Archive for the ‘ENDA’ tag
I hesitate to jump into these shark-infested waters, but here goes.
I certainly have my own opinion on the “transsexual” vs. “transgender” debate that has ignited many a flame war on the internet over the last few months between those who want to separate our community based on those who have had or, at least, want to have, SRS, from everyone else, but I’m not going to express that here. Instead, I’m going to take a position that I’ve never seen expressed by anyone else, although some have come close. My position comes from my background as an attorney and my understanding of how anti-discrimination laws are written and are intended to operate.
Here’s what I know to be true: the dispute about who is transsexual and who isn’t is irrelevant to the fight for protections for transsexual, transgender, genderqueer and every other gender variant or gender nonconforming person in this country. Why? Because of how anti-discrimination laws are written for both practical and constitutional reasons.
Ceridwen Troy posted this about prop 8 on Livejournal today:
The situation with Prop 8 in California has really brought to a head something that I’ve been thinking about for a while now. The Gay Rights Movement, such as it is, is dying, and the ugliness we’ve been seeing, both around the passing of Prop 8 and a year ago with the battle over a non-inclusive ENDA, are its very violent death throes.
It’s a movement that I think deserves to die. In its race to mainstream gay and lesbian identity, it has recreated all of the problems that mainstream society already has. We’re seeing its racism in a violent way right now, and over the years we’ve seen its racism, its classism, its sexism, its transphobia, its biphobia, and really, its homophobia played out again and again and again.
The displays of racist hate going on right now in the gay community are sickening, but even worse is the amount of shock and appall coming from white anti-racist gays. You’d think this came out of nowhere, the way so many people are reacting, that gays were never racist until Prop 8, and now that wave of mysteriously sudden racism needs to be condemned so we can go back to being not racist at all. People are literally blind to this, either due to their privilege or due to a willful refusal to see it, they are blind to the fact that this has been going on for as long as there has been a gay rights movement.
Over the past week, a lot of noise has been made about how “No on 8″ needed to reach out to communities of color for their support. But seriously, by the time Prop 8 came up, it was already far too late. futurebird said it: “You can’t wait until something like a vote comes up to build a coalition.” The Gay Rights Movement is an overwhelmingly white one; just as a local example, the agency I work for prides itself on being “at the head of the Gay Rights Movement in Rochester for over thirty-five years.” In those thirty-five years, they hired their first person of color within the last two. Their first full-time staff member who is a person of color didn’t come on board until last month. And yet, people are surprised at the open racism being spouted now. It’s been with us all along, folks, and shit, I’m just an ignorant little white girl. I am so not the first or the only person saying this.
We saw, and continue to see, the transphobia and cissexism of the movement last year surrounding the ENDA bill. Yes, the United ENDA Coalition was a wonderful show of support, but that didn’t change the fact that the largest gay and lesbian rights organization in the country refused to stand with it. That didn’t change the fact that many of the organizations that supported the United ENDA bill could only do so because they realized that gender non-conforming gays and lesbians would be at risk without it; it wasn’t worth their time when they only thought it protected trans folk. That didn’t change the voices of individual gays and lesbians that at best spoke ignorance and at worst shouted hate speech so loudly it’s still ringing in my ears.
And there too, many people thought we were already united, that we were “LGBT” for a reason. The transphobia within the community took many people completely by surprise, when it was there all along. It was there in the way the movement has rewritten history, it was there in the way the movement barred trans folk from its numbers over the decades, it is there today in the way the movement takes legal action against trans folk who stand up for themselves.
In the race to gain equality for their families, the Gay Rights Movement has been all too eager to ignore the needs of others’ families. Single parent families, polyamorous groups, non-married couples; all of these deserve those “more than a thousand rights and privileges” that come with a legally recognized family, and yet the Gay Rights Movement is so single-minded that they will go so far as to assure legislators that they don’t want rights for these families, just for their own.
The situation with Prop 8 has also exposed a disgusting amount of anti-religious sentiment. In the fight to stop people from blaming people of color for its passing, there’s been a wave of “Blame the Catholics and the Mormons!”
They forget, of course, that queer people can have faith as well, and can find a place for that faith within religion. In the movements rabid lust to blame religion for its ills, it forgets the religions that have not shunned us, that have welcomed us, embraced us, loved us. Those places can’t just be a footnote (“Oh yeah, not all churches are bad.”) they need to be the model. People need something to cling to, especially when they aren’t the wealthy white men leading the Gay Rights Movement. For the movement to spout hate of religious groups, pointing their fingers at RELIGION as if it were the monolith keeping them from their “rights,” cuts the movement off from the very heart of many people’s communities.
Of course, the real issue keeping us from our “rights” isn’t religion, it’s homophobia. And what has ultimately doomed the Gay Rights Movement is that the Gay Rights Movement continues to be steeped in the very homophobia it claims to be fighting. Look at the way “No on 8″ was fought. A rush of campaign ads flooded the airwaves, urging people to vote No on Prop 8. Typical scenarios on these ads was the “Surprise! I’m Gay!” moment, where an upstanding young citizen overhears a friend or co-worker wanting to vote Yes, and says “Well, did you know you’d be voting against the rights of people like me if you do?” (It’s problematic enough that “people like me” here excludes people of color, people without a middle class income, people who are visibly queer, etc. etc.) What you don’t see much of in these ads is what the whole fight was about: queer families. This wasn’t a mistake, people make a lot of money putting ads like this together, and the message that they bought into when doing so was that our opposition is right. Queer families aren’t worth defending, they aren’t good enough to show on television, showing them on television might turn people away from voting for the rights of that fine upstanding citizen.
Similarly, when “Yes on 8″ started telling folks that gay marriage would have to be taught in schools, how did “No on 8″ respond? “No, that’s silly! Gay marriage won’t be taught in schools just because it exists!” That is not the answer a person who’s proud of themselves gives. A person who’s proud of their identity challenges the opposition to give proof of why it would be bad for this to happen, why children shouldn’t be taught about our families, about their families.
And how did “No on 8″ respond when they were told that gay marriage would violate the rights of faith groups? “C’mon, folks, that would never happen! Could you just please vote this down? I promise to go back to being a quiet, upstanding citizen afterwards!” What about the religious groups that do sanction same sex marriages? What about their religious freedoms that are also being attacked at the same time gay marriage is? (Of course, that tactic would never take off, cuz the movement’s too preoccupied in thinking that religion is a monolithic evil boogeyman come to get them.)
