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  • December 14, 2008

    Trans-inclusive ENDA, past and future

    Posted by: Chris

    This noteworthy comment from a reader came in response to my post on the Human Rights Campaign's new board leadership, in which I cheered passage of "ENDA (trans or not)":

    With regard to "ENDA (trans or not)," it's important to remember that the "gender identity" piece of an inclusive ENDA does not just protect trans people. In fact, trans people are only a small segment of the GLBT (and straight) population that would benefit from "gender identity" protections. The inclusion of "gender identity" in ENDA would protect gay, lesbian, and straight people who express their gender in non-traditional or non-standard ways.

    Many gay and lesbian people (and some straight people) are discriminated against not because of their sexual orientation (in many cases, it's not known in their workplace or in their job interview), but because of their gender presentation or gender expression. They are "presumed" to be gay or lesbian because of the way they are presenting their gender (in a way that does not reflect a "standard" male or female presentation). Straight people are also discriminated against because of this. They are also "presumed" to be gay or lesbian when they are not reflecting a standard masculine or feminine gender presentation.

    Even trans people will mistakenly say that HRC dropped its support of the "trans" portion of a national ENDA. It's not the "trans" portion. Discrimination based on gender presentation (how you present yourself as a man or as a woman), which translates to "gender identity," affects many people, only some of whom are trans.

    Great blog, by the way.

    Thanks for the kind words but I'm afraid we disagree on the legal impact of including "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. This is a subject much debated on this blog during the ENDA debacle earlier this year.

    HrcdivisionIn my view, you've got it backwards, actually. Even if "gender identity" is omitted as a compromise to pass ENDA, including "actual or perceived sexual orientation" will nonetheless extend coverage to the gay and straight gender nonconformists you describe. This is because, as you point out, the workplace bigots think of them as "fags" or "dykes." It's irrelevant as a legal matter whether the victim is actually gay because the law prohibits discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation.

    I would add that many courts have concluded that transgender men and women, as a group, are already protected under Title VII, as the trans plaintiff's recent victory against the Library of Congress demonstrates. 

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    August 21, 2008

    And then there were three . . .

    Posted by: Chris

    Jaredpolisnyt . . . Well there aren't three yet actually, but gay Colorado businessman Jared Polis was the surprise winner last week in a highly competitive Democratic primary and is the heavy favorite in November in his bid to be the third out gay member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Even better, he would be the first gay man to win a congressional election as a non-incumbent. Lesbian Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) was the first to do it, way back in 1998.

    Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and former reps Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) and Steve Gunderson (R-Wis.) all came out after they were already in office.

    Polis is due belated congratulations for pulling off the victory in a three-way contest with no incumbent for the congressional seat representing Boulder and some of the top ski resorts in Colorado. Polis, a  former chair of the state board of education who made a fortune from the e-card site bluemountain.com, spent more than $5 million of his own money to beat former state Senate president Joan Fitz-Gerald and conservationist Will Shafroth.

    Fitz-Gerald had been as the favorite and her lengthy record of strong gay rights support earned her support against Polis from many local gays, notably Tim Gill, another wealthy entrepreneur whose Gill Foundation has done ground-breaking political work in Colorado and elsewhere.

    Polis was endorsed by the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, whose mission is to help elect more openly gay politicians, but the Human Rights Campaign stayed neutral.

    Normally I would have jumped all over HRC for that decision, because it was very likely driven by fear of offending locals (i.e. donors) who backed Fitz-Gerald. It's not surprising that Polis had to beat a gay-friendly opponent; that's likely to be the case in almost all the liberal congressional districts where out gay candidates are going to have the best shot.

    That's the primary reason -- along with homophobia, of course -- for the 10 very long years since Baldwin's landmark victory. Kudos to the Victory Fund for jumping into the Polis race when lots of pundits and analysts were saying it was a loser.

    Still, I'm cutting HRC a break on this one -- close that gaping jaw, please -- because for one thing they often stay out of primaries with no incumbents. Much more importantly, I've had my own misgivings about Polis ever since he made clear he would have voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act introduced by Barney Frank and passed by Congress, on the grounds that it included sexual orientation but not gender identity as protected categories.

    Without being drawn back into that bitter debate, it reinforeced why ideological purity has no place in a legislative body that inevitably horse trades, compromises and moves along incrementally. Like most activists and GLBT groups in the "trans or bust" crowd, Polis was maddeningly naive in his analysis, explaining it this way this way to a transgender writer for PageOneQ:

    Q: So, among your endorsements is Congresswoman and ENDA co-sponsor Tammy Baldwin...

    A: She was on the right side of [ENDA], you know. I was disappointed, along with many progressive members of our community, that we seemed to be cutting political deals and leaving part of our community behind.

    Q: I felt it on a personal level, too, one of my best friends being a transwoman. We were being very pointedly pitted against each other politically, especially in the blogosphere.

    A: I do think there was a good grassroots response from gays and lesbians nationally, to push back against our political leadership in Washington. I know that HRC and others got a lot of negative letters from gays and lesbians. I have a lot of transgender friends as well, and I think the best thing I saw was some protesters at one of the HRC dinners saying, "You can't spell 'Equality' without the 'T'."

    An inclusive ENDA is all we should really be talking about. I don't think that we should talk about a piecemeal version that pits part of our community against one another.

    Not only is Polis flat-wrong about Baldwin, who voted for the gay-only version of ENDA, he's also frighteningly simplistic. "You can't spell 'Equality' without the 'T'"? Seriously? Since you can spell "Equality" without a G, L or B, should we assume he'd be all for a trans-only version?

    Fitz-Gerald said she would have voted for Barney's ENDA, and that was enough for me for the primary. But Polis' victory is still a very important one, so let's hope he gets a reality check, whether from his general election race against someone to the right of kum-ba-yah or from good-ole Beltway politics.

