

I often hear the question asked, “Why does T belong with LGB?” It’s usually followed with the logic “LGB all refer to sexuality, while T is about sex/gender.” Larry King is why we belong together.

The media has spent the better part of the past three decades sending the message that trans people don’t exist outside of prostitution and daytime talk trash TV

During the pretrial and trial we learned that Larry King was gay. The media coverage focused significant attention on that fact: this was a gay murder trial, not just a murder trial. But between the crossdressing and the potential name change to Leticia, there was also compelling evidence that King was in the process of discovering they were trans, and that I and many others are remiss in not using female pronouns. (Sadly, King was killed before they could say one way or another so I will keep the pronouns neuter.)

That confusion – both on the part of those around King and those reporting on the trial – is why we are in this together. The media has spent the better part of the past three decades sending the message that trans people don’t exist outside of prostitution and daytime talk trash TV (and that trans men don’t exist period), so today, the domain of the homosexual man is the only permissible place for males to express effeminately. So when everything from Pride coverage to Glee to (my new guilty pleasure) Project Runway features delightfully effeminate gay men, is it any wonder that a potentially trans child would first assume they are gay? When gay and trans can be confused for one another by one another, why do we expect the media to be able to keep them separate?

One thing that the school did attempt was to ensure King’s rights were respected with regard to the dress code when Sue Parsons sent this email to staff at the school:

We have a student on campus who has chosen to express his sexuality by wearing make-up. It is his right to do so. Some kids are finding it amusing, others are bothered by it. As long as it does not cause classroom disruptions he is within his rights. We are asking that you talk to your students about being civil and non-judgmental. They don’t have to like it but they need to give him his space. We are also asking you to watch for possible problems. If you wish to talk further about it please see me or Joy Epstein

So here we have the first intersection of LGB and T: GLB gender expression = T gender expression.

The police raids on gay bars that forced transgender people to congregate at the Compton Cafeteria and led to that riot, and the raid that triggered the Stonewall riot were conducted based on laws that mandated “gender appropriate clothing.” In the 40+ years since these events, much debate has centered on what role trans people played in the riots, particularly Stonewall, but the time, with the exception of a few individuals, surgically corrected trans people were nearly unheard of.

Even today it is no simple task to tell at a glance whether a person is an early-stage transitioning trans woman, or an effeminate gay man, or an androgyne hipster. What does one make of the significant crossover between straight-identified trans men and butch lesbian women? Can you tell the difference between when a girl is a tomboy or a pre-transition trans man? How would you enforce a law about gender appropriate clothing when a person’s ID says M, their birth certificate says F, and they walk into the unisex bathroom wearing a tailored business suit? The right to express one’s self and one’s gender affects all of us because there is no line you can draw that won’t leave someone on the wrong side.

In King’s case, their parents stated that because of their child’s “unique vulnerabilities,” the school was partially to blame for not illegally enforcing the dress code by forbidding King from wearing women’s clothing. Even King’s own parents were involved in the victim blaming because King transgressed the expected gender expression of a 14 year old boy.

Autumn Sandeen wrote a very provocative piece today over at Pam’s House Blend (now a part of Firedoglake) entitled My Life Is Likely Less Valuable Than Yours.

At least, that’s what the hung jury in Brandon McInerney’s murder trial for the killing of Larry King tells me. The hung jury in the case tells me gay panic and trans panic defenses – “blame the victim” defenses – are still alive and well in my home state of California.

If your letter is anywhere in the LGBTQIAA or should be, your life is less valuable than someone whose isn’t because to those who do not understand, we are all the same.

McInerney’s defense not only included blaming the school, but also blaming King for bullying McInerney by asserting that allowing King to wear women’s clothing amounted to harassing McInerney. King was alleged to have made sexual advances at McInerney that made him uncomfortable. If McInerney told King to stop and they didn’t, then that might be the only thing King did wrong in this situation. However, I would have liked to have King’s side of that. As a victim of routine, prolonged bullying myself, I doubt that if King had politely asked the school and McInerney to stop, that they would have. If there’s anything justifiable in this entire situation, it’s fighting back against a bully the only way King could.