The movement deserves to die, because in this fight for “rights,” the movement has forgotten about what’s really at stake here: our humanity, our equality, our personhood. It actively denigrates the personhood of those that inconvenience it on its way to “rights”. It gleefully gobbles down the messages about its own members’ personhood, if that will make the issue more palatable for those who hate us. The movement has compartmentalized and sanitized the issues to a convenient gleam, then offers up our mewling gratitude when our oppressors decide they can tolerate the issue as long as they don’t have to acknowledge us in the process. Personhood and humanity and equality are what we need, what every human being needs, and this movement is more than willing to sacrifice that in a game of “rights”.
And algormortis responded:
a lot of noise has been made about how “No on 8″ needed to reach out to communities of color for their support.
i think my problem is more that there was no outreach compounded with the fact that they’re, um, you know, calling us “niggers” now and telling us to “stay out of West Hollywood.” well, i’m not rich enough to be allowed in anyways, but…
i’ve talked to a couple of friends who live in Bayview-Hunters Point in SF (which is, for now, the “black part of town”, though the gentrification is moving in fast) and they didn’t see anyone from the No on 8 campaign with much any presence in their neighborhood. no leafletting, door-knocking, etc. no public education at all. seriously kinda fucked up if you ask me, but i guess they figured we’d just watch TV and see ads full of white people exhorting us to vote no and we’d follow. yeah.
it’s funny you raise the United ENDA Coalition. over a couple of beers last night i explained to one of my starry-eyed friends how, with a Democratic majority in the House and Senate and a Democratic president, i fully expect to see the HRC throw trans people under the bus again.
i can see i now: the logic will be something about “too soon”, all the House members will go on and on about how they have to get reeeeeeeee-electeeeeeeeeed whine whine whine, and then barney frank and his agenda get a shot at it, and boom, y’all are sitting by the curb wondering where the bus went. as the bus peels out, the HRC asks you for money, telling you that your day will come soon, too. of course there’s no timeline, and in another two years, “well, it’s too soon” will come up again. (“Well, we don’t want to lose the PRESIDENCY, now do we?”) the sad part is that to a group like the HRC, it’s always going to be “too soon”. there’s a place and a time for an incremental approach, and that’s not when you’re messing with peoples’ rights.
by: Autumn Sandeen
Fri Sep 19, 2008 at 14:47:34 PM EDT
For those who don’t remember, Diane Schroer was told she was going to be hired by the U.S. Library Of Congress, and saw the decision to employ her rescinded after she told her hiring agent she was going to transition from male-to-female in the workplace.From the ruling of United States District Judge James Robertson:
After hearing the evidence presented at trial, I conclude that Schroer was discriminated against because of sex in violation of Title VII. The reasons for that conclusion are set forth below, in two parts. First, I explain why, as a factual matter, several of the Library’s stated reasons for refusing to hire Schroer were not its “true reasons, but were pretext[s] for discrimination,” Tex. Dep’t of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253 (1981). Second, I explain why the Library’s conduct, whether viewed as sex stereotyping or as discrimination literally “because of . . . sex,” violated Title VII….None of the five assertedly legitimate reasons that the Library has given for refusing to hire Schroer withstands scrutiny.
ConclusionIn refusing to hire Diane Schroer because her appearance and background did not comport with the decisionmaker’s sex stereotypes about how men and women should act and appear, and in response to Schroer’s decision to transition, legally, culturally, and physically, from male to female, the Library of Congress violated Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination.
The Clerk is directed to set a conference to discuss and schedule the remedial phase of this case.
What a wonderful decision.
Great work by the ACLU on this case so far — I hope this civil rights ruling holds if there should be an appeal of the decision.
I linked to a post by Monica Helms about trans anger the other day, which was really me dodging writing a full post – however, Helen G pointed out that its focus is quite narrow and doesn’t really cover the reasons trans people have to be angry. And, I agree with her. I do not yet feel up to writing that full post yet, so I want to cover something that should help provide context:
I haven’t really done this before, but I wanted to go over what transphobia is and what transphobia is not. Quite a few cis people feel qualified to tell trans people what qualifies as transphobia, which always conveniently excludes whatever transphobic behavior they’re exhibiting at that particular time. It’s not unlike what I said to Uppity Brown Woman the other day about white people defining racism:
. . . white people shouldn’t be the ones to define when a racist act has occurred, because the answer will nearly always be “never,” . . .
What I mean by that is that without any reason for white people to check our privilege, we’re just going to do what we do and refuse to acknowledge that we’re hurting someone else. Part of privilege is that the pain we cause is either invisible to us, or we believe that the target of that pain somehow brought it upon herself or deserved it. Another part of privilege is interpreting events in our favor whenever possible, and expecting the dominant social forces to support that interpretation.
Also, read Uppity Brown Woman’s full post I linked, because it is all about privilege:
A dramatic metaphor:
Imagine you’re riding your motorcycle down the street. The car in front of you slams on their breaks to meet a stop light, and you swerve to avoid smashing into them, only to end up hitting a telephone pole. It’s your bike that’s a goner, but thankfully the other vehicles have no significant damage. You’re also the one bleeding internally from faceplanting. Only one ambulance has arrived so far. The paramedics are trying to help you in whatever way they can. The other person involved in the accident walks over and demands medical attention because they could be bleeding internally as well. They stopped really suddenly! Their airbag went off!
No doubt, they could be injured. Although it is a possibility, the biker is visibly in pain. The driver makes the point, “but sie must have known the hazards of motorcycles!” In this metaphor, the paramedics stop paying attention to the biker and start looking after the driver. The biker uses up a ton of energy just trying to say, “hey, wait a fucking minute! This is supposed to be about me!” and is only met with “when we’re done here, we’ll get to you. Just calm down and quit being so angry.”
This is what happens when conversations about issues surrounding disability, race, trans people, and other oppressed classes of people start: Privileged people walk in and demand to make the conversation about them. They ask to be educated, they demand justifications, they insist that they can’t be good allies if they don’t understand what’s going on. In the three threads I linked, one is about a girl with cerebral palsy whose family denied her life support machines that would improve her quality of life, and also arranged for a “do not resuscitate” order; one is about how white people often make use of work done by people of color without crediting them; one is about how a feminist made a pointed jab at the Transgender Day of Remembrance. In each case, able-bodied, white, or cis people came into the discussion and made it about them. In each case, this was highly inappropriate because the topic matter was itself sensitive to the people it directly affected: The perception of people with disabilities living incomplete lives that leads able-bodied people to think it’s reasonable to let them die; the fact that people of color do so much work and white people feel entitled to claim it; the fact that trans people cannot even talk about the fact that we have a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered, at least in America – the victims predominantly women of color. The average person has a 1 in 18,000 chance of being murdered. That we cannot talk about this fact that this is happening, and that we remember our dead once a year, and how we cannot even do this without a cis person begrudging the fact that we do remember our dead – and we cannot have this conversation without cis people blasting into the discussion and demanding that we justify our lives and our decisions and the medical procedures we’ve undergone before they’ll consent to both mourn and express sympathy that our mourning is begrudged.
