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    December 12, 2007

    How HRC spent winter break

    Posted by: Chris

    Hrc_division Now we know what the Human Rights Campaign was doing when it wasn't marshaling its considerable resources to save the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act from being stripped from the Defense Department bill. It was busy strategizing  how to make nice with transgender activists still fuming that HRC backed out on its promise to oppose the Employment Non-Discrimination Act when trans protections were removed.

    Martiabernathy My old friend Marti Abernarthy blogging at Trans Advocate, somehow got hold of an internal memo by HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse that summarizes a conference call HRC recently had with trans leaders. In the memo, Rouse also strategizes how to mend fences and "redouble" efforts to pass federal trans rights legislation.

    The Rouse memo, the authenticity of which is not yet confirmed, is remarkably humble and proposes a laundry list of concrete actions HRC should take on behalf of its trans constituents. First, the crow eating:

    • We recognize that HRC’s decision to follow a different strategy to secure a fully-inclusive bill was hurtful to some members of our community and we regret that.
    • The first step in rebuilding our trust in HRC must be for HRC to own up to the fact that we were promised one thing and the promise, for whatever reason, was broken. Members of the transgender community I’ve spoken to want an apology and an explanation, and the explanation must be sincere and convincing. They want to see a stop to public announcements that contradict private activity which many believe is still going on. Until that is done, it will be near impossible to get increased participation from the transgender community.

    But beyond that, Rouse suggests a long list of concrete actions HRC is prepared to take not just to "win back" trans support but move forward with the case for passing a trans-inclusive ENDA:

    • immediately launch a new public education campaign designed to continue the mainstreaming of transgender issues;
    • conduct the state of the art professional survey to teach us just what the American people understand about trans and what they don’t;
    • research the 110+ jurisdictions with protections and characterize what was done right and what was done wrong;
    • work with NCTE to find trans persons to target those 50 or so Congresspersons, and give them the data to help them lobby;
    • work with GLAAD to develop video and PSAs for the targeted states and Congresspersons;
    • redouble the corporate work — they’ve been doing a great job;
    • complete a health insurance survey to increase coverage for medical and surgical transition;
    • offer to assist NCTE for psychiatric members and those who would have contacts that could help us remove GID from the DSM;
    • engage with an organization-wide effort to redouble our educational efforts around gender identity and expression;
    • reposition all of HRC’s messaging to be more inclusive of transgender people, and more humble/apologetic about HRC’s past exclusion of the transgender community;
    • recognize that transgender people are not “new” – that they were present at Stonewall and other early uprisings;
    • encourage transgender people to come out and tell their stories, perhaps providing forums where they can do so safely;
    • require each HRC Regional Steering Committee to undergo transgender awareness training, and to actively work to increase transgender participation on the Committee;
    • hold “lunch and learn” sessions at HRC headquarters, where staffers can hear from transgender people directly on topics such as trans law, history, insurance, healthcare issues etc.;
    • urge HRC staffers to consider transgender people for job openings.

    You would think that however trans activists feel about the ENDA debacle, they would be pleased to see HRC doing what it can to say it's sorry and move forward. But then you would be underestimating the level of acrimony and bitterness that pervades transgender rights activism generally. Those of us who have dared to disagree with them in the past know firsthand just how mean-spirited they can be.

    Rouse_marty_rdax_111x155 Still, it's a bit breathtaking to read Marti Abernathy's point by point dismissal of everything Rouse wrote, no matter how supportive of trans views; not to mention the "hang 'em high" amen chorus of comments to Abernathy's post. I have a great deal of respect for Rouse, ever since his productive work on gay health issues during the Clinton administration. Considering how far he bends over backward to mollify trans concerns, it's distressing to see him get stepped on so.

    Abernathy and I can at least agree on one thing, however. She writes:

    I’ve been told by multiple sources that David Smith has said that HRC will NEVER oppose a gay rights bill (even if it’s not transinclusive). This seems to be the place where the rubber meets the road.

    I don't know if the citation to Smith, HRC's vice president of policy, is accurate, but I certainly agree that "the rubber meets the road" on this question. It ought to be a no-brainer that HRC (or any group that claims to work on behalf of gay and lesbian Americans, will never oppose a gay rights bill, whether or not it's trans-inclusive.

    Hands down the most depressing thing about HRC's "Project Win Back," if such exists, is the last line from Rouse's memo:

    HRC has the political and financial clout to do all this. We have two years to prepare for the next volley in Congress. I think this would be a good start.

    That sounds very much like HRC has (once again) drank the Democrat kool-aid and will make no effort to push ENDA through the Senate early next year. If this was all HRC expected or demanded this entire time, then its long past time for heads to roll -- starting at the top.