But why was it even effective in the first place? Why did it push McInerney to such extremes? Here come to our second intersection of LGB and T:Transphobia = Homophobia.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been told the following: “I have no problem with you people dressing however you want, and I’ll even call you ‘she’ if that’s what you want, but if you go around hitting on guys, don’t be surprised when you get what you deserve.” The threat of violence there is implied in only the loosest sense; no rational person in the threatened group would interpret that as anything but a threat. At the very least, it is condoning it as deserved.

(Here I must make something abundantly clear to those who see a contradiction in the preceding paragraphs: First, fighting back against bullying that the school is unwilling or unable to intervene on except for a teacher saying don’t be different is not in the same league as someone being made uncomfortable by a person’s appearance. Second, words are not bullets.)

The idea that trans people and gay people who hit on straight people deserve violence is the essence of homophobia. There is a prevalent notion out there that straight sex with a trans person somehow makes you gay, and that fear also implies that homosexual is an undesirable thing to be. The dislike and the distrust of trans people, and the image of the “deceptive tranny” immortalized in music of all genres, is transphobia rooted in homophobia. In fact, to those who view things that way, there is no difference because people with that view assert quite clearly a trans person is, and forever will be, the sex the doctor guessed when they were born, and no amount of surgery will remove the “core gender” or “true sex” that is deeply ingrained in chromosomes, or social conditioning, or pull something out of a hat because it’s all a moving goalpost anyway. Essentialism at it’s finest.

It’s this same logic that trans woman + man = man + man that led to Nikki Araguz’s marriage being declared invalid earlier this year in Texas, in part because her surgery had not been complete at the time (but mostly because the judge was pushing a bigoted interpretation of the law that said you are and forever shall be your assigned sex). This brings us to the final intersection of LGB and T: LGB rights = T rights.

When trans people are free to wear what they wish, butches, bois, queens, fairies, everyone else can, too. When homosexuals can marry because marriage is declared gender ambivalent, it no longer matters whether a trans person’s surgery date was postponed until after their wedding. When a person’s right to be who they are free of harassment is upheld by institutional power that does not bend merely to people being uncomfortable, then we will no longer need to worry about being assaulted in bathrooms, dragged behind trucks, or shot in schools. And when it does happen, it doesn’t take a mistrial that sends the process back to square one to see justice.

It is true that trans people require additional rights regarding correct identifying documents and aid from the medical establishment to varying degrees. Homosexuality has been rightfully absent from the DSM since 1973, but gender dysphoria remains in part because of the need for a diagnosis to pursue treatment, and in spite of its known stigmatization. In the recent revision, the historic requirement (and later, listing as a symptom) of homosexual feelings pre-transition for treatment of gender dysphoria has been stricken, which on its face further separates LGB from T.

However, ask anyone on the street, or even transgender people themselves, whether they went from one orientation to another, or whether they were always straight, or any combination in between and you’ll get every combination of answers for the same circumstance: gay men who became straight women, straight women who in their male life were really just straight women in a male body, bisexual women who happened to only date men pre-transition and post-transition, pansexuals who dated people of genders they won’t specify (but who, if asked, would self-identify as men).

When were they gay?When were they straight? Was Larry (Laticia) King a gay boy, or a pre-transition straight girl? We can’t know. While it does King a disservice in terms of historical record, when we as a society realize that the answer doesn’t matter to anyone but King themselves, we will realize that King’s true “offense” was being any kind of gender non-conforming individual. Not being gay, nor being trans.

Those who are against us are against us all.


  1. Thank you for this piece, Autumn. I hope you don’t mind if I have one question regarding your reference to the tomboy.

