Bil’s second post of questions about trans and feminism went up yesterday, and I am superlate in posting this (sorry, Bil).
It seems like a good time to do another installment of Stuff Bil Doesn’t Know Enough About™. This week’s question is in direct reference to two other blog posts inspired by my post admitting I have questions about feminist and transgender issues and encouraging others to add their own questions so we could have a community dialogue.
Over at Questioning Transphobia, Lisa brought up the inherent privilege in my request for answers. The comments section on her post are very interesting even though some of them really take me to task. On Father Tony’s discussion a commenter took a different tone that I want to highlight. Question below and comment additions after the jump.
Why must trans people primarily bear the burden for educating cis people? Why do some cis people not do some of their own education to learn about the issues before the questions begin?
Why is the education itself necessary to justify equal civil rights protections?
Keep in mind that everyone participating in the discussion is writing from their own experiences. Please be patient and civil in your comments. Let’s learn from each other!
I think everyone made the point about the privilege of asking for education, and at this point, it’s a matter of whether you want to participate or not, more than anything else.
Anyway, in many ways, Bil’s post is a continuation of the discussion from this post.
One of my responses to the post:
After listening to our explanations and our experiences, even if what we’d said leaves you completely befuddled and scratching your head, please, please acknowledge that we are still fully human, fully equal. That we DO deserve basic rights and protections from harassment and discrimination (ie: policies that exclude us, and ONLY us), even if you don’t understand us.
Is understanding really required to recognize someone elses humanity?
This. When these discussions happen, trans people are held to much higher standards than cis people, to the point that it is usually impossible to meet those standards.
The fact is that it should not be necessary to educate people on every aspect of our lives to justify our existence and access to civil rights. Our existence should be sufficient to justify our existence and access to civil rights.
The fact is, no matter what people understand or believe about trans people, we exist, and thousands – tens or hundreds of thousands – of us come with a rather similar (but not identical) set of stories about our lives and how they relate to sex and gender. We have these stories before the first time we hear the words “transsexual” or “gender identity disorder” or “genderqueer” or “transgender” or about hormones or surgery.
And the question should never be “Can we mind meld with people and implant intimate knowledge of our lives into their brains?” because that’s simply not a fair demand, and yet it is the demand made of us whenever talk of education begins.
Being trans isn’t a moral condition, it’s not a delusion, it’s not confusion about gender or identity. The problems and barriers trans people face are social – the fact that people do not believe we are who and what we say we are. There are reams of books and articles written by psychiatrists and medical doctors who have worked with trans people, who verify that this is the best treatment for who we are, that nothing else has worked. Why is this ignored?
So Bil of the Bilerico project has decided it’s time to educate himself on the topics of feminism and transgender people. I’m interested in the fact that he’s doing this because the questions he’s asking will hopefully reveal some good answers – aside from the inherent privilege of a cis man asking women (cis and trans) and trans people (men and women) to explain what’s up with all their political needs. The request or demand for education is a privileged act.
Anyway, in the second post, Bil asks:
From Projector Jill:
My first question is one that I think is fundamental to all further discussion. Are transgender people part of a community with gays lesbians and bisexuals, or is transgender a separate community that is being lumped together with the GLBs as an allied group? I know in the old days, no one really made a distinction between gays and transgenders, but is that still valid today? (Okay, so it’s two questions.)
While a couple of people left comments about Jill’s question in the comment thread, I asked to expand it further:
…if the T community is separate, doesn’t that mean the other segments are also free standing? I mean, is it the G & L & B & T community?
And does that explain a lot of the frustrations that sometimes all the groups have getting along? Men vs women keeps G & L at odds. Throw in trans and their touch on both sexes and a whole new set of concerns arise. Are we really four different groups that just consolidated for political power?
So, what do you think? What’s the commonality? Shared history? Non-gender conformity? Political power? Pipe up; don’t be shy. Ask other questions too, if you need to.
First, I want to point out as a trans woman who identifies as queer and lesbian, that I get the feeling sometimes that people here talk about the L, G, B, and T as all being separate categories, and that L, G, and B aren’t really acknowledged as intersecting with the T.
For that matter, I think (but don’t know for sure) that the number of gay trans men and lesbian trans women – percentage-wise – is potentially higher than the rest of the population. And also, many (not all!) trans men were part of the lesbian community before they transitioned, and many trans women were part of the gay community before they transitioned.
But I want to get into something else: The argument over who organized first. Trans people were there at the beginning. We were part of the movement right at the start – not all of us, but enough of us. We were pushed out of the gay rights movement just as surely as trans women were pushed out of feminism.
And when arguments that we didn’t pay our dues, do our education, that we weren’t there when the gay rights movement was making its gains, it makes me deeply angry, because it wasn’t our choice to step out. It was yours to throw us out. Consider the damage that was done to trans people’s civil rights by keeping us out of the process, that put us in a position where we’re seen as not having done enough education.
And also, it wasn’t just in the 70s and 80s when we were pushed aside. It’s happened in the 21st century – and while you, Bil, may feel that trans people are too angry about the way HRC treated us, I think that anger is fair and earned, and I think that the cause of that anger needs to be acknowledged: That HRC has actively worked against trans activism, that HRC has interfered with trans lobbyists in Washington – blocking access to politicians.
But it’s also the goals that HRC and other organizations prioritize – same-sex marriage, for example. Very few of the goals that are pushed for in the LGBT movement are of direct benefit to trans people (and, for that matter, this does not apply to only trans people). For example, trans people specifically require access to hormones and surgery to transition, but there’s no real activism on that front, to get Gender Identity Disorder/Transsexualism increased medical coverage – most companies don’t purchase insurance policies that cover trans-related treatments, but this is apparently not even on the radar for organizations like HRC.
But really, when it comes right down to it – we were excluded almost from the beginning, when we finally work our way back in – we’re blamed for not being involved in gay rights activism from the beginning.
This comment isn’t aimed personally at anyone in this discussion. It’s my answer to Bil’s question.
Also, Cedar pointed out the damage caused to trans people by Exclusion in Beyond Inclusion.
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.
Marti Abernathey efiskerates HRC’s condescending plan for transgender inclusion and regaining trust.
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:
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.
Open letter here:
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