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    November 29, 2006

    The trans betrayal

    Posted by: Chris

    Mattforeman_1 Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, knew his audience at the annual Creating Change conference, held just after the elections in Kansas City, Mo. Grassroots activists gather every year at the conference — dubbed Creating Chaos by those struck by the cacophony of political correctness and accusations of "privilege."

    In a self-styled "State of the Movement" address, Foreman made a pledge that betrayed more than 95 percent of his own constituents. Treating federal nondiscrimination and hate crime statutes as if they were already done deals, despite years and years of defeats, Foreman said:

    Speaking of federal legislation, I’m going to make a statement, and I want everyone here who agrees with it to stand up or raise your hand. Here’s the statement, and it's two sentences: To our transgender brothers and sisters, we will not allow a federal nondiscrimination or hate crimes bill to move forward that does not include you. You are us and we will not walk down the path to equality without you at our side.

    It's one thing to promise that "gender identity or expression" will be added to the categories to be protected in legislation to ban bias in the workplace, housing, public accommodations and the like, as well as to a federal hate crime bill. It's quite another to promise to fight our own gay rights bills if there's insufficient support for trans protections in Congress.

    That's every bit the betrayal it would have been for Martin Luther King, Jr., himself — he who said an injustice toward one is injustice toward all — to promise civil rights legislation based on race wouldn't go forward until sexual orientation could be added; or for feminist leaders to promise no protection based on gender in federal civil rights laws until sexual orientation could be included.

    But that's what NGLTF and Foreman have done, and the Human Rights Campaign has signed to the same suicide pact. I've written before about how this "trans-jacking" of gay rights legislation has the appearance of unifying our community but in fact is incredibly divisive. Not surprisingly, I've been vilified by trans activists and in many online transgender community forums.

    Beckyjuro_2 Among the more thoughtful replies came from New Jersey-based trans blogger Becky Juro — under the clever headline "Same Shit, Different Continent: Chris Crain Again…" Juro describes herself on Becky's Blog as "a columnist, a sometime radio host, an activist... and oh yes, a lesbian of transsexual experience." She invited me to appear on her radio show, which streams live online Thursdays 7 to 10 p.m. and is billed as "the LGBT Internet Radio Talk Show That Puts The 'T' First!"

    I happily accepted and will be on during the first hour, between 7 and 8, and you can listen in at Queer Music Online or TransFM. She'll be taking toll-free calls as well (877-535-4116). If you miss the show, you can catch podcasts of it here.

    Becky has asked her listeners to follow the "dinner party rule," where you don't say anything to someone that you wouldn't say if he or she was a guest at your dinner party. I love the idea of that and wish we could all follow it, especially in the anonymity of the Internet. Either way, I'm looking forward to a freewheeling dialogue that gets beyond the rhetoric into the real issues at stake here.



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    1. Foreman To Gays: Your Interests Are Secondary from - The Malcontent - on Nov 30, 2006 12:27:18 PM

      When does activism become the enemy of the good? Atwhat point in civil rights movements are the radical accomplishments of the Martin Luther Kings overtaken by the charlatans andpanderers likeAl Sharpton and Jessie Jackson? At what s... [Read More]


    1. Andoni on Nov 29, 2006 12:56:54 PM:

      This is an interesting strategy. I think you can summarize it as, “While your enemies are shooting you in the arms, you should shoot yourself in the feet, and then see how far you can go.”

      Or another way of looking at it is, “Let’s see how many other discrimination issues we wish to remedy can be lumped into this legislation in order to rectify current wrongs against the LGBT community?” Why not add a few more paragraphs to this legislation to undo the discrimination our military brothers and sisters face? And while we are at it, we could try to fix the marriage discrimination issue. Let’s make this a truly Omnibus bill and see where it gets.

      I come from a family of immigrants. One thing that I learned from my ancestors is that when they were over in Greece looking for a better life, with more freedoms, protections, and opportunities they couldn’t ALL get on the same boat to come to America at the same time. There just wasn’t enough capital (money) to do it. So they sent one male over who worked hard, made money, and helped the next relative come across the divide to enjoy the benefits and freedoms of America. The story repeated itself until finally everyone who wanted freedom and to live their dream got their wish. That’s the practical way of how things work in this world.