    Above you have a paragraph containing the sentence, “Can you tell the difference between when a girl is a tomboy or a pre-transition trans man?” The first time I read this as using the term “girl” to refer to a woman and conflating all tomboys to those whose gender expressions are indisputably male. But then I read it again, and realized that you may have meant “girl” as in “young girl” and the “man” part as something she may become (I say become because that girl is not yet an adult and so cannot be a man). I was just curious as to which of these you meant, or whether you were saying something else I missed, which is quite possible! :)

    • Yes, I was referring to a hypothetical young girl whose gender expression might be described as “tomboy”, and rhetorically questioning whether a casual observation is enough to know whether that was where she was comfortable, or whether she was taking the first steps on the road to transition. Hope that helps! :)

      • It definitely does, thanks. You know, I’m a bit uncomfortable with using the term “tomboy” as a label for a certain gender expression, but after some reflection, I think it’s because of exactly what you are saying about conflating gender identity and gender expression. Not every tomboy may actually want to be a boy, but by many definitions, one of the characteristics of the tomboy is that she refuses to dress like a girl.

  2. Sky

    The whole concept of “gender-appropriate” clothing is absurd.
    Females in western culture literally wear every single type of clothing that is available. Whether it’s pants or an un-bifurcated garment, any array of undergarments, etc. Go in the female’s clothing section and find things like “boy-cut shorts” complete with the easy-access flap designed only for the presence of a penis. The examples are endless. Much of what females wear today was originally men’s clothing! Females have access to every type of clothing imaginable and can never be accused of cross-dressing as a result. The only conceivable way, looking at the situation rationally, that anyone can truly “cross-dress” in today’s world is if they put something on their body that relates only to specific part of the body unique to a particular body part (i.e. a bra or perhaps a jock strap). So how is then that males cannot wear every type of clothing without having a sexual identity issue, or a mental problem, or some kind of abhorrent social/sexual deviancy?

    In the 40’s women in some counties could still be arrested for wearing pants. That’s long gone. The way men are treated now in regards to physical appearance is about as bad as it once was in this culture for women who didn’t want to wear one basic kind of outfit. So when are males going to be free to just express themselves, enjoy clothes both for their functional and sensual aspects without being labeled as any particular thing at all in regards to their mental health or social acceptability?

    Sexual identity, nor orientation, should have any relation to physical appearance whatsoever. I don’t see how society can even begin to deal with the reality of gender expression and sexual identities when it can’t even get over something as unimportant and inconsequential as how someone chooses to dress!

    • There are still a lot of enforced gender distinctions in clothing, even for people who present as women. Ask a woman who works as a corporate executive what would happen if she went to work wearing a three-piece suit with a tie and men’s dress shoes. Or go to a department store and look at the differences between the same piece of clothing in the “women’s” and the “men’s” sections (“women’s” clothes are tighter and more revealing; adult women get all kinds of harassment if they wear baggy shorts and T-shirts regularly or, god forbid, don’t shave their legs and armpits).

      There is undeniably a lot more violence directed at people assumed to be male who dress femininely than vice versa, but oversimplifying things doesn’t help us understand.

    • Women in some countries can still be arrested for wearing pants. In other countries, they’ll be killed by a mob.

      It’s a very Western concept that women can’t cross-dress.

  3. Well said. Really well said.

  4. AnDrewGyne

    Wow. Just wow. What a brill article … I am well and truly gobsmacked. I hope this article is read far and wide … especially given the intersection of recent events. Thank you!

  5. rozele

    i think these are all important points to make, and ones that are quite deliberately left out of a lot of conversations about how the politics of sexuality and gender connect up – thanks for making such a clear summary of them!

    but i have to say that one of the biggest intersections of queer and trans struggles is one not mentioned here: the simple fact that trans folks *are* queer folks. not just some of us, not just most of us, but a pretty overwhelming majority.

    the NGLTF’s “Injustice at Every Turn” study (available here: is about as comprehensive as research on trans folks gets. most of the focus on its findings has rightly been on its fantastic documentation of structures of oppression, but there are some important pieces of its demographic information that have been quietly ignored. one of which is its finding that trans folks are rarely straight.

    the numbers are consistent across at-birth gender assignment for binary-oriented trans folks: about 1/4 het, with the remaining 3/4 split among homo, bi and queer (with substantially more folks identifying as “queer” or “bisexual” than “gay/lesbian/same-gender”). for non-binary-identified folks, the numbers are even more extreme (in part because the het/homo distinction makes no sense for us genderfuckups): 4% het.