    (Above: Photo of Jared Polis celebrating victory via the New York Times)

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    August 10, 2008

    Dem Platform weak on LGBT-onics

    Posted by: Chris

    Dncc_logo_dnc2008_1_500 The Democratic Party platform just approved yesterday and headed to the convention in Denver for final adoption represents some progress on nuts-and-bolts gay rights positions but is a rhetorical retreat of sorts -- at least that's been the initial reaction among some gay groups and the LGBT left blogosphere.

    Pam Spaulding, for instance, labels the 56-page document "lite on the LGBT, hold the mayo" because she did a word search for "gay," "lesbian," "bisexual" and "transgender" and came up empty. You don't get any more entrenched in the identity politics ghetto than measuring the platform by those metrics. GLAAD's Director of National News Cindi Creager was similarly unimpressed, calling on the media to further investigate this disturbing trend of supporting full equality without paying tribute to our movement's established religion of "LGBT-ism."

    If anything, the platform is a good rhetorical fit with Barack Obama's support for traditional liberal support for minorities but with an approach that makes equality something that embraces everyone, not just those who belong to balkanized groups. So rather than fall into the trap of backing "workplace protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers," the draft platform attacks the issue from a more inclusive angle:

    Democrats will fight to end discrimination based on race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age and disability in every corner of our country, because that's the America we believe in.

    Note how that plank not only extends the fight for equality beyond the workplace, but also lists categories that ultimately include everyone -- since non-discrimination laws protect heterosexuals as well, after all.

    Other LGBT, er, sexual orientation/gender identity highlights:

    • expresses "opposition" to the Defense of Marriage Act, but doesn't expressly call for repeal, a rhetorical feint that ought to be fixed in Denver, lest the signal be that full DOMA repeal -- a central Obama-Hillary point of difference during the primaries -- is not a near-term priority;
    • expressly backs repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which represents progress over an '04 plank that only vaguely stated, "all patriotic Americans should be allowed to serve our country without discrimination, persecution and violence";
    • backs "a comprehensive bipartisan employment non-discrimination act," which presumably means trans-inclusive while stopping short of the "United ENDA" suicide call against gay-only ENDA if that's all that can done;
    • backing the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, but without using the more recent moniker, the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which of course highlights the most famous anti-gay hate crime in U.S. history.

    The avoidance of LGBT-onics does not appear accidental, since language from the 2004 platform has pretty clearly been pink-washed. As ABC News' Jake Tapper notes, the platform four years ago proclaimed:

    • We support full inclusion of gay and lesbian families in the life of our nation and seek equal responsibilities, benefits and protections for these families.

    This time around:

    • We support the full inclusion of all families in the life of our nation, and support equal responsibility, benefits, and protections.

    The effect is the same as mentioned on ENDA and non-discrimination. The commitment is the same, but the language tries to make equality a principle that applies to all families, not just those of the LGBT variety.

    If this rhetoric were the product of a presidential campaign that had avoided using "the G word," it might give rise to concern. But in fact Barack Obama was far more likely to talk explicitly about gay Americans before a general audience than any other primary contender, including Hillary Clinton. In that context, the platform seems a bit of fresh air in the stale politics of LGBT-dom.

    All that said, the platform was something of a disappointment on the most gay rights issue of the day -- marriage, of course. Except for opposing DOMA, there's no commitment to oppose either federal or state-level constitutional amendments that would ban gays from marrying, and the '04 language about "full inclusion" for "all families" falls considerably short of Obama's promise to back federal recognition of same-sex couples that is equal to that afforded heterosexual married couples.

    Party platforms are rarely statements of political courage as much as laying out broad principles designed to satisfy core supporters while not alienating the political center. In that respect, the Obama platform is a success on our issues, even as it represents precious little concrete progress over four long years.

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    July 22, 2008

    Hammering out the party platforms

    Posted by: Chris

    Gopdems_2 There’s been no such thing as the summer doldrums this election season, what with fevered speculation over running mates and overseas trips with dueling photo ops set up to appear more “presidential.”

    Far more consequential, if much less made-for-TV, are the bare knuckles battles that lie ahead over the platforms to be adopted by the Republicans and Democrats, setting forth not just principles but the down and dirty policy positions of each party.

    In past presidential election years, many of the platform planks were already decided on by mid-July, usually in proverbial backrooms with only longtime insiders participating. 

    The process is indeed underway this year, but both parties are making at least perfunctory attempts to seek input from average voters. Color me skeptical, since the platforms are ultimately voted on by the convention delegates, so Barack Obama and John McCain already control the outcome before the process even begins.

    Even still, now is the time when the two campaigns are gauging the public’s temperature on the hot-button issues that tend to be the focus of platform fights. Of course, gay rights will be right up there with abortion, immigration and Iraq when it comes to slicing up language to appeal to the many who will vote in November, while avoiding offense to the few whose dollars and grassroots muscle can make the difference on Election Day.

    Four years ago, both party platforms were a big gay disappointment. The Republicans’ were something of an expected disaster. With Karl Rove in charge and social conservatives one of the few constituencies that President Bush could count on, the anti-gay planks practically wrote themselves.

    GOP delegates rejected efforts by Log Cabin Republicans to oppose gay marriage without specifically endorsing the federal amendment backed by the president. In fact, the platform went further, decrying legal recognition of civil unions and domestic partnerships as “living arrangements” – why didn’t they just say “living in sin”? – that shouldn’t be treated like marriage.

    It will be interesting to see how the Republican platform tackles marriage this time around, since John McCain said on the Senate floor that the federal marriage amendment was “antithetical in every way to the core philosophy of Republicans.” The marriage plank will likely focus instead on leaving the issue to the states decide, which mean the real battle will be over whether the platform hints or insists on the answer that states should reach.

    A defeat for Log Cabin would be a marriage plank that backs state amendments like the one pending in California -- or even more draconian amendments like the one McCain endorsed but which failed in Arizona two years ago. A victory would be one that leaves the question more open to the states, while including the familiar battle cry against “unelected judges” have any say at all.

