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  • « More voices in 'T' dissent | Main | The Obama-Clinton difference, part 2 »

    November 12, 2007

    The dissent becomes the mainstream

    Posted by: Chris

    (UPDATE: At the end of the post):

    At some point, the claim by the "United ENDA" crowd to represent the interests of gay Americans becomes laughable. In addition to the Human Rights Campaign poll showing 70% of actual gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people support the compromise ENDA -- a result backed up by our own online poll -- there are the growing number of gay newspapers and gay bloggers and, of course, HRC, the NAACP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights abandoning the "trans or bust" strategy.

    The House vote was overwhelming in favor of the compromise ENDA, with only seven members dissenting on transgender grounds. Even Tammy Baldwin, the trans activists' principal ally, voted for the gay-only ENDA. In a statement she released after the vote, she hailed the compromise that trans activists are calling a betrayal: ""This is an historic moment in the on-going movement for equality in this country.  As in all movements, achieving success is a process, and today’s legislative accomplishment marks a milestone, but certainly not the end, of our quest."

    Now the country's two most influential mainstream newspapers have weighed in, both in favor of Barney Frank's compromise measure.  First the New York Times ("Gay Rights, the Transgendered, and Accepting Partial Progress"):

    Not everyone, however, is happy with the [ENDA] vote — and that includes many people who strongly favor gay rights. The “nay” votes included 35 Republicans — despite the efforts of Chris Shays of Connecticut and Deborah Pryce of Ohio to persuade their G.O.P. colleagues to vote in favor — but also some of the House’s most pro-gay-rights members, like Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York. The objection of Mr. Nadler and the others: transgendered men and women were stripped from the bill, and would not be protected. If they had been included, the bill likely would not have gotten the necessary votes.

    Many gay rights supporters believed it was important to take the victory that was achievable, and vowed to come back another day to fight for the transgendered. “History teaches us that progress on civil rights is never easy,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, expressing regret about the exclusion but nevertheless urging an “aye” vote. “It is often marked by small and difficult steps.” Ms. Pelosi is right. It’s frustrating to take equality one step at a time. But that is how equal justice has been won in this country.

    Then the Washington Post ("A Civil Rights Watershed"):

    Many gay rights activists opposed the bill because the final version didn't include protection for transgender people, including those who have changed their sex, who are living their lives as the other sex or who do not conform to traditional gender roles. The omission was a painful but wise choice that Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) made to increase the bill's chance of passage. Transgender people must channel the activism this action sparked into a long-term effort to educate the public and lawmakers about the discrimination they face.

    Both editorials are welcome voices of reason, although the WaPo news desk inexcusably failed to report on House passage of ENDA, instead relying on wire service copy.

    With the tide having turned, trans activists are left to bellow, and do so loudly.  My old friend Pauline Park over at Logo's Visible Voice was practically apoplectic, but after wading through paragraph and paragraph of unsupported insults aimed at the Times editorial board, it finally comes down to her claim that President Bush will veto ENDA, so the whole thing is academic only.

    The White House did issue a veto threat, though from the president's advisers, not from him. And after the House amended ENDA to broaden the religious exemption and reassure gay marriage foes, the president's peeps told the Times they would now reevaluate the bill to decide their position.

    Park also ignores that Bush also threatened to veto the trans-inclusive hate crimes bill, and yet she and other trans activists never call that bill "dead." That's because it's been attached to Defense Department funding, making a veto a much more difficult proposition. The same could be done with ENDA, though Park and her allies won't tell you that since it doesn't support their claim that ENDA is "dead."

    The rumors of ENDA's death are greatly exaggerated, and its trans opponents know it. But they'll leave no sneaky trick untried to undermine passage of historic GLB rights legislation.