And that’s privilege, or rather what privilege does to those who do not have it.
Nothing listed past this point is meant to be definitive, the sum total, the limits of the ways that cissexual privilege or transphobic actions manifest. They are examples, and are only the tip of the iceberg.
Cissexual privilege is the privilege of having a body that matches the sex your brain expects. Cissexual privilege is the privilege of having a body that matches what society expects. Cissexual privilege is the assumption that your sex, your gender are superior and more valid than trans people’s sex and gender, that you have the right to tell trans people who and what they really are, what their motives are for transitioning, to deny that their most basic realities are false because you cannot imagine how they can be true. Cissexual privilege is the sense of entitlement that tells you that you have the right to discuss my genitals at any time and then claim I’m the one bringing genitals up all the time. Cissexual privilege is the belief that you can declare what “being a transsexual” really is because you’ve thought about it a lot after rejecting what actual transsexual people and the entire medical profession have said about being a transsexual person. Cissexual privilege is the insistence that you have the right to shift the meaning of what trans people say about ourselves so that you can then use the reinterpreted arguments as easily destroyed straw men. Cissexual privilege is the attitude that you can interrogate and criticize everything a trans person does even though it’s no different from what a cis person does simply because the person is trans, and thus her sex and gender are not as valid as yours. Cissexual privilege is what makes you think that you can berate trans people for reifying gender roles and reinforcing the gender binary while at the same time remaining comfortably ensconced in your life as a man or a woman. A trans person claiming to be a man or a woman is doing it wrong but you claiming to be a man or a woman is only natural.
Cissexual privilege is the insistence that being called cissexual is othering and demeaning and implies that trans people are trying to make ourselves the norm and you the other, when it is simply a matter of equalizing cis and trans, defining both as normal and neither as other. It is no more othering and demeaning than distinguishing straight people from gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.
Cissexual privilege is the fact that you do not have to pay thousands of dollars for hormones, electrolysis, surgery, a new wardrobe, you do not have to risk losing your job, your family, or your friends. Cissexual privilege means that you don’t have to take hormones or undergo surgery to be comfortable – to be able to live with - your body’s sex.
Transphobia is the exercise of that privilege. It is not restricted to violence. It is not restricted to men. When you refer to a trans woman as a man, or a trans man as a woman, you said something transphobic. When you say that all trans people are fetishists, you said something transphobic. When you say that trans people are mentally ill, that is not only transphobic but also ableist. When you say that trans women should be excluded from domestic violence shelters, you not only said something transphobic, you also said that trans women should suffer emotional abuse, battering, or even die instead of possibly inconveniencing a shelter.
When you say that trans women should be placed in a men’s prison because their male history means they might rape someone, you have not only said something transphobic, but you have also said that the trans woman should be placed into a situation where she will be raped repeatedly. You have profiled all trans women as dangerous to cis women. When you say that trans women reify the gender binary, you absolve yourself of your own responsibility for reifying that same binary by simply existing and hold trans people to a standard that you simply do not demand of cis people. Plus, you said something transphobic. When you make a blog called “breathing is transphobic,” you did something transphobic, and you did it in a way that allows you to blame trans people for being too angry and bullying when we point out that you said or did something transphobic. That positions you in such a way as to dismiss everything that trans people say to you when they criticize your words and actions.
When you say that trans people should be denied access to hormones, surgery, and social transition and insist that we should instead seek therapy to help us stop being trans, you’re ignoring our voices and telling us what our real lives are like. You’re ignoring all the medical literature to date that says that the best treatment for trans people is to allow transition. You also said something transphobic. When you say that trans people are walking stereotypes of masculinity or femininity, you’re applying a double-standard to trans gender expression vs. cis gender expression – where a feminine trans woman is seen as a caricature of femininity while a feminine cis woman who presents exactly the same way is seen as natural and normal. You also said something transphobic.
When you claim that you have trans friends and that they agree with you, you said something transphobic. You also tried to claim that your friends’ voices and opinions should be more important than the voices and opinions of trans people who call you out on your cissexual privileged shit. You’re trying to establish that there are good trans people and bad trans people.
If you’re a trans person, and you participate in the bashing of other trans people, you have done something transphobic. Being trans does not make you immune to playing into cissexist normativity. It does not make you immune to saying hateful things about other trans people.
If you try to raise the spectre of men pretending to be trans women to gain access to restrooms, locker rooms, showers, shelters, or any other space set aside for women, you have not only said something transphobic, you are trying to hold trans people responsible for what other people may attempt to do (and something other people have not yet attempted to do).
If you try to raise the spectre of trans women triggering cis women survivors because of their assumed masculine appearance or penises, you are not only saying something transphobic, you are appropriating survivor voices to justify your transphobic statements. You are also holding trans women – and trans women only – responsible for managing triggers that are not theirs. You are also defining trans women by their appearance, as if what a woman looks like somehow reflects on her womanhood, as if it’s something she can control.
When you grab for a trans person’s genitals to find out what they are, you have committed sexual assault. When you attack a trans person because he or she is trans, you have committed battery. When you kill a trans person because he or she is trans, you have committed murder. These are all transphobic acts, but they are not the sum total of transphobic acts. They do not define transphobia. You do not get a free pass out of saying and doing transphobic acts because you are not out there personally running trans women over four times in a row, or shooting them, or stabbing them, or suffocating them, or bashing their heads in. The fact is that people who commit these atrocities upon trans people believe that they can get away with it because of all of the insults, the denial of trans people’s agency, the belief that trans people are really their birth sex and gender, the belief that trans people aren’t really men or women at all, the belief that trans people are so different from cis people that the accommodations made for cis people cannot be extended to trans people, the belief that what a trans person looks like discredits his or her sex or gender, justifying ridicule and abuse on that trans person.
