Here is why a practical definition of advocacy is key for the LGBTQ+ community: a narrow definition of advocacy and support does not exists. I’m serious; perform a Google or Bing search. I’ll sit here and wait.
While it is true that some define ‘effective advocacy’ as a service that enables nonprofits to shape the public debate on important social issues and to ensure underserved communities have a voice in the policies that impact their lives, this definition does not specify what social issues are necessarily important. Moreover, which communities are underserved? To what extent are those voices represented in policies? Other definitions for advocacy are the advancement and inclusion for transgender and gender nonconforming persons. However, what does advancement mean to these organisations? One cannot deny the state of being included into a group or structure is important, but is that it? How can one know? I guess we will never.
Another conundrum I’ve encountered is the adoption by Twitter users of the rainbow or trans flag. Many of these profiles belong to individuals and organisations who are in positions of power. Yet many remain silent when LGBTQ+ persons are harmed. This raises the question as to whether the adoption of the flags are a spectacle. If not a spectacle, then what? One may interpret it as a show of solidarity and mutual support. But is it exactly that: a show? To what extent does solidarity ceases to be visible? When one raises their social profile? When the number of constituents achieved; elections won? When the trend ends?
All these questions point to the conclusion that the LGBTQ+ community should better define what it means by advocacy and support, as no unified definition can lead to ‘selective advocacy’ and marginalisation.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines advocacy as “public support for an idea, plan, or way of doing something” and support as “to help someone emotionally or in a practical way.” If we combine the words ‘support’ and ‘advocacy’ we have sup- advocacy.
What is sup-advocacy?
Sup-advocacy can be defined as the practical and public support LBGTQ+ organisations provide to marginalised members of their own community. Practical support means LGBTQ+ organisations provide a tangible action to marginalised members, rather than an idea of support (e.g., communicating with the Gardai on behalf on marginalised members to get answers on why the Gardai has failed to properly investigate a complaint). Public support means LGBTQ+ organisations protect marginalised members of their community by making phone calls, writing emails and letters, or withdrawing its endorsements from groups and organisations that harm members of the LGBTQ+ community. These actions show other groups that it will not tolerate the antipathy and unfair treatment shown to marginalised members of their community.
Who are marginalised members of the LGBTQ+ community?
UN expert on gender identity, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, said on December 16th that “Trans women are among the most vilified, disenfranchised, and stigmatized people on this planet.” Madrigal-Borloz, who encouraged the Scottish Parliament to adopt the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, disclosed that he witnessed “shocking acts of violence” against trans women, such as killings, torture and beatings. If trans women are especially vulnerable to acts of violence, why are they often last to receive sup-advocacy?
Why a Practical Definition of Advocacy is Key for the LGBTQ+ Community
Well, some people think trans women are stealthy and are always ‘hiding who they really are.’ If trans women are not being honest about ‘who they really are,’ then they are likely not being honest about what led to an act of harassment and violence. This argument is fallacious because it appeals to the popular belief that the more successful the trans woman in her preferred gender role, the more likely she is being deceptive. It also assumes there is only one explanation for the violence trans women suffer: her perceived ‘deception’. They have a point in thinking trans women are deceptively navigating the world in stealth. But this idea ignores several mitigating factors, one being the true purpose of transition, which is to align oneself in the preferred gender role.
Canadian philosopher, Talia Bettcher, asserts that authority figures have a moral responsibility to give trans women the benefit of the doubt. The strength of this approach is exploring other factors, such as external ones there were not considered before, that likely resulted in a trans woman being victimised. Nonaction only gives imprimatur to wrongdoers and emboldens them to commit acts of violence against trans women.
The LGBTQ+ community, in every nation, should trust trans women, should provide them with a critical source of moral support, and should put together a unified front against those who harm them. As stated by Bayard Rustin, “We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers.”
When LGBTQ+ organisations act as angelic troublemakers for trans women who are mistreated by unjust systems they are demonstrating an act of sup-advocacy. They are also troublemaking for a higher purpose.