      If they had all waited so they could come on the same boat at the same time, they would still be waiting for that boat to sail.

      I realize one of the criticisms from the T community is that when the LG’s get to where they want to get to, they seem to forget about helping their T brothers and sisters. If that’s true that is unconscionable and our leaders should be ashamed and castigated for their actions or inactions.

      But to hold up the boat until everyone who wants to board, boards, when we know that when it tried to sail, the boat would sink with everyone onboard, is insane too.

      I’m sorry, but I think my wise old Greeks had the better strategy on this sort of thing.

    1. Biscuit the Big Gay Wonder on Nov 30, 2006 4:01:38 PM:

      I think it's shameful to exclude transgendered individuals from gay rights legislation. How can we in good conscience benefit from such legislation when a community so close to our own is left out in the cold? Crain, once again you show your insensitivity to the issues at the heart of gay rights.

      How can you compare the political atmosphere of the 60s in regards to black civil rights to the politics of sexuality that go on today? There is no comparison-- they are two completely separate times and two different kinds of rights.

      I will happily wait to have society's "stamp of approval." I couldn't enjoy it knowing that my transgendered friends-- or "transjackers," as you might say-- got screwed out of the deal.

      You ARE at it again, Mr. Crain. Once again you have proved two things--
      1. That you are more concerned with getting full equality for yourself more than any others, and 2. You enjoy mocking those that lead the fight for gay rights-- simply to have something to say.


    1. Mike on Nov 30, 2006 9:49:59 PM:

      I'm sorry, but I think he is right. We have to take this in steps, and take what we can, when we can. We will not leave them standing alone, but to say its all or nothing, is just stupid.

    1. Kathy on Nov 30, 2006 11:07:27 PM:

      The MLK analogy is strained. The relationship between gays and transgender people might more aptly be compared to that between Asians and African Americans. One wouldn't pass non-discrimination legislation for Asians first - if anything - one would pass it for those who experience greater effects from discrimination as evidenced by history and current social and economic indicators.

      And let's remember Title VII prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. If you're going to use that example as a reason for excluding gender identity - you really can't make the argument that this is due to the categories being different. The only commonality between these covered categories is that those covered experienced discrimination. So - let me ask you - who would you feel is acceptable to include in the process when gay men are covered? Should they have passed Title VII for race first and left sex out? Should they have passed bills individually covering race, color, religion, sex and national origin?

      Given access to education, income levels and other social indicators - one might make the argument that on the whole - gay men don't need these protections. They already make more money than the average and have higher educational opportunities.

      I read your stuff from time to time and find myself asking - do you ever ask yourself why you obsess so much over this? We all know ENDA hasn't passed without transgender people - and won't while Bush is in office. In the several years you've been ...stridently barring the door the percentage of the population covered by non-discrimination legislation explicitly covering transgender people has gone from 5% to 31%. Every year that number jumps. And it was neither transgender or gay people who had the votes to effectuate that change. This petty internicine conflict simply doesn't matter to the majority of the country who mostly don't understand that covering sexual orientation wouldn't cover transgender people. And who disagree with it when they find out.

    1. The Malcontent on Dec 1, 2006 12:06:48 AM:

      Ironically, trans folks might be just about to get more protection than gays (through the courts) precisely because of Title VII.

      Foreman betrays a total lack of knowledge about political reality. Only a complete naif would fall on his sword over legislation that hasn't even been introduced yet.

      The gay community needs a Hippocratic oath among its leadership: First, do no harm. Foreman consistently fails that test miserably.

    1. Anon on Dec 1, 2006 11:50:52 AM:

      "It's one thing to promise that "gender identity or expression" will be added to the categories to be protected in legislation to ban bias in the workplace, housing, public accommodations and the like, as well as to a federal hate crime bill. It's quite another to promise to fight our own gay rights bills if there's insufficient support for trans protections in Congress."

      Our own? The Mission of this organization clearly includes transgender people.

      This reminds me of when gay men wanted to exclude lesbians from non-discrimination legislation years ago when they perceived this as holding back "our bill".

      Would you still throw us overboard too?

    1. Lisa Clay on Dec 1, 2006 2:02:59 PM:

      Your writing is so ignorant, divisive, and yes selfish. And yes I would say that to you at a dinner party.