    Marriage will be a testing ground for Democrats as well. Four years ago, the party platform read like a good GOP plank would this year: “repudiating” Bush’s marriage amendment and saying the states should decide. But the platform was silent on civil unions as an alternative, much less advocating the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act – even though John Kerry, the nominee, had voted against it back in 1996.

    Barack Obama made a point of distinguishing himself from Hillary Clinton by favoring DOMA’s full repeal, so the platform should make that explicit. Much more important, however, would be a plank that specifically lays out what the Democratic nominee has said repeatedly about gay relationships – whether recognized by the states through marriage, civil unions or not at all – being afforded fully equal treatment to heterosexual marriage under federal law.

    For this gay American, stuck living in exile because of unequal immigration rights, the plank would include specific support for the Uniting American Families Act, which allows us to sponsor our partners for residence the same way heterosexuals do in the U.S. – and as both gay and straight citizens can in Canada, Australia, Brazil and almost all of Western Europe.

    Trans activists will also be pressing hard for including their agenda in the Democratic platform, since they were turned away by the Kerry camp four years ago. This time, with lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin on the platform committee, they’re likely to get a much more welcome reception.

    Even so, any trans rights plank should avoid taking sides in the bitter fight last fall over whether gay measures like the Employment Non-Discrimination Act should only be adopted if the votes are there for “gender identity” as well.

    If you want your say on these and other platform questions, visit barackobama.com and GOPplatform2008.com, and follow the links for voter input.

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    May 16, 2008

    Let's count the ways to be 'inclusive'

    Posted by: Chris

    Donnanarducci The Atlanta Pride Committee did. The result? Only one:

    The Atlanta Pride Committee decided last week to decline a [$5,000] sponsorship from the Human Rights Campaign over the national gay political group’s support for a version of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act that did not include “gender identity” as a protected category.

    “We knew that it was almost a no-win situation,” said
    Atlanta Pride Executive Director Donna Narducci. “Do you take the money, or do you not take the money? Do we need the money? Yes, we need the money. … But do we need to take the money from an organization that is not inclusive."

    Apparently inclusiveness is measured only by adherence to the political views of Narducci, the Pride Board and Atlanta's very vocal trans activists. The disagreement here wasn't even on substance -- all involved support protection for trans workers -- but legislative strategy.

    How does Atlanta Pride now demonstrate its own inclusiveness toward the thousands of gay, lesbian and bisexual Atlantans -- and even some transgender folk -- who supported going forward with the only version of ENDA that stood a chance of passage?  Are they still a part of the community? Is Barney Frank also unwelcome at Atlanta Pride, then? What about Tammy Baldwin  -- she voted for Barney's GLB-only version of ENDA, after all.

    Somebody, please, make the political correctness stop!

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    April 19, 2008

    Them's fighting words, Matt

    Posted by: Chris

    Foremanweb1_story Remember when Matt Foreman, the newly departed director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, took a shot at Barney Frank over the whole ENDA debacle -- claiming he had a history of being "squeamish" on transgender issues? The legendary, short-tempered congressman from Massachusetts was quick to respond, dismissing Foreman for "covering his ass" for falling short on votes for trans-inclusion in the workplace act.

    Well now Foreman has upped the ante considerably on his way out the door at the Task Force. In an interview with Gay City News, Foreman was at times complimentary of Frank but then wound up and threw down with this one:

    [Foreman] is particularly critical of the way in which the advice of Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin, an openly lesbian Madison Democrat, was ignored; she felt that the votes could be rounded up for the trans-inclusive version, and Foreman has noted several times that she was the legislator who successfully lined up the support for the hate crimes measure.

    "I thought the way she was treated in the ENDA struggle was shameful, with lots of overtones of misogyny," he said, in a comment that might spur a new riposte from Frank.

    It's classic leftist trype, of course, to accuse anyone who disagrees of being an "ist" or "phobe" of some sort. Foreman and his allies regularly engaged it such ridiculousness regularly during the ENDA debate, accusing anyone who agreed with Barney on tactics of being a transphobe. Ironic given that Foreman himself used Barney's tactics to get New York's state gay rights law passed.

    Still, it's beyond galling in this case, and Foreman should apologize. It's funny how Foreman never acknowledges that Tammy Baldwin voted for the pared-down ENDA backed by Barney -- despite pleas from Foreman et al not to. It's also funny how Foreman and his "trans or bust" allies claim to want to "unify" the community -- another theme of his GCN interview -- even while gratuitously insulting anyone who doesn't think like he does.

    (Photo of Matt Foreman via Gay City News)

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    April 15, 2008

    Foreman's farewell thoughts

    Posted by: Chris

    Foremanmatt700224 I'm just off of a media conference call with Matt Foreman and other leaders of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, marking his final day as executive director. He'll be succeeded in interim fashion by Rea Carey, his deputy E.D., with no firm date set for a successor to be named. (Carey said she has not applied for the job but will stay on as deputy E.D.)

    Regular readers of this blog know that Foreman led the Orwellian-named "United ENDA" effort, which aimed to oppose the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act after Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi determined that only a version limited to "sexual orientation" had enough votes. Rather than rehash the "trans-or-bust" strategy urged by Foreman et al., I chose to ask him a forward-looking question.

    As noted in a previous post, ENDA took the top spot on the "gay agenda" because HRC's Elizabeth Birch and other movement leaders in the early 1990s agreed with Barney and others that it made most sense to trim down the broader gay civil rights bill pushed by Bella Abzug and others since the early '70s in favor of a more limited bill with the best chance of passage.

    Whatever your view about the "trans-or-bust" debate last fall, it's clear that ENDA is no longer the golden child most likely to succeed: whether as a trans-inclusive bill that lacks support even among Democrats in the House, or as a gay-only bill that generates public bickering within the movement that leaves politicians with no-win options.

    My question was whether as a result the movement ought to step back and reconsider its federal legislative agenda and press forward on other issues, like "Don't Ask Don't Tell" or relationship recognition. Foreman agreed in principle, complaining that ENDA ("a very small bill") had made the movement "a one trick pony" for far too long.