When you say or do the things I have described here, you are supporting a cissexist society that justifies killing trans people, that justifies slapping our murderers, abusers, rapists, on the wrist. That justifies the idea that we’re not really human. And if you insist that your own words and deeds have no importance because you are not personally out there raping, beating, stabbing, shooting, strangling trans people, then you are part of the same problem that creates Andrade, Oates, Hyatt, Blake, and men who have murdered numerous other women and men just because those men believed that transphobic words and deeds that so much of the world accepts as reasonable justified their decision to erase women and men from the world simply because they existed.
This is the system you support – a spectrum of words and deeds that ranges from “You’re really a man/really a woman” to “Man is charged with manslaughter for deliberately hunting down and killing a trans woman.”
You reify and reinforce the oppression that affects me and all other trans people.
You can’t really help it, mostly. You’re born and raised in a cissexual society, a society that programs you to believe that people who change their sex are less than you. However, once you realize that this is the case – once it is brought to your attention, once your privilege is pointed out to you, once the fact that you – like all other cis people – are complicit in oppressing trans people, if you choose to deny that such privilege exists, deny that you are doing and saying transphobic things, while deliberately increasing the intensity and frequency of these actions? You are no longer at the point where you are simply complicit due to privilege. You are now an active participant.
You can always choose to stop.
Edit: I forgot to write about what transphobia is not: Just having cissexual privilege does not mean that everything a cis person does comes from that privilege or is transphobic. For example, treating trans people with respect, treating trans people as normal human beings? That’s not transphobic, and I see cis people do it all the time.
The plan, without comment:
Comments/Edits: 1 of 3.
Suggested Action Steps:
1. A professional survey to teach us just what the American people understand about trans and what they don’t. By region, by demographics, by religion, etc. Let’s do the state of the art survey so we know what we’re starting with. Questions like “what does transgender conjure up in your mind”? “What is the difference between gay and trans”? “Do you know that just as many females transition to male as vice versa”? Let’s get down to the core issues.
2. Then we research the 110+ jurisdictions with protections and characterize what was done right and what was done wrong. We need to work with other groups that have been doing this. I also don’t think it would hurt for Joe to sit down with them, apologize and begin the rebuilding. Trust is essential but will be hard to come by, and it would be a terrible waste of energy to try and go this alone. UnitedENDA should be a resource.
3. Use the above info to assist those states that have s.o. only laws such as MA, NY, MD and WI as a first step, or those states with active lobbying efforts.
4. Work with NCTE to find trans persons to target those 50 or so Congresspersons, and give them the data to help them lobby. But remember that nothing beats face-to-face contacts, and that means the rep and not the chief-of-staff or LA.
4. Work with GLAAD to develop video and PSAs for the targeted states and Congresspersons. We need to show them that we have materials that will help them withstand any hypothetical attacks.
5. Redouble the corporate work — they’ve been doing a great job.
6. Work with John Isa on the health insurance survey to increase coverage for medical and surgical transition.
7. Offer to assist NCTE for psychiatric members and those who would have contacts that could help us remove GID from the DSM. The APA Task Forces for the revision are now being formed.
Attached is comment document 2 of 3. (These intro sentences include edits)
In the wake of the House vote on ENDA, the Human Rights Campaign recognizes in a new and profound way the important role it must play in advocating in Congress, among the general mainstream population, and even within the GLBT community, for transgender protections.
We recognize that HRC’s decision to follow a different strategy to secure a fully-inclusive bill was hurtful to some members of our community and we regret that. Because we share the same goal of a fully-inclusive ENDA, HRC is immediately launching a new public education campaign designed to continue the mainstreaming of transgender issues, with three initial priorities:
o To forge stronger collaborations within the GLBT community
o To convincethe GLBT and progressive community of the necessity of understanding transgender issues
o To advocate for transgender acceptance among mainstream Americans
To meet these goals, HRC will engage with an organization-wide effort to redouble our educational efforts around gender identity and expression, while also continuing to enact changes that help build fairness and equality for transgender people at home, at work and in their communities.
II. Completing Targeted State Non-Discrimination Laws
III. Legislative Work – a 50 District Plan
IV. Redoubling our Corporate Work
V. Communications, Advertising and Media Promotion
VI. HRC Family Project Transgender Education
VII. Continued Publication of Educational Materials on Transgender Issues
Other thoughts (not sure where these fit above):
* Repositioning all of HRC’s messaging to be more inclusive of transgender people, and more humble/apologetic about HRC’s past exclusion of the transgender community
* Recognizing that transgender people are not “new” – that they were present at Stonewall and other early uprisings, and what kept them from being visible for many years (I’d be happy to elaborate about this)
* Encouraging transgender people to come out and tell their stories, perhaps providing forums where they can do so safely
* Requiring each HRC Regional Steering Committee to undergo transgender awareness training, and to actively work to increase transgender participation on the Committee
* Holding “lunch and learn” sessions at HRC headquarters, where staffers can hear from transgender people directly on topics such as trans law, history, insurance, healthcare issues etc.
* Urging HRC staffers to consider transgender people for job openings
This is the third of three comments/edits to our DRAFT Transaction Plan.
The first step in rebuilding our trust in HRC must be for HRC to own up to the fact that we were promised one thing and the promise, for whatever reason, was broken. Members of the transgender community I’ve spoken to want an apology and an explanation, and the explanation must be sincere and convincing. They want to see a stop to public announcements that contradict private activity which many believe is still going on. Until that is done, it will be near impossible to get increased participation from the transgender community.
And this is a sad state of affairs. Sure there are 200-300 organizations in United ENDA (depending on how you count them), but so many of them are small. None of them has the resources to mount a nationwide educational campaign about transgender. HRC does. Mainstream media has been wonderful to us this year. Barbara Walters 20/20, Larry King Live, Opera, the Discovery Channel, Ugly Betty, All My Children, and others have done a largely commendable job of bringing a positive view of transgender issues before the public. Yet we still have to overcome the image that Jerry Springer shows them on TV and the image we ourselves give the public with our Gay Pride and Halloween parades. We can tell our stories all we want on HRC’s web site and on Donna Rose’s proposed website. The only people we will reach there are those who are specifically looking for this kind of information.
At this time, I believe that only HRC has the resources to help us get the message out to mainstream America.
The second step would be to truly understand the transgender community . As you well know, many in the transgender community are unemployed or underemployed. They cannot afford the time or the money to visit their political leaders and speak for themselves. Many have been denied the opportunity for higher education and thus cannot express themselves as they would need to when speaking to politicians and business leaders. Many have been expelled or shunned from churches and do not know the bible well enough to defend themselves from religious attacks. Many, far too many, live with the internalized self-doubt and self-loathing that result from relentless attacks on their very existence. They cannot represent us as well as others might.