    • Definitely. I feel I touch on that a bit at the end when I ask the rhetorical question of when are we a specific sexual orientation and when did our orientation change even if our actual desires haven’t. But you’re right, that’s hardly a direct reference of our actual tendency to be queer.

      I mostly fend off HBSer/TS Separatist trolls who would never countenance the notion of a trans lesbian (“they’re just men in dresses” with an optional “who rape confused women by lying about understanding women” or whatever. I don’t know; I can’t think like that without a nose bleed) is completely anathema to them. To them, if you didn’t have dreams of getting frontfucked by an alpha male and raising his three perfect kids, you’re not a “true transsexual.” So for those folks, bringing our queerness into the debate is just seen as evidence for their side, paradoxically enough, because it further alienates them from “the transgenders”.

      Because of that, I sometimes forget that there are LGB folks who forget that we are much more likely to be LGB than straight and vanilla.

      • rozele

        yes indeed. and i find the NGLTF research especially heartening for that homophobic strain of Twue Trans trolls: they really are almost as marginal as i’d like them to be – and anyone who wants to put them at the center is easier to rebut than ever!

        and, connected to that, the thing i had to check myself over was my surprise at the similarity between the AFAB and AMAB numbers. it made me realize how much i’d internalized the myth of the straightness of trans women – despite both what my communities actually look like and my own experience (to the extent that i sometimes get read into the category, or strategically move to be read into it).

        the differences in those results beyond the het minority are quite interesting, though: the prevalence of “queer” among trans men as opposed to “bisexual” or “gay/lesbian” among trans women, which i’d say has to do with (among other things) the legacy of riot grrrl; the political meaning of ‘queer’ strengthening it among AFAB folks, who’re more generally politically engaged; hostility towards “lesbian” as an identity term; the legacy of the butch/trans border wars, including a broader understanding of non-binary gender and sexuality among trans men than trans women; etc. all fascinating.

        oh, and that vanilla part: pity we don’t have data on kink from NGLTF, isn’t it?

  6. ts

    right on. really loved this piece.

  7. Lia

    Thanks for this piece of solidarity !

  8. A few weeks ago I was at the March for Marriage in Dublin. The Irish government has recently brought in inadequate civil partnerships legislation, which gives at least some recognition of gay couples (though it needs vast improvement), but it still doesn’t recognise trans rights at all. The speakers at the March for Marriage talked quite a bit about trans rights. One of the themes was yours: we all stand together, and perhaps that’s most obvious on the issue of marriage. And the proposed recognition of trans people is, frankly, insulting.

    The proposed legislation says that a married person cannot transition (because that would be same-sex marriage, shock, horror!). A married person who wants to transition must divorce first. And since Irish law allows for divorce only in the case of irreconcilable differences, a happily married person cannot transition at all.

    I’m glad to say that everyone at the March for Marriage cheered these speeches. We hadn’t come to a specifically trans protest. I’m willing to bet there were many more gay than trans people there, along with not a few straights supporters. But everyone cheered. Too often in gay spaces on the Internet I’ve seen people spouting all kinds of bullshit about trans people. “Why do they hitch their wagon to ours?” Because it’s their wagon too, and they’ve been with us from the beginning.

    Actually, I strongly suspect that the distinction between gay and trans is partly cultural. In other cultures, it works out differently.


  9. Mahsa

    You’re a fucking joke. After all that shit about robots and you’re a sci fi writer(how nerdy)

    I am not gonna take u seriously. I think your transition is more of the “world of pretend”

    Fuck off.

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