      I'm sorry but all your rhetoric simply sounds like fear to me. We've been hearing it from a small minority of gay men since Stonewall.

      As someone who used to live as a gay man, nothing is more jarring to me than to hear this talk coming from the community of which I was once a part, my adopted family. Thankfully, I know most LGB people don't view us with such contempt. Actually, neither do most non-trans straight people. In fact, I've found that even rightwing straight nontrans men are more generally accepting than people such as yourself. They don't have that fear of association.

      Who do you think most anti-LGBT hate crimes are against, anyway? You think people can see your sexual desires when you walk down the street? What they often see is gender variance, however mild, and for them it's all the same. If you do not include gender nonconformity in hate crimes and anti-discrimination laws, much of the discrimination against LGB people will continue to be legal, since bigots will very easily (and truthfully) argue that it was about perceived gender variance.

      They could say they beat up an effeminate gay man because he was "acting gay", and then explain what that actually means to a jury -- explain that it was about his effeminacy and gender nonconformity, not sexual orientation per se.

      That would not be a hate crime in your book. In fact, this is what will very likely become a successful legal strategy for anti-LGBT bigots if you succeed in excluding us. Only the relatively small number of hate crimes against straight-acting butch guys and femme lesbians will be covered.



      (a straight woman of transsexual experience)

    1. Don on Dec 1, 2006 2:28:58 PM:

      I just came back from having lunch with Barney Frank at a Stonewall Dems event and he is pretty sure that there will be a trans inclusive hate crimes bill passed very quickly in the new Congress. He added that a trans inclusive ENDA had a fair chance of passsing. He said that Congress was starting to "get it" with respect to "T" and their only hang up was to having mixed body parts in lockers rooms. As a result the new ENDA has a provision to address this. He was very upbeat.

    1. Ten-K on Dec 1, 2006 2:34:26 PM:

      But this is exactly what the Hate Crimes coalition did in NY State. The Black Caucus had the votes to pass a Hate Crimes law that did not protect gays. They refused to accept that bill, despite a rash of high profile bias crimes against Blacks, instead waiting a decade for gay-inclusion. ESPA shamed the gay community by not taking the same moral stand on the state gay rights bill, instead accepting a compromise to exclude trans rights.

      As trans people rightfully draw attention to their rights, the embarrassment of appearing to stab our own in the back reinforces the perception that gays are moral twinkies, latecomers to the civil rights struggle who hid in the closet for most of our history, and not dependable allies. That's why we got the Serpico treatment on marriage. So from both a moral and practical political standpoint, Foreman has learned from his mistake on SONDA.

    1. Citizen Crain on Dec 1, 2006 6:52:44 PM:

      In response to Kathy, the analogy to Asians and African-Americans doesn't work. Once you include "race" as a protected category, then it includes both (as well as white people). The same goes for "sexual orientation," which would cover discrimination against gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and straight people based on their sexual orientation. I'm not "obsessed" with the topic. I've written about it a half-dozen times in a decade. I disagree with you that ENDA has no chance until Bush is gone, but many Republicans and the White House could well use "gender identity" as the excuse to block it.

    1. Citizen Crain on Dec 1, 2006 6:53:23 PM:

      In response to Anon, the fact that "T" is included in the mission statement doesn't mean every piece of legislation has to fit every part of the mission. Otherwise HRC would only lobby for an all-inclusive bill that includes marriage, the military, bias and hate crimes — with absolutely no chance of passage.

    1. Citizen Crain on Dec 1, 2006 6:54:12 PM:

      In response to Lisa: I've always supported including "T" in hate crime bills; it doesn't present the workplace, restroom and dress code issues that are a hangup for so many. But your argument cuts against you: You're right that many bigots who beat you or me up or fire us from a job don't think in terms of "gender identity" or "sexual orientation"; we're just "fags" and "dykes." That's why including "perceived sexual orientation" will offer protection in many situations to discrimination suffered by trans people, even if "gender identity" can't be added just yet.

      You're also wrong to assume anti-gay hate crimes are about gender variance and not because they "can see your sexual desires when you walk down the street." I got a broken nose and two black eyes in Amsterdam because I was holding my boyfriend's hand "walking down the street."

