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    June 02, 2007

    To my transgender sisters…

    Posted by: Chris

    Transrestroomblog UPDATE: This post, like my later post on UAFA, was scooped by news today from HRC that all seven Democratic presidential candidates back inclusion of gender identity in both ENDA and hate crimes legislation, though none is on record favoring HRC's "suicide strategy" on the issue.

    I know some of my transgender sisters question my commitment to their equality, but let me be the first (I think) to point out where the top-three Democrats on in inclusion of gender identiy in federal hate crimes legislation (where I support it) and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (where I support in principle adding it at some later date, but oppose its inclusion now).

    As I pointed out previously, John Edwards came out for transgender protection in both pieces of legislation as part of his response to the Human Rights Campaign questionnaire:


    • Workers should be judged by the quality of their performance, not their sexual orientation or gender identity.
    • We should strengthen the ability of law enforcement to investigate and prosecute hate crimes based on race, gender, religion national origin, sexual orientation, disability or gender identity.

    Hillary Clinton made no mention of adding trans protections to ENDA in her gay-issues position paper, released last week, but did back inclusion of gender identity in hate crime laws:

    She will strengthen law enforcement and prosecution against discriminatory acts of violence against gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals by signing the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law.

    She did say, however, in an interview with LGNY editor Paul Schindler during her 2000 Senate campaign that she supports inclusion of gender identity into ENDA in principle, just not in practice (sounds familiar!):

    lgny: Do you think the goal of broadening the language for ENDA or broadening language in the hate crimes protection act to include gender expression and gender identity, do you think that's a practical goal at this point politically?

    Clinton: I think we need to try to move ENDA forward. I think ENDA is such an important legislative goal. I think it's within reach and I think it's a vehicle for widening the circle of rights and freedoms and responsibilities and I would really focus on trying to get that passed.

    lgny: In other words, no effort at this point at amending?

    Clinton: I don't see at this point that that would be in the best interest of moving the agenda forward.

    lgny: What I understand your answer to be is that laudable as that goal might be it might slow the political process down.

    Clinton: Well I think that's probably accurate. It may not be the answer people want to hear, but I think it's accurate. We should do everything we can to get ENDA to pass. Legislation is often imperfect at best, and not as inclusive as it needs to be, but you have to build on your victories. Right now we don't have ENDA. I think about the fact that we don't have the hate crimes legislation.

    Last fall, during an on-the-record conversation with gay and transgender activists, Clinton dodged the question in a way that suggests her position hasn't changed. Gay City News reported at the time:

    Asked by Melissa Sklarz, a transgendered activist who is a former president of the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, if she would support the inclusion of gender identity and expression protections in the long-stalled federal employment nondiscrimination act, or ENDA, Clinton noted that the federal hate crimes measure also lacks such language, but said only, "We are very aware of that and we are raising that."

    Obamaprofile Obama avoided the issue entirely in his gay rights position paper.  He was more vocal in his support for trans rights during his 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate.  Check out this February '04 interview with Windy City Times editor Tracy Baim:

    WCT: Talk about your record on hate crimes.

    Obama: I have been a strong advocate for hate-crimes legislation at the state level. I would continue to be an equally strong advocate at the federal level. I absolutely think that sexual orientation has to be included in all hate-crimes legislation.

    WCT: Gender identity as well?

    Obama: Absolutely. The transgendered community has to be protected. I just don’t have any tolerance for that sort of intolerance. And I think we need to legislate aggressively to protect them.

    WCT: Do you support adding gender identity to the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act?

    Obama: Yes. I think this is a difficult question because it touches on, for example, the rights of schools or other public institutions that may be concerned about a transgendered person in positions of authority. I would think the political resistance on that would be fierce. I’d have to look at the language.

    All in all, that puts Clinton and Obama in about the same place on the key trans rights issues: support for inclusion in hate crime laws and ambivalence about adding gender identity to ENDA.  Edwards, on the other hand, was unequivocal in his support on both.  Even Edwards, it should be noted, stopped short of the strategically suicidal position backed by the Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign, which is to actually oppose workplace rights and hate crime protections for gay Americans unless transgender protections can be adopted at the same time.

    There's not a lot of daylight, then, between the top three, though we'll have to wait and see whether Clinton and Obama reaffirm their previous positions when their HRC questionnaires are made public in the next week or so. I'm sure my most vociferous transgender critics will not be satisfied with these commitments, but they are enough for me — and most gay and trans-friendly Americans, I'm guessing.



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    1. "Every queen" on Jun 2, 2007 9:39:08 PM:

      I don't think any transgender people actually want you to get any traffic on your blog if they can help it, so I will post a response posted by Marti Abernathey on the TGV Advocacy list (if she objects at some point, I apologize in advance). Perhaps you should join the group yourself, Chris, if only to have people actually bother to let you know what they're thinking in direct response! Sort of like one of those... what do you call it? ah... Conversations!

      I personally, find it preferrable to people looking for each other's blogs and then responding on one's own -- the 21st century version of dueling press releases.

      The blog wars seem just quite pathetically immature. It's because of these thing that contributes yet one more reason why it's taken the GLBT community so long to obtain its rights.

      Join at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TGV_Advocacy, if you're so inclined -- you should be happy to know that the group doesn't require approval, so they might actually let you stay on the group once they realize you've joined -- for a while, anyway...