    We need a gay rights lobby that spends its resources on forcing the hand of feckless politicians on the Hill; not a coterie of lobbyists so immersed in Beltway minutiae that they accept whatever table scraps -- like late-coming symbolic votes -- offered by our so-called political friends.



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    1. anonymous on Dec 12, 2007 3:01:42 PM:

      We need to just cut the trans out of the GLB. Then we won't have to spend 90% of our time kissing up to them (instead of, you know, getting the Shepard Act or ENDA passed).

      Every article written by a trans activist is a nasty mix of self-entitlement and narcissm, and they say outright that they will try to destroy any positive advancement for gay people if it doesn't include transexual people.

      The gay movement has absolutely been transjacked if gay leaders are expected to OPPOSE gay rights in order to kiss up to transexuals. And it is transexuals who are causing the problem - they just hide behind drag queens and butch lesbians so they can claim they are part of the "gay" community.

    1. Double T on Dec 12, 2007 5:09:06 PM:

      I'm not one to criticize HRC, but they screwed up royally.

      cc writes
      [ HRC (or any group that claims to work on behalf of gay and lesbian Americans), will never oppose a gay rights bill ]

      Then they should not have promised otherwise.

      Project Win Back
      If there is such a project, it is a waste of time and money.
      You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

      If the T’s want on the bus, fine. If the don’t want on the bus, fine.
      But it is really their decision.

    1. anon on Dec 12, 2007 8:08:28 PM:

      why didn't hrc do all of this shit years ago when they added trans to their mission statement in 2001, or in 2004 when they agreed to go forward with a gender identity-inclusive bill, or in 2007 when that bill became a reality? if heads need to roll, it's the idiots who didn't do the this work that was desperately needed way BEFORE the ENDA debacle.

    1. anonymous2 on Dec 12, 2007 8:19:41 PM:

      Are the HRC political staff so seriously out of the loop that they need "lunch and learn" sessions for staff about transgender issues??? If the STAFF need Transgender 101, what does that say about their ability to lobby effectively on Capitol Hill for transgender issues? Has anyone asked WHO is in charge of lobbying ENDA? Do they have experience with the issue? Experience w/ LGBT issues in general?

    1. Kevin on Dec 12, 2007 10:08:59 PM:

      I was wondering what David Smith thinks, so I'm glad TT cleared it up.

    1. Double T on Dec 12, 2007 10:57:55 PM:

      Hey Kev,
      How did you 1992 organization spend it's winter break.

      Hahahahaha. You slay me.

    1. Kevin on Dec 13, 2007 9:26:11 AM:

      "Mine"? Sweetie, I knew when to leave. Ten years was long enough. And that leaves me proud of what I accomplished and contributed, and happy to be doing even more productive things with my life today in other areas. Some folks don't know when to move on, and they just stay, and stay. And stay. And it's kinda sad.

      I'm just sayin' (or slayin', apparently).

    1. Citizen Crain on Dec 13, 2007 12:09:59 PM:

      The strangest thing about this very strange controversy is that I actually think HRC hasn't changed its view. If you read between the lines, HRC is still staying that it only supported the Barney Frank compromise ENDA as a way of giving the bill momentum. And Solmonese has said they would still oppose ENDA if in its final form it is gay-only.

      The question was, is and shall be whether HRC would actually oppose a gay-only civil rights bill if trans isn't achievable. It's somewhat academic, since the ENDA debacle showed just how little influence HRC, the Task Force and gay groups generally have over even our friends in Congress.

      But it is a fundamental question for our movement to address, and HRC cannot remain on both sides of it and retain credibility with anyone.

    1. Double T on Dec 13, 2007 1:21:09 PM:

      10 years WOW!!!!
      so then they kicked you out?

      I'm the kind of person that believes if something is worthwhile, it's worth sticking with. Like HRC.

      Say....you never did mention the name of the group that kicked you out.

      Happy Holidays

      Big Kiss

    1. Andy Humm on Dec 13, 2007 1:28:05 PM:

      Most posters to this list, including you, Chris, refer to people of transgender experience as if they are others. I thought one of the more encouraging things to come out of this debate was the recognition by many that gender identity and expression is a category that protects all of us--and that sexual orientation and gender identity go together in legislation trying to protect us.

      The other issue is ENDA itself--a compromise made in the mid-1990s that almost passed then in the Senate. It has been watered down further since and is by no means an equal rights bill, even for those who advocate an "incremental" approach.

      It is time to go back to amending the Civil Rights Act, this time adding sexual orientation AND gender identity. Anything less is not an equal rights bill. Accepting amendments that cut us out of certain sectors is unacceptable. We should only accept the same religious exemption that applies to other categories under the Act.

      Barney Frank has warned that amending the Act in this way opens it to other amendments affecting other groups covered under it. But failing to be a part of the Civil Rights Act leaves LGBT folks as second class citizens.

