February 14, 2008
Squeamish about Matt Foreman
Posted by: Chris
There he goes again. Matt Foreman, on the way out after five years at the helm of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, just couldn't help himself. The topic on Mike Signorile's Sirius radio show was the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which Foreman tried in vain to kill because Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi stripped transgender protections because a vote count showed it nowhere close.
Rather than acknowledge the reasonable judgment call made by Barney and Pelosi, both strong supporters of gay and trans rights, Foreman pushed the bigot button. Page One Q has the blow by blow:
"I think what really happened," says Foreman of Congress' handling of employment discrimination protections for LGBT people, "is [Speaker Nancy Pelosi's] people said 'Look, Congress has a terrible reputation right now, they're not delivering for any progressive causes... What do we have to do to deliver to our progressive allies?' That means labor and health and environment and gays. And, so, I mean, I don't know this for a fact, but I would bet my life that this is what happened: They went to Barney Frank and said 'What do we need to pass ENDA?'"
"Representative Frank," continues Foreman, "who has always been pretty squeamish on the trans issue, and I guess I can say these things because I am leaving my job..."
"That's what we hoped you'd do," Signorile says to Foreman.
Foreman goes on: "...You know, said 'Look the best way to pass ENDA, and the easiest way is to -- let's take out gender identity,' and I don't think the Speaker's people thought this through--didn't think it through--and then they said 'OK, let's do it'."
Ahh yes. Barney chose differently than Foreman because transgender issues give him the willies -- in other words, he's a transphobe.
In my book there's only one thing more irritating that ideological purists on the right, and that's their counterparts on the left. Of course we're all familiar with conservative ideologues and their never-satisfied purity tests.
John McCain is the most recent victim, taking hits from Anne Coulter (on national security), James Dobson (on abortion and gay marriage) and Rush Limbaugh (on both). When venom spews from these arch-conservatives, the insults tend to be comical rather than stinging, whether being labeled a faggot (Coulter), a heathen (Dobson), or the worst of all, a liberal (Limbaugh).
From the left, the purity tests are just as predictable, but the insults carry more sting. Almost inevitably there is usually a strong suggestion, often explicit, that those not in lock-step with self-styled "progressives" are bigots -- "-ists" or "-phobes" of one sort or another.
That's been the case of course, with the fight over the strategy to pass ENDA. Even those who favor protection for "gender identity" and wanted it included in the version introduced last year were still called "transphobes" if they weren't willing to insist on transgender-inclusion even when the votes weren't there.
The big irony, of course, is that "progressives" like Foreman will talk a blue streak about "diversity" and "valuing difference," but if the difference is in ideas then they want none of it. Matt Foreman is a very smart and talented leader. But his ideological blindspot has done real damage to the movement, and that's a real shame.
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