On the other hand, there have been more fortunate transgender individuals, particularly transsexuals, who have survived the attacks, found the strength to go on, found the opportunity for education, and found the conviction to live their lives as they should. They are accepted in their proper gender. These transsexuals are educated, with good paying, respectable careers. These people can speak for the community. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of them, the fight to get where they now are has been too long and too hard. They don’t want to fight anymore. They have changed their gender, their birth certificates, their college records and work histories. They have moved hundreds, indeed thousands, of miles away from home to start new lives. They want to live the years they have left in relative peace, in their proper gender. I cannot fault them for that. Just as no one should be compelled to live in shame or fear, no one should be compelled to ‘come out’ and expose themselves to renewed expressions of discrimination and bigotry.
To come out after successfully living a new life can ruin careers and families for them. HRC needs to appeal to these individuals to come out, but must be prepared to accept that few will heed the call.
Somewhere in the middle of these two groups are transgender and transsexuals who have managed to survive and now live openly. There are transgender who have education and who have careers that are relatively safe from ruin thanks to the work of HRC and NCTEquality, IFGE, and others. The combined efforts on workplace initiative have already resulted a great many employers adding gender expression to their workplace affirmative action policies. This has been wonderful. Capitalize on that. That may be the place for HRC to appeal to the transgender community to speak up and to speak out.
The third step would be to build trust through actions; communicate with our employers, develop new talent, and help us tell our stories to our lawmakers. Those employers who have signed on to equality will most likely listen to HRC. Convince those employers that allowing an employee a few days away from work to fly to Washington or their State Capital would be a good thing for business. There may be employees at those companies who don’t even belong to HRC. Seek out those who would like to speak up if given the chance. Give us some training on how to present ourselves. Help the employees with airfare and lodging when needed. Help us get the lawmakers to receive us and to talk to us. Arrange the sit down time that many cannot get with our lawmakers.
Give us the opportunity to put a face on transgender; to demonstrate to our State and National legislators that we are worthy human beings, worthy of protection from harm, and of freedom from discrimination.
I believe HRC needs these first three steps of rebuilding trust and demonstrating commitment before the fourth step, The fourth step is what you really have asked how to do. By this time transgender who have responded to your call will have acquired the self-confidence of knowing they can speak up for the community. You will have developed new talent in the transgender community. At this point you can ask them to serve actively in HRC and expect them to serve well.
HRC has the political and financial clout to do all this. We have two years to prepare for the next volley in Congress. I think this would be a good start.
HRC took a poll at the 11th hour before the ENDA vote to prove that GLB
doesn’t really support T rights wanted to push ENDA through now and stick with the incremental model that means cutting some people out of the political process. This isn’t really news, of course. It happened weeks ago, and there was much discussion about it.
Two days ago, the Washington Blade posted the story Experts question HRC’s ENDA survey:
Experts question HRC’s ENDA survey
Researcher says methodology ‘doesn’t make sense’
By JOSHUA LYNSEN | Nov 28, 4:47 PM
Polling experts are questioning a recent Human Rights Campaign survey that asked gays about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
The survey’s results, circulated last month by HRC when many gays were locked in heated debate over the measure’s lack of transgender protections, show most people who responded support the bill as written.
But John Stahura, who specializes in survey research and directs the Purdue University Social Research Institute, said the survey’s methodology is problematic.
“They’re playing games,” he said after reviewing survey excerpts at the Blade’s request. “It doesn’t make sense.”
The questions were leading and designed to get HRC the results they wanted – which are the results they received, unsurprisingly.
In this post at TransGriot, one of the commenters asks:
OK, How do you explain this Hunter College poll, conducted by the same group (Knowledge Networks), also funded by HRC, which showed that, “when asked about the proposed federal law making it illegal to discriminate against lesbians, gays, and bisexuals in employment, LGBs (by a margin of 60 to 37 percent) said that those seeking to pass the law were wrong to remove protections for transgendered people in order to get the votes necessary for passage in Congress.”
Quoting the specific passage:
When asked about the proposed federal law making it illegal to discriminate against lesbians, gays, and bisexuals in employment, LGBs (by a margin of 60 to 37 percent) said that those seeking to pass the law were wrong to remove protections for transgendered people in order to get the votes necessary for passage in Congress.
The Hunter College Poll was funded by a grant from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Sole control over the design of the study’s questionnaire and analysis of the data were maintained by the study’s investigators. The survey was conducted among those who identified themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual to Knowledge Networks, which recruits its nationally representative sample of respondents by telephone and administers surveys to them via the Internet. The survey has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.
This poll was funded by HRC, has a larger sample, lists a margin of error (unlike the HRC poll), and gives results practically opposite what HRC published a month ago, and was taken only 2-3 weeks afterward. What’s wrong with this picture?
It’s completely within the realm of possibility (and probability, based on this information) that HRC intentionally manipulated statistics to justify removing gender protections from ENDA. It’s not even controversial to propose this, and I doubt many held any illusions that it was otherwise. The main reason I’m posting this is because of this second survery which – I might add – is explicitly about “GLB” people and not GLBT.
That “GLB” language in the Hunter poll bothers me, as it implies a certain assumption about HRC’s current approach – are they going ahead and dropping the T from their work? Are we going to see HRC continue to try to exclude trans people from future activism? Perhaps as punishment for not quietly going along with Barney Frank’s revised ENDA?
Honestly, it looks like HRC is up to business as usual.
Also, they’re forming a new organization.
November 27, 2007
An Open Letter To:
Daryl Herrschaft, Director, HRC Workplace Project,
Staff of the HRC Workplace Project,
Members of the HRC Business Council,
Joe Solmonese, E.D., Human Rights Campaign (HRC),
Members of the HRC Board of Directors,
Members of the Transgender Community:
It has been an honor and a privilege for both of us to serve on the Human Rights Campaign Business Council. Since joining the Business Council in 2002 we have both played active roles in advancing workplace equality, providing education, guidance and leadership, and ensuring that workplaces in America are fair for ALL employees. Our collective work has been at the forefront of the successes that HRC has enjoyed in recent years, has affected the daily lives of GLBT employees throughout this country in profound and substantive ways, and is a continuing source of pride for us both.
Rather than rest on past achievements, the Business Council continues to develop critical new initiatives to support transgender employees. We are working to raise the bar on the Corporate Equality Index. We are planning to revise and re-publish the booklet Transgender In the Workplace: A Tool For Managers. We are planning a Female-to-Male educational DVD. We have been working on insurance issues affecting transgender employees. Never before have so many important efforts for transgender workers been underway and we are both heavily involved in all of them. That is why the decision we are announcing today is an extremely difficult one.
