Thursday, October 4, 2007

Let's un-fiasco ENDA

Un-Fiascoing the Transgendered Issue: Questioning Conventional and Practical Wisdom


Something has been bugging me. Why did Congress dump gender identity from ENDA this year if they knew they didn't have the votes to pass veto muster? I mean, they must have known that it was never going to become law come hell or high water.

And if you were planning on eventually dropping transgendered people from the bill from the git-go, then why add them in the first place, when you know darn well that there's going to be no insider hell to pay when you drop them? The entire thing doesn't make sense.

Or does it?

I have a theory about all of this. It's a theory about revolutions.

When revolutions are built on principle, the revolution lasts, endures, overcomes, and becomes part of the normal way of things. When revolutions are built upon expediency, like a land grab for oil, or territory, they’re very short-lived, relatively. You might end up with Colonies for a couple generations, but you never end up with great nations. Those rebounding from the expedience of other Dominators find themselves at a disadvantage, both in Time and in Rights. For instance out of many situations today, just ask; Africa? Darfur anyone?

Anyway, that brings us back to transgender rights, since being people, rights are inextricably bound with individual humanity.


Once upon a time we were called "the gay community." Then there’s a lot of palaver. Actually there was a lot of palaver BEFORE that. Label after Label was applied to ALL kinds of people for SO LONG. The labels began to appear to fall off.

Truth is the labls were yanked off. People HATED that. Their precious labels, ripped and torn, where it was possible to neatly sort out anything that was a problem for anyone. That period was called the 1960’s. Strangely, 40 years later, there are new label machines, very busy, wanting to apply labels. THIS IS WHERE ANY RIGHTS GO: DO NOT APPLY THIS STICKER ANYWHERE ELSE.

The moral of the story: Anyone who says that transgendered people have always accepted the gay community is totally right. After all, we’re all in it together, since it is All of Us Who Are So Different From Them.

I would argue that the gay community never collectively and overwhelmingly decided to exclude the T in LGB (or GLB). It happened because a few groups and blogs like HRC and A-Blog decided that they and a handful of vocal activists and pragmatic leaders pretty much shamed everyone else into doing it. Now, according to HRC it looks like that the T can be added. I'm just saying that I think the T was deleted because there was a groundswell of demand in the beltway community that we delete T from LGB. I think it happened through pressure, organizational fiat, shame, and osmosis.

And that is how we got into the mess we're in today.


I think that the transgender community was deleted from ENDA the same way the “Bridge To Nowhere” got added to law. By force, and attrition, rather than by popular demand.

I remember being at the bar with a bunch of gay friends about 6 or 7 days ago. There was discussion on the table amongst us 40+ year old mens and it was about violence we had encountered and the same for those we all knew of the transgender community. The details of the discussion now elude me, but I remember there being a lively debate about just how and when transexuals became separate from our common struggle, and vice versa - the consensus was that nobody knew how it happened, and nobody was quite sure that they agreed with their exclusion. Now zoom forward to today. We've seen the resignation of the only transgendered board member of HRC, that gender identity is being dropped from ENDA in order to save the bill. We've also heard from a number of vocal activists. But when I speak to friends and colleagues privately, just plain old gay friends around the country, the message I hear is far different from what I'm hearing from the groups. I'm clearly hearing three things.

1. I feel empathy for transgendered people, and support their struggle for civil rights.
2. I want ENDA to pass this year even if included transgendered people polarize the community
3. I don't understand when transgendered people were not part of the gay community?

And then, well I guess there's always #4: Please don't tell anyone I told you this.

What I'm hearing is a message far different from what you hear from Solomonese at the HRC (at least a little bit before I posted this...) and a loud blog claiming to speak for the enlightened masses. I think that a lot of gay people never truly accepted the transgender ditch-em that was thrust upon them. They simply sat back and shut up about their questions and concerns and doubts out of a sense of shame that it was somehow impolite to even question what the Dems and Barney Frank were doing, and fear that if they did ask questions they'd be marked as stupid. And now, that paper-thin political revolution is coming home to roost.

I have no insider information leading me to this conclusion, but, I think that gender identity was finally excluded from ENDA out of shame and fear. Neither the Congress nor the lead gay groups or loud blog wanted to be seen as anti-progressive, even though some of them clearly knew that deleting trans was a death-blow to their credibility. But they did it anyway. Their calculus wasn't about including a vital, core member of the gay community (otherwise trans would never get dropped). And their calculus was that we could win even with trans excluded (because in today's America, that's apparently true, and they embrace expediency). The calculus was one of fear and shame: I.e., If we don't delete trans from the bill, we're going to get beaten up and labeled stupid vs. principled.


People are simply not afraid to ask any questions about this issue, and those conflicts are coming home to roost. I know I was not afraid to write about this issue, and still am not. I did not have to think long and hard about even weighing in on this issue. Did I really want to have to deal with people screaming? I've got friends gone public themselves. I stand proudly with them.

There is a climate of fear and confusion and doubt about the transgender issue in the D.C/Beltway community. They don’t want to talk about it. And when those in the center of power, or claiming to be, don't talk about your small concerns, when they're afraid, reluctant or downright hostile to talk about them; when it's not considered practical for you to vote your conscience; one day those small concerns turn into big problems and the revolution comes tumbling down; if you let such people speak for you.

Meanwhile, ENDA or not, I WILL SURVIVE!