      [In response to the wording of your title and the first paragraph] --

      First of all, it's not just the sisters that question you "commitment"
      to our equality rights. There are trans-BROTHERS in this fight too, ya
      know (Ethan St. Pierre is the Chair of the National Transgender
      Advocacy Coalition).

      This question at hand isn't hard, Chris. Either it's the GLBT
      community, or it's not.

      Secondly, the transgender people from the previous generations have
      paid just as for their rights as gays and lesbians. They were out on
      the street cashing in their skin for advocacy. I'd remind you of the
      work done by done by the likes of Sylvia Rivera, Marsha "P"
      Washington, and the "screaming queens" of the Compton Cafeteria Riots.
      Transgender people have stood hand in hand with gays and lesbians in
      the fight for equality. Now you'd like to throw us under the bus?

      [And in response to your attempt to somehow enlist Edwards to endorse your earlier hypocritical positions (which you've partially backpeddled from) and legitimize your anti-trans rhetoric (which you've softened after three or four years of sustained criticism) close to the end of your blog entry] --

      Why not remove gay men from the bill? Leave lesbians in because
      they're super popular right now (Can you say L Word!? Rosie!? Ellen!?)
      Not even heterosexuals can say no to lesbian protections! The bill
      woud sail right through both houses and President Bush would most
      certainly sign it! Everyone loves lesbians!

      Of course it's an absurd propisition to remove gay men from the
      legislation for expediencies sake. Removal of gender identity from
      either bill is just as absurd. The firm stand taken by HRC and NGLTF
      (and PFLAG) is a great step forward in the rights for equality of ALL
      GLBT citizens.

    1. Wolfgang Eli on Jun 2, 2007 9:48:41 PM:

      And how long should we wait? Three generations? Ten? A hundred? And how do we make a living in the meantime when we can’t get legal jobs?

      I’m not waiting for my civil rights. Any candidate who doesn’t support a trans-inclusive ENDA will absolutely not get my vote.

    1. Becca on Jun 3, 2007 1:06:22 AM:

      I really don't understand your position, Chris. Yes, cognitively, I understand it (the position you've so clearly laid out). However, I can't even begin to fathom the rationale that would allow you to place a keyboard between you and the trans community to advocate your position.

      I use that specific analogy because what you write on these issues, you should be able to advocate the same when face-to-face. Do you honestly represent that while caring about the trans community you would be able to say to a trans person's face that they should willingly marginalize themselves? Willingly minimize the importance of their own existence? Willingly acquiesce to the status quo in lieu of asserting individual identity? Willingly pick up and walk to the back of the bus?

      You are a walking absurdity, Chris. You stake out a political position that is both logically and ethically indefensible, absent a membership card in the Insanely Fundamentalist Religion of Your Choice.

    1. Becca on Jun 3, 2007 1:21:38 AM:


      Perhaps you could take a closer look at the banner of your site.

      "No government has the right to tell its citizens whom to love."

      Who we love is a component of who we are . . . and no government has a right to tell its citizens who to be.

    1. Citizen Crain on Jun 3, 2007 1:31:35 AM:

      'Every queen': I posted a response this morning on the very trans blog you're talking about, so I'll leave it to you to read there (giving her the traffic, which should make you happy): http://tinyurl.com/yqpn2l

      Wolfgang: I could ask you the same question. I'm not opposing trans rights of any sort. It is trans activists who say that OUR rights as gay people have to wait until Congress is ready to enact yours at the same time.

      Becca: I have met directly several times with trans activists and listened at length to objections to my position. Every time I come across a trans person in public who raises the issue, I try to engage in respectful dialogue (the kind that doesn't call the other "a walking absurdity").

    1. Tlop on Jun 3, 2007 12:14:30 PM:

      "I try to engage in respectful dialogue (the kind that doesn't call the other "a walking absurdity")."

      Oh yeah. You're just a fountain of respectful dialogue.

    1. Wolfgang Eli on Jun 4, 2007 12:35:40 PM:

      Chris, I'm also gay, and I don't want gay rights to wait any more than you do. Furthermore, because the general public often conflates homosexuality and transsexuality, many transsexuals receive some level of protection from codes pertaining to gays and lesbians. Personally, I’ve been mistaken for a lesbian for most of my life. I trip the gaydar of everyone I meet. No one at either of my jobs knows yet that I’ve been taking testosterone for the past 7 months.

      I’ve experienced anti-lesbian hate and discrimination in the past, but in the last several years, I’ve been treated very fairly at every job I’ve worked (as a perceived lesbian, because no one’s ever asked me to my face). I don’t pretend that everything is rosy for cis-gendered gays and lesbians, but the fact remains that discrimination against transsexuals is rampant, and we’re most vulnerable to losing our jobs at a time medical transition expenses are at their highest.

    1. Dr. Jillian T. Weiss on Jun 8, 2007 11:30:38 AM:

      Some interesting points, Chris. Speaking as an academic, and a transgender one at that, I think the larger question behind your position is whether transgender people are part of the gay community or constitute a separate group not. Historically, there are important political and social differences between our communities, but I think most gays and lesbians today would agree that transgender people are part of their community. I think that's why, when you use rhetoric like "transjacked" and "in principle," which implies that transgender people are outsiders, people get their back up. My 2004 article on the subject in the Journal of Bisexuality addressed the historical roots of transphobia in the gay and lesbian community, and I concluded by saying that transphobia is nothing more than another form of internalized homophobia.

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