Recent HRC policy decisions – to actively support a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that excludes our transgender brothers and sisters as well as gender-variant lesbian, gay, and bisexual people – have placed us in an untenable position. On November 8, the day after the ENDA vote in the House of Representatives, we requested an opportunity to meet personally with HRC President Joe Solmonese to share our concerns and to discuss HRC’s strategy for addressing recent legislative shortcomings before making a decision to stay or go. As the only transgender representatives on the Business Council our community expects us to have some influence, or at least to receive the courtesy of a consultation. Almost 3 weeks have passed since that request and we have heard nothing in response. This lack of response speaks volumes, so we feel compelled to take this stand today.
We are announcing our resignations from the HRC Business Council, effective immediately. Considering recent broken promises, the lack of credibility that HRC has with the transgender community at large, and HRC’s apparent lack of commitment to healing the breach it has caused, we find it impossible to maintain an effective working relationship with the organization.
We have truly enjoyed working with the amazing group of corporate leaders who comprise the Business Council. We thank Daryl Herrschaft, Eric Bloem, Samir Luther, and the rest of the Workplace Project team for their steadfast support, their passion for full equality and inclusion, and their friendship. We are extremely disappointed that HRC legislative decisions have contradicted Business Council efforts to enact only fully-inclusive policies and that we must leave the important work we have been planning unfinished. But principles are not for compromise, so today we do what we feel we must.
The need for education on transgender issues in this country has never been greater or more apparent. In addition, a significant learning from recent events is that, while alliances are necessary, valuable, and often crucial, the transgender community cannot rely excessively on others for success and must assert greater control over its own destiny. Our resignation from the Business Council in no way diminishes our commitment either to the transgender community or to ensuring that workplaces have access to professional training, support and guidance on transgender issues. Rather, it provides new challenges and opportunities.
Since we cannot in good conscience continue these critical efforts in the name of HRC through its Business Council, we will be forming an organization whose sole purpose is to provide ongoing education on transgender issues for businesses, governmental agencies, NGOs, and educational institutions. Our Transgender Education Partnership – TransEducate.com – will be a platform from which we can engage community leaders, develop tools and publications, and establish partnerships with like-minded organizations to work for ALL gender-variant people everywhere.
Although it saddens us to say good-bye to our colleagues on the Business Council we are energized by our vision of the future. We look forward to being a pre-eminent voice in the ongoing effort to provide education about the transgender community. We look forward to the day when the LGBT community can address its issues with a unified voice, and without diminishing any of its constituents. And, we look forward to a day when gender-variance is appreciated as ordinary and non-threatening, and education on these topics will no longer be necessary.
In Solidarity for Equality,
Jamison Green and Donna Rose
Terrance of The Republic of T has a couple of great posts about ENDA, which he’s also cross-posted to Pam’s House Blend. For that matter, Pam’s House Blend is filled to the brim with ENDA-related posts that are worth reading.
In Terrance’s first post, LGB-T = ENDA, pt. 1, he discusses his experiences with the kind of incrementalism used to justify the removal of gender protections. He says, about the statement, “the implication of gradualism is that some people will have to continue to endure injustice without remedy,”
Its one thing to be an incrementalist and at least be honest about that last sentence. It’s quite another to declare that it is the right thing to do to ask others to continue to suffer injustice without remedy is the right thing to do, that they ought to be glad to do it, and that they are wrong for objecting to it.
That’s what’s asked of of gay folks by progressives on the marriage issue. And now that’s what gay folks are asking of transgender folks on employment discrimination, which for some transgender people is literally a matter of life and death.
That’s it in a nutshell. GLB-rights activists (for they are surely not *T rights activists) who magnanimously sacrifice someone else’s chance at fairness or equality to get theirs first aren’t really making concessions – a true concession requires you to give up something that matters to you.
Terrance continues with LGB-T = ENDA, pt. 2. Here he nails down just what workplace discrimination against trans people means. Seriously, even in San Francisco where trans people have a large number of civil rights protections, you’re looking at something like 75% unemployment. Looking at numbers like that, it’s hard to see how anyone could argue that we don’t need our civil rights yet if it means everyone else waiting an extra year or two. Because, really, unlike John Aravosis’ belief that including T could set his civil rights back decades, we were really close to having enough votes to get a trans-inclusive ENDA passed in the House, and we don’t even know for sure if we didn’t have those votes. People have observed a few irregularities surrounding the alleged whip count.
Terrance mentions how getting employment can be a matter of life or death for trans people, and specifically mentions trans women who had been murdered by men who discovered their trans status, who were in sex work to support themselves because of the difficulty in finding employment. This is called “survival prostitution.” The four women he names are trans women of color, who not only had to deal with transmisogyny, but also racism and sexism. Since transphobia and transmisogyny barely register as unacceptable to many people, it’s also more acceptable to turn up the heat on the racism and sexism.
Terrance highlights that the lack of protection for transgender people really is a matter of life or death. To call us selfish, to tell us we’re holding the gay rights movement back because we are very clear on how badly we need those rights, demonstrates a profound lack of compassion. I would like to know how many trans women have to turn to prostitution to survive, have to live on the edge of homelessness, how many have to die before we’ve earned our place at the table. Is it because the trans people who suffer most – who die most often – are trans women of color? Why is this lack of protection acceptable to civil rights “activists” like Joe Solmonese? Why does John Aravosis constantly characterize our need for these protections as selfish and demanding?
LGB-T = ENDA, pt. 3 further condemns incrementalism as a political strategy, emphasizing the cost to those whose rights are sacrificed “for the greater good.” As he states in these two paragraphs:
If Democrats and progressives are convinced that righting for legal marriage isn’t effective right now, then we need to find another way to protect our families right now, not ten or twenty or thirty years down the line. We need to do more than shake our heads and say it’s a shame that happens. If civil unions are the answer, then great. Let’s craft legislation, or pour resources into states where it’s achievable. But let’s do something besides “just wait.”
If we believe that employment discrimination transgender persons is wrong and shouldn’t happen, and an inclusive ENDA isn’t gongi to work right now, then we need to find another way to protect transgender persons right now, not ten or twenty or thirty years down the line. We need to do more than shake our heads and say it’s a shame that happens. Let’s start educating Congress on transgender issues now, get a panel of transgender persons who’ve experienced workplace discrimination in front of a committee hearing, or sitting down with key members of congress, or pour some resources into public education campaigns in key states or districts where legislators might be influenced. But let’s do something besides “just wait.”