      Given the divisions over ENDA (not to mention the debacle over hate crimes), it is at least appropriate at this time to re-evaluate our entire strategy in Washington.

      Chris is right. All of us--from HRC to NGLTF to the trans-specific groups--were shown to be powerless in Washington this year. If we can't make our representatives do what the community wants, we need to re-think our whole approach to organizing and lobbying.

    1. Double T on Dec 13, 2007 1:32:28 PM:


      I hate myself when I agree with you.

      HRC is trying to be all things to everyone.

      They are spreading themselves way too thin.

    1. Citizen Crain on Dec 13, 2007 2:15:26 PM:

      Thank you for the thoughtful comment, Andy. For those who don't know him, Andy Humm is a longtime gay activist and journalist from NYC, and I count myself among those who have a great deal of respect for him, even if we often don't see eye to eye.

      The intellectual part of the ENDA debate is far from decided, however, as you suggest, Andy. There are many knowledgeable legal commentators, including Dale Carpenter and me, who don't accept Lambda Legal's conclusion that gender identity is necessary as a protected category to close a "loophole" for gender non-conforming gays (and others). As you know, Title VII already covers gender non-conformity, and the courts are unanimous in carving out gays (not trans folks) from that protection.

      I'm not sure now is the ideal time for a debate about our Washington strategy with two bills in play in Congress and the presidential race in full swing. But I couldn't agree more that it needs to happen.

      If we do have that debate, I don't believe ENDA was watered down too much because it's greatest impact is symbolic and preemptive -- affecting the policies employers set to avoid being sued. Still, I do see some real merit to amending the Civil Rights Act rather than piecemealing our way, but I don't buy the notion that sexual orientation has to wait for gender identity.

      All that said -- and I know it was a lot -- if we are reprioritizing, I believe that a half-repeal of DOMA, allowing the federal government to recognize gay marriages and civil unions, ought to take a higher priority over workplace rights, hate crimes or gays in the military.

      DOMA potentially impacts a much higher percentage of folks since more of us enter long-term relationships than are bashed or discriminated against in the workplace. Also, DOMA involves unequal treatment by our own government -- as opposed to government enforcement of equal treatment in the private sector.

    1. Citizen Crain on Dec 13, 2007 2:21:58 PM:

      Double T, I am happy to end the mystery here. Kevin was one of a handful of folks responsible for making the Log Cabin Republicans into one of our most influential and effective gay rights groups, against all odds given how so many gay folks (understandably) feel about the GOP.

      It is depressing to see how unengaged LCR is now, but back in the day with Rich Tafel and Kevin at the helm, LCR shamed Republicans into bringing gays into the political circle and sparked important debates within the movement about our priorities. It also encouraged gay Republicans to run for office or come out if already elected.

      When LCR does its job right, it is working for change within the system and calling Democrats to task when they fail to live up to their rhetoric. We need that, whether you like their politics or not.

      The movement owes them thanks, not disrespect, especially from those who like to claim that critics should "get out and do something" (itself among the weakest strategies for killing debate there is).

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Dec 13, 2007 3:20:14 PM:

      Also, Double T, what you are doing is trying to explain to us why your pets over at HRC are endorsing FMA supporters, state constitutional amendment supporters, and people who fire gays because they complain about homophobic behavior -- by bashing LCR.

      LCR showed more spine than HRC ever would in the 2004 election by refusing to endorse and give money to someone who held a position with which they disagreed. HRC spent tens of millions of dollars trying to elect a person who supported banning gay marriage in Massachusetts, even though HRC insisted that wanting to ban gay marriage made a person unfit to hold public office.

      Bluntly put, Double T, the reason you attack LCR is because you are too terrified and spineless to attack HRC.

    1. North Dallas Thirty on Dec 13, 2007 3:31:23 PM:

      And the reason LCR is so disengaged now is simple, Chris; they have been turned into little more than a front organization so that Tim Gill can claim "bipartisanship" in his giving.

      As I have said elsewhere, LCR has spent more money in the past few years attacking Republicans than it ever did on supporting or endorsing them in its entire previous history. It has ignored the individual chapters in favor of the national office doing things that seem designed primarily to please HRC and to amuse its Democrat donors.

    1. Double T on Dec 14, 2007 1:28:09 AM:

      Thanks for the update. I assumed the boys of 1992 were the LCR. I'm just wondering why "No loss for words Kev", didn't speak up.(yes, I know, now he’ll jump all over me).

      Asking and reminding people to get involve is not a call to end all debate.

      “The movement owes them thanks,
      not disrespect” << I’ll assume this line is applies to HRC as well.

      LCR, my pointing out the LCR are invisible, I don’t think that counts as bashing.