    "We as a movement probably made a mistake a long time ago about what our priorities would be," allowed Foreman, because as it turned out ENDA as a gay-only bill failed to pass even when Democrats controlled one or both houses of Congress and the White House.

    At the same time, he nodded to the political reality that "the bills debated the longest are at the head of the queue," meaning ENDA isn't going anywhere from its perch at the top of the agenda. He said his "biggest fear" is that even if a Democrat takes the White House and the party broadens its control of Congress, they will enact ENDA and declare that's enough for the gays for the new president's first term.

    He was also surprisingly frank about the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which would add gender, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity to existing federal hate crimes law. "I don't even consider that 'a gay bill," said Foreman. "I really don't see that on the list for our community."

    His thinking was that the bill includes many non-LGBT categories and is backed by a much broader civil rights coalition than ENDA. He also pointed out: "The real-world importance of the hate crimes bill pales in significance to other issues like 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' and relationship recognition."

    As much as I disagree fundamentally with the divisive tactics of Foreman, United ENDA and transgender activists, I largely agree with his observations about ENDA, movement priorities and the Shepard Act. I also share his "biggest fear" about what we're likely to get from a new Democratic president, though not as much under a President Obama than a second President Clinton. (See Etheridge vs. Clinton, HRC-Logo Forum (Aug. 9, 2007)).

    The ripple effect of that "mistake" in agenda-setting more than a decade ago is now rolling in at a very high tide. The Task Force leadership talked at length on the call about how they are working now to do what critics said they should have been doing all last year, lobbying Congress for a trans-inclusive ENDA. That's a boon for transgender Americans, the vast majority of whom don't even identify with "the gay or LGBT community," but it's a diversion of precious resources on several levels.

    Lobbying for an inclusive ENDA means they're pushing already gay-friendly members to also support trans protections, rather than working for a veto-proof majority that might get ENDA done this year, clearing the decks for legislation that Foreman acknowledges would be far more meaningful. Because of the "first come, first served" reality Foreman described, the long slog for a fully-inclusive ENDA further defers the day that the real heart of the gay rights movement -- relationship recongition -- finally gets its day in Congress.

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    April 03, 2008

    Learning the lessons of ENDA . . . not

    Posted by: Chris

    6bde59c8729d4008ab8b4c25604f3801big Just weeks after the Employment Non-Discrimination Act was declared dead for the year by the Human Rights Campaign, Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy appears to be sticking by his promise for a Senate vote on the bill, albeit later than the original January-February timetable.

    In an interview with the Associated Press, Kennedy defended his decision to move forward with the version of ENDA that passed the House, which includes sexual orientation as a protected category but not gender identity:

    "The fact is that the House of Representatives has taken action," Kennedy said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. "The best opportunity for progress is ... to follow along on the action of the House of Representatives, and then look down the road to a new day after we have a good Democratic Congress and a Democratic president."

    Kennedy expects an "uphill fight" in the narrowly divided Senate, where 60 votes rather than a simple majority would be needed to overcome expected GOP stalling tactics.

    That "uphill fight" will also pit Kennedy against the intransigent left of the GLBT movement, which hasn't moved a muscle since the debacle of last fall's fight over ENDA in the House:

    "We will strongly oppose it," said Roberta Sklar of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "Leaving transgender people out makes that a flawed movement." …


    "It was made very clear in the fall that most LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) organizations, the vast majority of LGBT organizations, do not want Congress to shove a civil rights bill down our throat that we don't want," said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

    Sklar is right, of course, that a gay-only ENDA is "flawed," but so would be a trans-inclusive ENDA, since it would protect the workplace but not in housing and public accommodations; it also carves an exception for the U.S. military -- where the government itself is the discriminatory employer. But flawed incremental progress is inevitable to any civil rights movement.

    Sklar, Keisling and their "United ENDA" allies know this, but they are willing to sacrifice an advance that would benefit almost everyone for the few who would not be helped; even though it's politically impossible to help those few nor or anytime in the near future.

    And there there is HRC, whose Joe Solmonese started the unfounded rumor of ENDA's death in Los Angeles several weeks ago, sitting on the sideline being ineffectual:

    "We will continue this work until all members of our community no longer fear being fired for who they are," said Brad Luna, Human Rights Campaign communications director.

    OK, but what in the heck does that mean? Is HRC supporting Kennedy's gay-only ENDA or reverting to its disastrous flirtation with the United ENDA crowd? If the organization cannot even communicate its position -- the HRC website and blog are devoid of any reaction to Kennedy's ENDA announcement -- then how could it possibly lobby effectively?

    (Photo of Ted Kennedy via Associated Press)

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    March 27, 2008

    Say whaaaa?

    Posted by: Chris

    I've read this article twice, about how upset some Marylanders were when a small town council member responded to a question about school bullying by noting the higher incidence of bullying of gay and gender-nonconforming kids:

    At a town hall meeting in Clarksburg last week, Councilman George L. Leventhal said many victims of bullying are gay after a resident commented about that her daughter was being bullied at school.

    ‘‘It was totally inappropriate,” said Kathie Hulley, president of the Clarksburg Civic Association. ‘‘If the County Council is going to come out to a town meeting and somebody in distress asks a question, to go off on a tangent, which has no bearing to what she was asking, is really bad.”

    Councilman Marc Elrich, who also attended the meeting, said ‘‘I don’t know why [Leventhal] went there.”

    Huh? Were they upset because the remarks suggested the daughter was gay? Or minimized her victimization if she wasn't? The article never says, dancing around it in some sort of silly suburban code.

    Even more bizarre than the reaction to Leventhal's answer was the rambling question he was responding to:

    During a question-and-answer segment, Derwood resident Valerie Ricardo described how her daughter was being bullied at an area middle school. Ricardo went on to discuss the county’s anti-discrimination law covering transgendered individuals, and also discussed her fears of being approached by ‘‘a man with an exaggerated walk, a female walk” and ‘‘evil intent in his eye.”