I wish we had more voices like his.
On Pam’s House Blend, AHiddenSaint tells her personal story.
Autumn Sandeen discusses the dilemma for some representatives – whether it was worth voting against civil rights legislation in order to oppose the trans-exclusive ENDA.
Daimeon talks about picking up the pieces now that we’ve been thoroughly backstabbed and thrown under the bus.
Also, keep an eye on Donna’s ENDABlog as she posts post-mortem analysis. Donna Rose was on the HRC board until HRC voted to not oppose the trans-exclusive ENDA, at which point she resigned.
It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it
The title comes from Upton Sinclair.
To celebrate Wednesday’s development in Congress, I’ve decided to pick on John Aravosis, who tells us every chance he gets that he isn’t a transphobe, that he’s not a misogynist, that he’s not a homocentrist. He wrote this article for Salon to explain why trans people are recent additions to the gay rights movement, and perhaps shouldn’t be part now, that perhaps it was a bit rash to let us in.
His article has many of the hallmarks of a classic concern troll:
Gay activists and 220 national and local gay rights groups angrily demanded that gender identity be put back in the bill, guaranteeing its defeat for years to come.
Notice the implication that this action will have terrible consequences. Mr. Aravosis repeats this theme in the article’s discussion, inflating the time to potential decades. He’s basically panicmongering, claiming that trans people are an albatross around his community’s neck, dragging them all down and forever denying them civil rights.
He revises history and implies that trans people have so much power, that it’s dangerous to question our inclusion in the LGBT community:
I have a sense that over the past decade the trans revolution was imposed on the gay community from outside, or at least above, and thus it never stuck with a large number of gays who weren’t running national organizations, weren’t activists, or weren’t living in liberal gay enclaves like San Francisco and New York. Sure, many of the rest of us accepted de facto that transgendered people were members of the community, but only because our leaders kept telling us it was so. A lot of gays have been scratching their heads for 10 years trying to figure out what they have in common with transsexuals, or at the very least why transgendered people qualify as our siblings rather than our cousins. It’s a fair question, but one we know we dare not ask. It is simply not p.c. in the gay community to question how and why the T got added on to the LGB, let alone ask what I as a gay man have in common with a man who wants to cut off his penis, surgically construct a vagina, and become a woman. I’m not passing judgment, I respect transgendered people and sympathize with their cause, but I simply don’t get how I am just as closely related to a transsexual (who is often not gay) as I am to a lesbian (who is). Is it wrong for me to simply ask why?
Check out the little quote buried in the middle: “. . . ask what I as a gay man have in common with a man who wants to cut off his penis, surgically construct a vagina, and become a woman . . .” He defines trans people as, well, that. We’re reduced to our genitals and nothing more. Not only that, but we’re reduced to our genitals in a vulgar, base fashion, as he invokes a lurid castration image to emphasize his separation from trans people. Of course, John is lying. Trans people have been here from the beginning. We were pushed out of the movement in the early 70s, despite having kicked it off. It wasn’t just us – the gay rights movement felt it was necessary to push away those who were “too different” to increase chances of acceptance for those who looked and acted straight – like the Mattachine Society:
Unfortunately, the new leadership shared none of the vision or experience of the original founders. They drastically revised the goals of the organization, backtracking in every area. Instead of social change, they advocated accommodation. Instead of mobilizing gay people, they sought the support of professionals, who they believed held the key to reform. They stated, we do not advocate a homosexual culture or community, and we believe none exists. (Mattachine: Radical Roots of Gay Liberation).
John Aravosis, Barney Frank, and others like them have more in common with these socially conservative Mattachine gay men than much of the LGBT community. Unlike the Mattachines, John is willing to acknowledge that there’s a gay and lesbian community, writes off bisexuals as part-time gays, and wants to push trans people out altogether, but the sentiment is the same.
He goes on to write:
I wrote on my blog last week about this issue, and shared my doubts and concerns and questions. And I was eviscerated for it. While the majority of my readers either agreed with me, or found my questions provocative and relevant, a vocal minority labeled me a bigot, a transphobe, a rich, white boy living in a big city who didn’t care about anyone but himself, and worse. An old activist friend even told me that my words were prejudiced, wrong and embarrassingly uninformed, and that no one of any consequence shared my concerns, and if they did, they were bigots too.
He appeals to his readership’s agreement with him, dismisses those who call him on his bigotry as a “vocal minority,” implies that his old activist friend is overreacting, and goes on to say that it’s not safe to ask questions in the gay community about how transgender people fit in.
Of course, as we all know, bigoted people are the best witnesses to their own bigotry. You can totally trust them when they deny their bigotry.
He ends the “Transgender Fiasco” blog entry with a sensationalist tone:
A STATE OF FEAR
People are simply afraid to ask any questions about this issue, and those unresolved conflicts are coming home to roost. I know I was afraid to write about this issue, and still am. I thought long and hard about even weighing in on this issue last week. Did I really want to have to deal with people screaming and calling me a bigot? And I’ve got gay journalist friends and gay political friends who have sent me private “atta boy”s supporting my public essays, while refusing to go public themselves.
There is a climate of fear and confusion and doubt about the transgender issue in the gay community. And no one wants to talk about it. And when you don’t talk about your small concerns, when you’re afraid to talk about them, when it’s not considered PC for you to talk about them, one day those small concerns turn into big problems and the revolution comes tumbling down.
I don’t know if he thinks there’s a trans mafia out there waiting to whack transphobes, but this just looks like the kind of fearmongering that bigots like to use to turn their audience against those they detest. He also appeals to the old fallacy of political correctness to imply that his ability to speak freely is somehow controlled – never mind that no one has stopped him from posting his transphobic and transmisogynistic commentary ever since he started whining about transgender inclusion in ENDA. He’s been criticized and called out for his bigotry, but I don’t believe he’s come to any real harm, beyond the social embarrassment of expressing obvious prejudice in public.
I admit, he’s typically much cannier about expressing it than the radical feminist stuff I’ve been looking at. He does, however, have his moments.
For example, this particular paragraph in the Salon article:
I support transgendered rights. But I’m not naive. If there are still lingering questions in the gay community about gender identity 10 years after our leaders embraced the T — and there are — then imagine how conflicted straight members of Congress are when asked to pass a civil rights bill for a woman who used to be a man. We’re not talking right and wrong here, we’re talking political reality. Our own community is still grappling with this issue. Yet we expect members of Congress, who took 30 years to embrace a gay ENDA, to welcome the T’s into the bill in only five months.