    UPDATE:  Add the Washington Blade to the list of respected newspapers endorsing the compromise ENDA. In an editorial this week, my former colleage Kevin Naff gives voice to the rift I noted yesterday among gays who do not identify as part of an "LGBT community" and backs incremental progress as a political necessity:

    Passage of ENDA in any form would make history and no one in the “community” should be rooting for its demise. Politics has never been about “all or nothing” — it’s about the art of the compromise. Gay-only ENDA may not be the perfect bill, but it would bring immediate relief to millions of gays and lesbians hiding in the closet at work, fearful of losing their livelihood if their sexual orientation were exposed.

    As someone who has experienced overt workplace discrimination because of my sexual orientation, I find it unconscionable that a few would advocate for the defeat of a bill that stands to benefit so many.

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    Comments

    1. Rebecca Juro on Nov 12, 2007 2:02:38 AM:

      I still think you're kidding yourself, Chris. Bush signing ENDA or the Shepard Act into law right now would be a great way to piss off the GOP base even more going into an election year and he surely knows it. I mean, c'mon man, you know how things work in DC. Do you really, honestly believe that Bush will be motivated to sign either of these bills if they make it to his desk? If so, why? What would he or the GOP gain from doing so? The rationale escapes me.

      What we really need to do is start planning for '09 now to make that when it does come again that the right bill passes for all of us. If we get the Dem President and strong Dem majority in Congress we expect, especially considering this week's election results, chances are we'll all be on the same side and celebrating together when it really does pass into law. Isn't that worth working for?

      Btw, while I can't offer a link (tried, can't find one)I've been told that Bush made an offhand comment to the press recently admonishing Congress to send him bills he wouldn't have to veto, and apparently at least some journalists present took that to indicate he was talking about the hate crimes bill and ENDA. Just FYI.

      And yes it is a betrayal, but if you read the blogs, etc. carefully, you'll see that most of that kind of talk is directed, rightly I believe, at HRC. They out and out lied to us, more than once, and that is a betrayal any way you slice it. We haven't been as harsh (though by no means have we given a pass) to Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi, I think mainly because most of us really didn't expect any better from them...but then they didn't happily our money and our memberships as they swore up and down not to support any bill that left us out...only HRC did that.

    1. anonymous on Nov 12, 2007 4:42:16 AM:

      Thanks for all the information. Is there any way to get this information to all of the senators and their staffs?

      I'm sure the trans activists are going to tell them to kill EDNA because the 'community' doesn't want it, when the truth is that the vast majority of the community supports ENDA.

      Are there ANY gay organizations that are actually pro-gay that can get the real information to the senators?

    1. Tim C on Nov 12, 2007 8:32:04 AM:

      How do you get this information to Senators and their staffs? Easy. You write to them. We have seen what happens when we sit back and allow advocacy groups to do the work for us. If you want ENDA passed in the Senate, you yourself are going to have to work for it.

    1. Andoni on Nov 12, 2007 8:43:16 AM:

      If I were Bush and my legacy was in the toilet, I would seriously consider signing ENDA and going down in history as the president who signed the first gay civil rights bill.

      From that those that know him personally, he is not personally anti gay. His biggest concern might be the government interference in private business. However, I think going down in history for something good might win out here.

    1. Polar Bear on Nov 12, 2007 11:53:15 AM:

      If the gay community had been
      subverted by a trans advocacy organization, by dint of them collecting money and lying brazenly at their largest convention, wouldn't they have been PO'd? How about if their advocacy organizations had been bought off by T community money? That's what HRC did to us. We transgender
      people will never, never, never trust them again.

      As for Frank, once a snake,
      always a snake, snakes don't change into lambs overnight.

      Passing this non-inclusive ENDA will cause discrimination against T people to be legitimized. We don't trust the GL community to come back for us - ask the T people in NY state when GENDA's going to pass.

      And, yes, if we can't get our rights, no, you don't get yours, either. You sold us out, you can't possibly expect us to say "aw, shucks", and go away quietly back into the closet. We will work to defeat this ENDA in the Senate.