    ‘‘So I want to say that the risk is real and I think that we need to take these situations of violence and bullying and crazy situations for what they are and begin to do something about it,” Ricardo ended her statement.

    Double huh? So we feel sorry for her daughter -- and we do -- and we blame it on men who prance a bit too much?

    Can anyone else translate this for me?

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    March 12, 2008

    HRC's ENDA disappearing act

    Posted by: Chris

    It appears that part of the Human Rights Campaign's rehabilitation campaign with transgender activists and their allies may be to "disappear" the Employment Non-Discrimination Act almost altogether.

    A visit to the HRC website shows that if you click on "Issues" and "Workplace," there is absolutely no mention of ENDA, which was hobbled last fall by the insistence of some within the movement that either it include "gender identity" or be opposed by HRC and gay-friendly members of Congress. Even clicking within "Workplace" under "Legislation" shows only a list of bills in play in state legislatures across the country.

    The ENDA omission is particularly dramatic because the "gay only" version backed by gay Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), as well as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), actually passed the House and is pending in the Senate.

    The only way to find ENDA that I could find was to click under "Laws & Elections" -- even though ENDA is neither -- and then on "Federal Legislation." There you'll find links to ENDA and Matthew Shepard hate crimes bill.

    The treatment of ENDA is in marked contrast to how the HRC site treats the (trans-inclusive) Shepard Act, which is also pending -- some would say languishing -- in the Senate. If under "Issues" you click on "Hate Crimes" -- the equivalent to clicking on "Workplace" above -- there is a very prominent link to the section of the site dealing with the Shepard Act.

    Am I reading too much into website structure? Perhaps, but it's striking that the "Workplace" section includes all sorts of links to transgender protections but absolutely nothing for ENDA. It is symptomatic of the way HRC marshaled all its resources to push the trans provision of ENDA and now seems satisfied with doing nothing even though ENDA has finally passed the House and is a Senate vote away from making history.

    Even the posts on HRC's blog about the org's Spring Lobby Day on Capitol Hill last week only mention lobbying House members on a "fully inclusive ENDA" and nothing about pushing senators to pass the version of ENDA (even amended to add trans back in) that is so close to becoming the law of the land.

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    February 29, 2008

    Rethinking the gay agenda

    Posted by: Chris

    Hrcprotestgcn Picking up on my post yesterday about the continuing grief the Human Rights Campaign is getting from transgender activists, I want to highlight something those protesting outside the New York black-tie dinner. The motley crue of trans activists, Radical Homosexual Agenda and such were holding signs shaped like giant hands -- except rather than signalling "we're No. 1!" they were giving HRC "the finger." Mature.

    The chant was likewise a meaningful: "What do we want? Liberation! Fuck that assimilation!" Almost self-fulfilling, that one; and so retro as well. I guess every fashion trend does come round for another go.

    Among the more sober-minded of the 50 or so protesters were some members of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club. According to a report in Gay City News, Allen Roskoff, a member of the group, raised a more thoughtful objection to Barney Frank's gay-only Employment Non-Discrimination Act:

    "Jim Owles is asking members of Congress not to support ENDA in any form," he said. "We should revert to the effort originated by Bella Abzug and Ed Koch to amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and expression."

    Abzug and Koch, as Manhattan representatives in Congress in the early 1970s, introduced the 1964 Act amendment as a way to give gays and lesbians nondiscrimination protection in housing, credit, and public accommodations, in addition to employment. Years later, HRC and Frank originated the more limited ENDA approach to getting anti-bias legislation through Congress.

    Roskoff pointed out that Bill Bradley, in his 2000 challenge to Al Gore for the Democratic presidential nomination, suggested amending the Civil Rights Act, rather than adopting ENDA, "but was shot down by Barney Frank and HRC."

    I wouldn't agree with that change in "gay agenda" priorities, but I do agree that the divisive scrap over ENDA highlights the need for the movement to rethink it's federal legislative plan. It’s critically important that we –- gay and lesbian Americans –- set that agenda, rather than having it dictated to us by the Democratic Party, no matter who is in the White House.

    Politics is by nature self-serving, and politicians from both parties will always reach for the low-hanging fruit unless pressured to actually risk some political capital. That’s actually been the strategy of the movement’s leaders as well, at least since 1996.

    That’s when they scrapped Bella Abzug's broad gay rights legislation and replaced it with ENDA.
    The idea was that polls showed the public most sympathetic to someone being fired for being lesbian or gay, and it was important to get some –- any –- federal gay rights law on the books. And it almost worked. The Senate came within a vote of passing ENDA, and Bill Clinton was certainly ready to sign it.

    More than a decade later, it’s past time to reexamine whether ENDA should still be at the top of the gay agenda for Congress. For one thing, states and local governments have gone a long way to bridge the gap. Today, more than half the U.S. population lives in areas where non-discrimination laws include “sexual orientation,” and the dramatic changes in the culture in the last 10 years have made discrimination far less common in the other half of the country as well.

    In addition, the difficult and divisive debate last fall about what to do if the votes aren’t there for including “gender identity” in ENDA means that legislation is no longer the most likely to break the barrier on federal gay rights legislation. The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, which includes gay and transgender protections and has already passed both houses of Congress in different forms, and in terms of popularity is really “the new ENDA.” With a gay friendlier Congress and White House, the hate crimes bill should become law fairly quickly and without much controversy. But a divisive and risky ENDA shouldn’t be next on the list.

    The highest legislative priorities of the movement ought to be redressing where the government itself is discriminating against lesbian and gay Americans – especially when that unequal treatment is widespread, affecting almost all of us and in a significant way.

    Measured that way, the next priority ought to be repealing the Defense of Marriage Act –- at least the portion that blocks federal recognition of valid marriage licenses issued to same-sex couples by the states. Repealing DOMA should be accompanied by a bill that treats state-issued civil unions and domestic partnerships like marriages under federal law as well. Two-thirds of the public already supports gay marriage or civil unions, so the support is already there.