    1. Kevin on Dec 14, 2007 8:25:51 AM:

      Sorry, I was off having a life and am just reading this thread again now.

      TT - for the record, in case you missed when Chris said explicitly on this blog a while ago, or in case you're incredibly stupid and don't have access to a search engine, my name is Kevin Ivers. I was on staff at Log Cabin Republicans for 10 years (and co-founded the national office) and was proudly their Director of Public Affairs for most of that decade on staff. And I resigned in 2002 to move into the private sector. I wasn't "kicked out" of anything, but of course that wouldn't stop you from inventing the notion (like most of what you post).

      And I've always been proud of who I am, what I believe, and what I've done with my life. I never had to hide behind anonymity of any kind, nor will I. I never had to crawl around the proverbial bathroom stalls of the internet and post comments with an anonymous moniker. I own up to my beliefs, and to who I am, in more ways than most (if you've read my blog). See, that was the first lesson I learned when I came out of the closet. I wonder if you've ever learned anything but shame, given your perpetual hiding in the shadows here, and on other blogs.

      Unlike you, I don't take any job as a lifetime appointment or an entitlement. Frankly, I didn't need it. Maybe you do. And unlike some people, "sticking with" something is not tantamount to admitting I have no life, nor the courage to have one, outside of a particular job or organization. There is a world out there, Tea Tea. I didn't get my identity from my job, or from my politics, quite the other way around.

      And if you really knew me, or read what I write here or at Club Whirled, you'd know that. But really knowing anything, or really reading anything to understand it rather than carve it up for a desperate bullet point rebuttal sheet (however clumsy) has never been your style, and clearly never will be.

    1. Kevin on Dec 14, 2007 8:39:51 AM:

      NDT and CC:

      Thanks for your comments about me and Rich. It's nice to be remembered, but alas, I am old news when it comes to LCR. Very old news. The organization has had two executive directors since I left, and as it should be, they have put their own stamp on the organization. I'm proud of anyone who takes up a job like they did, and who indeed puts themselves out there to advocate a strategy that may not be popular, that will cause consternation among both Republicans and gay Democrats. But it's right to demand a bi-partisan movement. It's right to set benchmarks for Republicans to reach or exceed within the GOP on gay issues and working with gays openly on issues. It's right to call on gay Republicans to come out and be counted and be proud of themselves, rather than choose the path of shame that Larry Craig or Mark Foley chose, despite their voting records.

      And in terms of visibility, I'll say this. Give me a low profile organization that stands for real ideas any day. You can take your bloated, ridiculous high-profile organization that believes nothing and does nothing productive and shove it.

      The day that HRC does one truly bold act, or articulates one bold new idea, will be the day that I say bravo for HRC. I've been waiting since 1990. No bravos yet.


    1. Marti Abernathey on Dec 14, 2007 11:00:55 AM:

      But it is a fundamental question for our movement to address, and HRC cannot remain on both sides of it and retain credibility with anyone.

      Holy shit, Batman!

      I agree with Chis Crain!

      I just wish they'd stop claiming to be a GLBT organization.

      And the David Smith quote was repeated to me by more than one sources.

      I do think you have it backwards though. In the Win Back piece you'll note that while they want to apologize for hurting feelings, they never admit to any wrong doing. I just wish they'd say "we aren't going to protect you" and be done with it.

    1. Double T on Dec 14, 2007 12:17:14 PM:

      Kev Honey,

      Thank you for your predictable rhetoric, right on schedule. It amazes me all the words you use without really saying anything.

      “or in case you're incredibly stupid” I love the personal attacks, I too have a life and I don’t always have time to read every little thing on this blog.

      Kicked out, promoted to the Private Sector, whatever helps you sleep at night. I really don’t care.

      And you’re still baiting me for a name. Well, you’re a clever boy, if you had access to a search engine you could have figured it out by now.

      Best wishes for the holidays

      My wish for the Christmas: That Kevin would stop being so mean spirited, I am really not his enemy. Thank you Santa.

    1. Kevin on Dec 14, 2007 12:41:31 PM:

      I'm not baiting for your name. I rather like that you remain in the shadows, ashamed and hiding. It befits you.

      And any rational reader can see who is the a.h. in this punch and judy show. You can skirt the line of libelous statements (in your convenient 'anonymity') all you want by implying I left LCR under anything but entirely amicable, voluntary and fully friendly terms.

      I've said plenty. You've just been a nasty jerk, and flirted with libel in the process. That you think anyone reading these exchanges doesn't see you clearly for what you're about is sad. But alas, you persist.

      End of story. Back to life.

    1. Double T on Dec 14, 2007 1:00:27 PM:

      Thank you for being so understanding.

      Merry Christmas

    1. Monster Beats Sale on Nov 26, 2011 2:55:13 AM:

      End of story. Back to life.

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