He supports transgender rights, but . . . Questioning Transgender claims the same thing before saying we flash our penises at cis women and might possibly start raping them, so that means absolutely nothing. But that’s not really the problem with this paragraph. He goes on to say that straight members of congress are too conflicted to pass a bill that includes gender protections, or rather “for a woman who used to be a man.” That is to say, John is saying (and this theme is repeated throughout his writing and Barney Frank’s own words on the issue) that a minority that suffers increased prejudice doesn’t really deserve to get their civil rights until they’re socially acceptable enough to get those rights. He’s not prejudiced against us or against us having these rights, but we just can’t have them until we’re not so freakish.
PS As an aside, I’ve just learned that there’s at least one senior transgender leader in America who is married (and I’m sure other straight transgendered people are married). That’s nice, and I support their right to marry. But I do find it odd that the gay community is being asked (well, told) to put our employment rights on hold until the transgender community can get theirs, but the transgender community isn’t putting its marriage rights on hold until we get ours. Then again, I’d never ask them to put their rights on hold until I got mine.
Of course, he wrote an entire article in Salon, and articles on AmericaBlog to painstakingly explain why transgender rights need to be put on hold until he gets his rights. Check out the “half a loaf” comment at the end of the Salon article. Never mind that he’s mischaracterizing United ENDA’s position, which is that we need transgender rights along with everyone else’s, not that anyone should wait. This is just based on the fallacy that working toward transgender rights would delay ENDA’s passage by 10-15 years, that we “didn’t do any education,” (an excuse produced in the 11th hour, with no information on who needed to be educated), and that we’re too freakish to get those rights.
Where you can really see John cut loose is in the comments in his ENDA posts. He scornfully edits his commenter’s posts when they call him on his transphobia, practices fallacious reversals (I’m a transphobe? You’re a homophobe because you don’t want me to have rights!), says some pretty hateful things to trans people like telling them they’re “playing ‘sick and twisted’ Barbie.”
John is cannier in how he communicates. He knows how to play the subtle game, and not say the things that make good bigoted soundbites. Also, AmericaBlog is just plain awful to navigate, complicating the ability to find those shots he takes at transgender people. His best shots are in the comments, where he doesn’t filter himself very well. The comments for each of the posts I’ve linked here, plus those in the Salon article and Susan Stryker’s response paint a pretty clear picture. He’s fond of transphobic variations of “Wite Magic Attax”, most especially fallacious flips, oversensitive, and drowning maestro, but I believe he manages to touch on all of them but the carom-scarom.
An example from the comments for Tammy Just Pulled Her Amendment (and John’s attitude toward the way the amendment was handled is either pure ignorance or considered politicking).
NOTE FROM JOHN: Funny how the same bill was fine for years, but now suddenly it’s really bad and really watered down. The only thing that’s changed is that a small group of PC activists has decided to kill our chance at getting some civil rights, so now suddenly ENDA must be poo-pooed. There hasn’t been one case of discrimination against gay people based on gender identity, not one that LAMBDA or anyone else can point to. NOT ONE. Yet now you’re hanging your “kill ENDA” hat on this bizarre notion that somehow we’re are really transgender and that’s how we’re all going to lose our jobs. As for fracturing communities, you’ve done a pretty good job of that all by yourself by trying to kill a civil rights bill that we’ve been trying to pass for 30 years.
Notice how he implies that everyone was fine with ENDA before T was added, never mind that trans people have been working for years to get T included – everyone was just happy. He also implies that it was a small group of “PC activists” that decided to “kill [his] chance at getting some civil rights.” 350+ LGBT organizations signed onto United ENDA, and they were supporting doing everything necessary to pass a complete ENDA. Unfortunately, Barney Frank chose to shoot it down rather than helping this coalition do what was needed to pass an inclusive ENDA, and Aravosis cheers him on because it supports his desire to kick transgender people out of GLBT activism entirely
Yes, John’s writing – in the Salon article especially – makes it clear that he doesn’t want us in his civil rights movement, and that’s why he supports the removal of gender protections from ENDA.
He’s also selective about how he addresses the gender protections, which are not specificed as transgender protections, but protects people from being fired for not fitting gender norms. This would include transgender people, but would also include people like Ann Hopkins and Darlene Jesperson, who were straight people who suffered discrimination for not being feminine enough on the job. If straight people can be fired for not being feminine enough, take it to federal appeals court and be turned down, then gay, lesbian and bisexual people are just as vulnerable to this loophole. Barney Frank and John Aravosis both tried to deflect this issue by insisting that no gay men or lesbians had been fired for this reason. To be honest, though, we don’t know. We only know that there’s only one case that’s ever come up. We don’t know how many gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight people who have been fired for not conforming enough who never tried to take it to court. I would guess that there’s been more than a few, and with the loophole in ENDA, anyone who wants to fire lesbian, gay, or bisexual employees will have a way around ENDA by labeling it a matter of not being masculine or feminine enough.
So, what are we to make of a man who obsesses on the fact that trans women surgically invert our penises, who does his best to distance trans people from him in every way, who constantly questions whether we even deserve to stand alongside LGB people, who consistently presents a version of gay rights activism in which transgender people only came to the party very recently and forced our way in, who implies that there’s some kind of transgender mafia waiting to come down on anyone who criticizes our inclusion? A man who indicates his contempt for bisexuals as “part-time gays?”
We’ve fought to carve a place in LGBT activism after we were forced out for over 20 years. While we can and should forge coalitions and build bridges to other activists – to people with disabilities and people of color – the fact is that as far as many straight white Americans are concerned, we’re not that different from gay and lesbian people, and our goals are not really all that different. Yes, we don’t gender conform, but neither do feminine gay men, butch lesbians and drag queens, and where we transgress gender by identifying outside male/female or moving from one to the other, they transgress gender by being attracted to and having relationships with people of the same sex. Also, a large number of trans people are gay, lesbian, and bisexual. We’re intertwined, and while we may not be much like John “Mattachine” Aravosis’ version of gay, we have a lot in common with large swaths of the gay and lesbian communities.
We’ve done the work, we’ve spent years engaged in activism, trying to educate, trying to forge our way to, well… an inclusive ENDA. Anyone who tells you different, who tells you we weren’t here at the beginning, that we don’t do the work, that we don’t try to educate, has his own motives for trying to alter history, or at least how we remember it.