    Marriage is certainly more universal than job discrimination. More than 90 percent of Americans get married at some point in their lives, and given the hefty number of gays in that remaining 10 percent, it’s safe to say almost all of us will enter into a committed, long-term relationship at some point in our lives.

    Workplace regulation, however justifiable, faces non-bigoted objections about the government intruding into the private sector. Even libertarians who are broadly supportive of gay rights object to ENDA on this ground.

    It’s also true that many more gay and lesbian Americans would marry, if they could, than are fired from their jobs due to their sexual orientation. And while it’s relatively easy to get another job in the diverse U.S. economy – or move to a state that has gay workplace protections -– the hundreds of legal rights that come from federal recognition of our relationships are irreplaceable.

    (Photo of HRC protest via Gay City News)

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    February 28, 2008

    HRC lays a Pink Brick

    Posted by: Chris

    Pinkbrick_09_lrg The Human Rights Campiagn is taking hits on both coasts for its decision to support Barney Frank's gay-only version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. In both cases, the extremism of the critics only reinforces how removed these intolerant ideological purists are from the real lives of lesbian and gay Americans.

    In New York, local politicians stayed away in droves from the annual HRC black-tie dinner, honoring a protest by transgender activists and others outside the banquet hall. In response, HRC Prez Joe Solmonese took to the podium and did what he's best at doing, lowering expectations:

    I have to ask myself: When did we all become so impatient? When did we say to ourselves, okay that civil rights thing, I'll give it a year, maybe two, then I'm done," he said. "Let me be very clear: No, we are not done. We are in the grueling, blinding middle of this fight and the middle of this fight is the hardest part.

    A year or two? ENDA came within a vote of passing the Senate in 1996. It's now more than a decade later, and it's still mired in limbo despite overwhelming public support and Democrats in control of both houses of Congress.

    In San Francisco, the local Pride group has nominated HRC for its "Pink Brink Award," an ignominious honor that according to the Bay Area Reporter is "meant to recognize groups and individuals who've run afoul of the community or pushed for antigay measures." This year's other nominees, to given you some sense of this silliness, are Fox News' Bill O'Reilly and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    Keep in mind that not only does HRC support transgender workplace rights (and inclusion in the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act), but also pressed with unusual vigor for House Democrats to keep "gender identity" as a part of ENDA. HRC backed Frank's gay-only version after the legendary Massachusetts Democrat concluded the votes were nowhere close to passing the trans-inclusive version. Even Tammy Baldwin, the trans activists' idol in the House, voted for Barney's gay-only version.

    Also keep in mind that after the House vote, HRC's Joe Solmonese reiterated that HRC will continue to oppose sending to the president any version of ENDA that doesn't include transgender protections. Now maybe that (ill-conceived) promise rings hollow since Solmonese had walked away from an earlier (ill-conceived) promise never to support any version of ENDA that wasn't trans-inclusive, but it hardly puts him in Ahmadinejad territory.

    But such is the arrogance of ideological purists -- whether of the Ahmadinejad variety or his San Francisco foil -- that any slight divergence from orthodoxy is heresy and equally condemnatory.

    (Joe Solmonese photo via Bay Area Reporter/Rick Gerharter)

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    February 19, 2008

    Barney not squeamish about Foreman

    Posted by: Chris

    Barneyfrank1 Remember when Matt Foreman, the outgoing director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, suggested that Barney Frank backed a gay-only version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act because the openly gay Massachusetts congressman has always been "sqeamish" about transgender rights?

    Well Barney has fired back, asking to appear on Mike Signorile's Sirius radio show, the same forum as Foreman's, and the pugnacious pol pulled no punches, saying Foreman "made up the whole thing."

    I know he said he didn't know that that happened [with ENDA], that he'd bet his life –- or that he would bet his life -- on it. Frankly, I think it's a good thing he didn't bet his life or he might have lost that in addition to his job. He just made that up. That is not remotely how it happened. …

    He also has no basis for talking about my attitude on transgender people because I've had one set of conversations with Matt Foreman about transgender people.

    Instead, Barney said, Foreman was "protecting his own ass," deflecting attention from how, when he was director of Empire State Pride Agenda, Foreman endorsed Republican Gov. George Pataki's reelection in a deal to pass a gay-only civil rights law, the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act:

    "Well," responds Rep. Frank, "you like people to talk bluntly, let me talk bluntly: He's just trying to cover his ass." … Frank continued by reiterating his disappointment in Foreman's group and its endorsement of Pataki, saying "he endorsed the Republican over the African American Democrat, a very significant mistake in my judgment from the standpoint of in our coalition building."

    "The notion that I was squeamish is based on the fact that he was squeamish," Frank continued. "I don't know what he went through and it's not of any great interest to me."

    I love it when Barney gets fiesty like this, although it always reminds me of those occasions when I was the direct recipient -- usually one-on-one. I also think Barney is mostly dead-on here. Matt Foreman has talked about the SONDA story and how he regrets the strategy employed there, even though it resulted in the passage of historic gay rights legislation.

    But in doing so Foreman has sounded very much like the born again Christian or former smoker who careens from one end of the spectrum to another, from black to white (or vice-versa), never acknowledging either before or after the gray that makes reasonable people differ. In the case of ENDA, Foreman and trans activists insultingly charge that failure to adhere to their trans-or-bust view is the result of bigotry in the form of transphobia.

    It's a lazy, offensive and patronizing argument, and apparently Foreman will keep on making on the way out the door.