      In response to Ten-K, race was already protected at the federal level so the "moral stand" didn't have the same real-life consequences it would have for gay people. The only back-stabbing here is by movement leaders who would hold hostage gay rights until trans rights can be accomplished at the same time.

    1. Lisa Clay on Dec 1, 2006 8:26:06 PM:

      LOL! I doubt that "perceived sexual orientation" will cover me! By the way, how do you perceive sexual orientation anyway?

      "even if 'gender identity' can't be added just yet."

      It can be, and will be, sooner than you think. You should have said "even if I, Chris Crain, don't want 'gender identity' to be added". And you're not fooling anyone with your incrementalist rhtetoric.

      Regarding the hate crime you experienced, I'm very sorry to hear about it.

      But isn't it a special case? Most are about gender variance. We need to work for protection on the basis of gender variance first, and then, incrementally, get to your issue, since you're only one part of the LGBT community (and, as you know, gay men are a minority in the LGBT community). Someday you'll get protection. You just need to be patient and let the movement work first for more mainstream issues, and then we can deal with your issues. Many people currently have hangups about gay male PDA. We'll support you though. I promise.

      Seriously, of course I don't really believe that, but how does that make you feel? Angry? You should be. Almost any random trans person you meet has faced not only hate crimes, but also workplace, housing, healthcare, and other forms of discrimination, to the point where, for some people, it's almost a routine expectation.

      I'd like to see you go up to someone who's life has recently been utterly destroyed, who's been fired from their job, kicked out of their apartment, and forced into homelessness due to gender variance. What would you say to them? I'm sorry, you have to wait until we get protections for me first?

      Whatever you say, hon. You're the boss.

    1. Autumn Sandeen on Dec 6, 2006 1:40:06 PM:

      Creating Change

      Written by Kris Hinesley
      The Empty Closet, NY
      Wednesday, 06 December 2006



      ...For example, I was reminded to ask myself who is included in our vision of the Gay Alliance—who “we” includes—and that expanding our language makes room for voices that are often silenced. As we think about other groups it is helpful to remember that their members are not “them”, they are “us”. LGBT people and our families and friends include every group we can name, including the people who vote against us

      For this reason it is not possible to be successful in our efforts to eliminate homophobia and transphobia without actively working to end racism, sexism, classism, and other methods by which we are taught to keep others down. If the question is how to simultaneously address multiple forms of oppression, the answer is that there is no other way. How do we do it? One way is to build coalitions with and an understanding of people facing oppression in any form, and to ask ourselves in what way are we contributing to it. Only then will be become true participants in the march toward social justice for all.

    1. dogboy on Dec 6, 2006 9:15:10 PM:

      "Becky has asked her listeners to follow the "dinner party rule," where you don't say anything to someone that you wouldn't say if he or she was a guest at your dinner party. I love the idea of that and wish we could all follow it, especially in the anonymity of the Internet."

      Reading you, of all people, advocate civil discourse is fuckin' hilarious.

    1. Citizen Crain on Dec 7, 2006 12:07:22 PM:

      That's a nice drive-by comment, "Dogboy." How about some evidence, from any point in my decade in journalism, of where I've gone outside the bounds of "civil discourse"?

    1. dogboy on Dec 7, 2006 10:02:04 PM:


      You have got to be kidding, Crain. I'm not about to take the time to inventory your infamous lack of civility because, as always, you'll simply supply benign motives.

      Earth to Crain: Your former employees celebrated when you left. Any clue why?

    1. Alyssa on Mar 16, 2007 2:31:11 PM:

      Hey dogboy!

      You are welcome to any dinner party I EVER throw!

      Keep fighting the good fight, love.

    1. Shannon on May 26, 2007 9:29:42 AM:

      Crain, your call to abandon the "T" portion of the GLBT community is retarded, arrogant, and short-sighted. Whether you have issues with the T folks or not, you're forgetting that historically and in the present, the rednecks of the world are just as likely to take a tire-iron or baseball bat to one of us. You do remember the problems with "gay-bashing" and other violence against gays and lesbians, right? Well, not only is it *morally* correct for gays and lesbians to include T-folk in efforts to improve protective legislations, but it's politically expedient because we add to the overall GLBT voting block. Quit being a selfish 'tard and wake up.

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