    1. anonymous on Nov 12, 2007 12:21:53 PM:

      "How do you get this information to Senators and their staffs? Easy. You write to them"

      Well, Tom Delay was my congressman for a long time, so you can see why 'Writing your congressman' has never appealed to me.

      "And, yes, if we can't get our rights, no, you don't get yours, either. You sold us out, you can't possibly expect us to say "aw, shucks", and go away quietly back into the closet."

      You need to grasp that gay people are not your enemy. We are a separate minority group.

      While I used to be neutral about trans issues, the psycho trans activists 'We will destroy gay people if we don't get what we want' attitude is just scary. I guess you want us to be scared of you.

      But after you destroy gay rights, what happens when you go back and try to 'build a coaliton'. What happens when the average gay person, like me, realizes how much the gay rights organizations have been trans-jacked and we start fighting back?

      And if there is so much proof that transexualism is a neurological birth defect, then why don't you campaign to be included in disability legislation and leave gay people alone?

      I would bet that if the government declared transexuals a protected category based on disablity, you would ditch the gay community in a second. So why shouldn't we ditch you when you are actively campaigning against gay rights?

    1. pathia on Nov 12, 2007 1:39:39 PM:

      "And if there is so much proof that transexualism is a neurological birth defect, then why don't you campaign to be included in disability legislation and leave gay people alone?"

      It is specifically excluded by name in the 1990 ADA law. That would requiring, or rewriting the entire ADA law to undo that.

    1. anonymous on Nov 12, 2007 2:38:41 PM:

      "It is specifically excluded by name in the 1990 ADA law. That would requiring, or rewriting the entire ADA law to undo that."

      And getting gay rights is going to involve rewriting or repealing a whole bunch of anti-gay laws.

      If what trans-activists really want is protection under disabilty laws, then you should be campaigning for that, instead of hijacking gay rights.

      And you didn't address my main point - if transexuals could get disability protection, they would drop the gay community in a second. They certainly wouldn't say 'No, we won't accept disabled rights until gay people get gay rights'.

      So, why should gay people put aside our own rights for transgendered people, when trans people would ditch us the second they got a chance?

      Answer that question.

    1. Dennis Chase on Nov 12, 2007 3:05:48 PM:

      Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects people who have had sex changes. The law specifically protects against gender discrimination, but it is being interpreted much more broadly now to include "gender identity". (Price Waterhouse)

      Sexual orientation IS NOT covered expressly or interpretively by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. We, as gay people, need to DEMAND our civil rights movement back.

    1. Lucrece on Nov 12, 2007 4:23:32 PM:

      Well, anonymous, I'm sure most transsexuals would find it offensive to be listed under the category of people with disabilities. Disabilities means you can't perform at the same level on some tasks, which is false for most transsexuals. They would get some protection, but they would also get the additional stigma of being considered disabled individuals.

    1. Citizen Crain on Nov 12, 2007 5:23:34 PM:

      Actually, Lucrece, "disability" is defined in the ADA as "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity." Trans activists have argued that "gender identity disorder" is a mental or psychological defect that ought to be rectified through surgery and either covered by insurance or subsidized by the government.

      Since "gender identity disorder" was specifically excluded from the ADA and would otherwise qualify, then protecting trans workers would be as easy as amending the ADA to delete that exemption.

      It's a very interesting idea that is definitely worth pursuing. Lucrece is probably right that trans activists would rather have gender identity compared with race and sexual orientation than with being blind or living with HIV. That's understandable but hardly justification alone for holding back GLB rights.

    1. Lucrece on Nov 12, 2007 7:16:26 PM:

      I stand corrected. However, I'd like to add that Trans activists have also advocated for the removal of GID from the DSM just like homosexuality was removed. The APA has also stated that gender reassignment surgery is not always the best approach, and that the whole topic of GID is still rather shrouded in obscurity, needing more research (which will definitely not receive federal funding, as research related to homosexuality has met with little success in achieving the funds required to conduct it).

      Nevertheless, I do agree that this strategy would be the most expedient to say the least.

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