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    GNW 5: Trans boycotts and 8-year-olds

    Posted by: Chris

    1. 'Torchwood' star says gay kiss turned on Marsters'Torchwood' star says gay kiss turned on Marsters: QUICK LOOK: Bisexual actor John Barrowman – who plays Captain Jack Harkness in the hit British TV show "Torchwood" – claims former "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" star James Marsters... (MORE)
    2. Williams, Menzel urged to join trans boycott of HRCWilliams, Menzel urged to join trans boycott of HRC: QUICK LOOK: Idina Menzel and Vanessa Willliams face a very gay dilemma. Both are scheduled to appear at the Human Rights Campaign dinner Feb. 23 at the New York Hilton. The problem... (MORE)
    3. Remains linked to Edward II's reviled male loverRemains linked to Edward II's reviled male lover: QUICK LOOK: A mutilated body found at an abbey in the U.K. has been identified as that of Sir Hugh Despenser the Younger, one of the most reviled medieval courtiers and reputed gay... (MORE)
    4. Gay Africans and Arabs are coming out on blogsGay Africans and Arabsa are coming out on blogs: QUICK LOOK: When Ali started blogging that he was Sudanese and gay, he did not realize he was joining a band of African and Middle Eastern gays and lesbians who, in the face of hostility... (MORE)
    5. Colo. school accepts 8-year-old transgender girl student: QUICK LOOK: (*WARNING: anti-gay source*): He's an 8-year-old boy who wants to attend second grade here in the Douglas County Public Schools, but with an unusual stipulation: He wants to go to class as a girl... (MORE)

    Gnw_lighthouse_logo_3 These are the Top 5 popular stories on Gay News Watch over the last 24 hours. You can also view the most popular stories of the last week or month, as well as the biggest stories of the last 24 hours, week or month.

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    February 18, 2008

    An alma mater behind the curve

    Posted by: Chris

    Vanderbiltseal_2 My feelings about my college alma mater, Vanderbilt University, run from love to frustration, if not hate. I had an incredible college experience, both in terms of education and figuring out who I am as a person. My initial attraction was the school's reputation as "the Harvard of the South," and I was eager to return to my native region after an abrupt family move from Memphis to Cincinnati during my junior year of high school.

    Ironically, the conservative Southern atmosphere at Vanderbilt -- don't call Vanderbilt "Vandy," you wouldn't call Harvard "Harvy" -- wound up unleashing the activist and journalist in me, and I haven't really recovered since. Even as a conservative Republican from a few hours down the highway, I was surprised my first year by the overt, lazy racism of many of these wealthy, educated students. I helped start an organization called the Racial Environment Project that lobbied for an increased number of minority students and a better racial climate on campus.

    It spilled over into my budding journalism career. Like many of my closeted "best little boys in the world," I channeled my repressed sexuality into my studies and extracurricular life. I managed to become editor of the student newspaper, the Vanderbilt Hustler (we had the name first), as a sophomore and made covering racial issues a priority.

    At the time, my commitment to a better relations between white and black students seemed purely intellectual, but several liberal professors aware of my politics (and religious background) asked me a number of times whether there might be some other motivation. They were as clueless as I was about the connection I see as clear as day today. Even though I was struggling with my sexuality at the time, I identified with the way black students often felt alienated by the macho Southern culture of the campus.

    The closest I came to doing anything about my sexual orientation -- I never acted on it -- was to ask one of those liberal professors for help. I was so nervous -- this was 1986 -- I only got as far as saying I had a problem with girls. "Look," he said in response. "I can see you're really struggling with something, so let me give you the name of someone to talk to. He's a counselor and a great guy; he would have been a priest but he quit the seminary because of all the gays there." Gee, thanks…

    Gay life was completely nonexistent, at least on the surface. The year after I graduated, a group formed and advertised in the Hustler classifieds, but to attend a meeting you had to send a letter to a P.O. Box to learn the location and times. Things were that bad.

    I was president of the Racial Environment Project my senior, and someone suggested at a meeting that we extend our mission to include gay issues. Panicked, I pointed out that the group's name and mission were limited to racial issues, and I changed the subject as quickly as possible. I still feel a twinge of guilt thinking back about that moment.

    If all this seems a bit prehistoric, even for the 1980s, it was. Vanderbilt has always been behind the curve on social progress. It was only in my junior year, after a huge campus debate, that a traditionally white sorority inducted a black girl for the first time. The Princeton Review has consistently ranked Vanderbilt as among the most homophobic schools in the country.

    All of this is background for the debate at Vanderbilt now about whether to add "gender identity" to the university's nondiscrimination policy. I'm not sure exactly when "sexual orientation" was added, but I believe it was well into the '90s. I remember the objection of the school's administration was that "sexual orientation" was too ill-defined and could include a whole range of sexual fetishes.

    A first year law student could answer that concern by simply defining "sexual orientation" to include "heterosexual, homosexual or bisexual," but no matter. It was too much for the school's Board of Trustees to swallow.

    Now the issue is transgender, and you can imagine the uphill battle facing the proposal. Of course adding transgender protections raises a different set of issues, and they have defined gender identity in a broad way, to include "anyone who does not conform to stereotypical gender norms." But the debate ultimately isn't a substantive one, it's merely a matter of pulling (not pushing) Vanderbilt into the 21st century.

    Or, as the first female president of the school's alumni association once said to me about the Board of Trustees, "It usually takes a few good funerals for progress to come to Vanderbilt."

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    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.

    Foreman_matt 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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    January 23, 2008

    Foreman winds up mixed bag tenure

    Posted by: Chris

    Mattforemanhand Matt Foreman announced today that he'll be leaving as executive director of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force in April, a position he has held since 2003. His half-decade tenure at "the Task Force" -- which he successfully rebranded from its NGLTF days -- will probably be looked back upon as something akin to Elizabeth Birch's decade at the helm of the Human Rights Campaign.

    Both leaders put their organizations on stronger financial footing. As with Birch's HRC years, the result has been a blossoming -- some woudl say bloating -- of budgets and full-time staff, to the tune of $10 million annually and 54 employees in Foreman's case.

    And, unfortunately, as with Birch, Foreman has precious little beyond institutional strength to show for the work. A press release trumpeting his departure credits him with raising the Task Force's visibility, but that was largely this year in the bruising, divisive fight over transgender protections in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

    It was largely Foreman who organized the "United ENDA" coalition of GLBT groups that announced their opposition to historic gay rights legislation because it did not also include "gender identity" protections; the fact that the votes weren't there was beside the political point.

    The Task Force has always been the more grassroots-focused of the national GBLT rights groups and always more left-wing and "social justice"-minded -- meaning it is a part of the organization's mission to align with other progressive groups on non-GLBT causes. Ther'es nothing wrong -- and much that is right -- with that strategy, except that it's almost invariably accompanied by some admonition that a narrow focus on gay rights is somehow unjust and retrogressive. Foreman did more than his fair share to reinforce, rather than to dispel, that unfortunate and wrong-headed attitude.

    Whether Foreman really smoked his own United ENDA dope, is still trying to purge his guilt for having successfully lobbied for New York's trans-excluded Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA), or whether he just saw a clever wedge strategy to use against HRC, the whole trans-or-bust ENDA push will go down as one of the most counterproductive and divisive tactics ever waged in a movement that has a long history of them.

    Foreman was a talented and charismatic leader for an organization that has long been in need of one.  It's too bad that he deployed his considerable skills to the detriment of the movement as a whole and the interests of 90-plus percent of his own constituents -- but that often is the price of uncompromising identity politics.

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    January 11, 2008

    Joe Solmonese's pain in the neck

    Posted by: Chris

    03_08_hrc_enda_02 A couple of weeks after my partner and I arrived in Buenos Aires, I woke up in our temporary flat with a stiff crick in the neck. For days and even weeks after, I could move my head to the left, but to the right past 2 on the clock dial it was no-go.

    I've come to believe that Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese suffers from the same malady, albeit figuratively and politically. He's easily swept up "feeling the pain" of anyone in the sliver that exists to his political left, all while ignoring the legitimate beef of the greater numbers wallowing in the vast terrain of territory to his right.

    The latest evidence of Joe's pain in the neck problem is a story in the Bay Area Reporter about a meeting Solmonese had last week with a number of San Francisco transgender activists. The headline from the encounter was the decision by local activist Theresa Sparks to return the HRC Equality Award she received three years earlier because she says she can no longer stand to look at it due to the recent hostilities over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. (Sparks is the male-to-female transsexual owner of a sex shop called Good Vibrations and heads up the city's Police Commission. Yes… only in San Francisco…)

    Besides Ms. Sparks' flare for drama, the meeting was notable for the extreme lengths Solmonese went to hearing out the concerns of these angry transgender activists -- who have said more personal and vicious things about him and HRC in a short three-month span than Michael Petrelis, Andrew Sullivan and I together have churned out in the last five years. Yet over all those months of criticism about HRC's lack of transparency and overt partisanship, not just from us but throughout the blogosphere and the gay press, Solmonese never once picked up the phone; never suggested a meeting.

    Still, there he was in San Francisco, liberal-guilt-ridden for the apparent crime of supporting the country's most well-known gay politician and the movement's most basic gay rights legislation -- defending himself to transgender activists angry that he hadn't held ENDA hostage indefinitely over a gender identity provision that was nowhere close to passage.

    Trying to reassure them, Solmonese insisted, "We are very much at the beginning of the ENDA process."

    At the beginning? This may be your first time at the rodeo, Joe, but this legislation was first introduced three decades ago and came one vote short of passing the Senate (in much the same form it is today) waaay back in 1996! The Democrats took control of both houses of Congress (exactly) one year ago now, and have yet to pass a single piece of gay rights legislation to even test the president's veto threat.

    Solmonese knows this, of course, but his role as the Democratic Party's de facto gay outreach chair is to deflect heat from this Congress -- call it the hard partisanship of reduced expectations -- and get out the vote for Democrats this November. Whether he has actually been bought off or simply drank the Kool Aid and really believes the interests of movement and party are lock-step intertwined is beside the point.

    It's clearly time for a change and not just in the White House. It's time for the nation's largest gay rights group to be led by someone who puts the movement first and party affiliation second and who will not abandon 99 percent of his constituents in favor of a very loud 1 percent. And it's long past time for the D.C.-Massachusetts mafia that has long pulled the strings at HRC to relinquish control and let someone else have a try. They've had decades now and have absolutely positively nothing to show for it.

    (Photo via Bay Area Reporter/Rick Gerharter, and kudos to him for telling a story of more than 1,000 words with one well-constructed photograph.)

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    January 05, 2008

    Wishful trannie thinking

    Posted by: Chris

    It turns out that Ted Kennedy's decision to introduce into the Senate the House-passed version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which includes sexual orientation but not gender identity, is "an unintentional plan to sabotage the chances of the Democratic nominee for president."

    Don't worry, Autumn honey, this is one idea I won't be stealing from you.

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    Time for ex-gay hate crime protection?

    Posted by: Chris

    Gregoryquinlan_2 I couldn't resist sharing this priceless argument made to a committee of the New Jersey Assembly against adding "gender identity" to New Jersey's hate crime law, which already covers "sexual orientation" as a protected category:

    Gregory Quinlan of New Jersey Family First identified himself as a former homosexual and said he felt discriminated against because former gays are not included as a protected class under the proposal.

    However, attempts to amend the bill to include people who identify themselves as formerly gay or transgendered failed to gain support in either the Assembly or Senate.

    The legal irony here is that if Quinlan were the victim of a crime based upon his (alleged) former sexual orientation, it most likely would be covered by the existing law. I say "most likely" because ex-gays are rarely (ever?) so victimized. As a result, the actual question has never been put to the test (that I'm aware of). But it would flatly irrational for the law to protect someone if they're gay or straight but not if they're straight but used to be gay.

    Still, if Quinlan were right, would that mean transgender protections should wait until the votes are there to also cover the ex-gays -- not to mention the formerly transgender folks who decide to revert back to their biological gender?

    (Dude with the 'do: Quinlan photo circa 1998 via ProFamilyNetwork.org)

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    Trans rights the New Jersey way

    Posted by: Chris

    Hollandtunnelnj A central article of faith among transgender activists and their "United ENDA" allies has been that passage of gay-only federal civil rights laws would somehow be the death knell for additional legislation down the road to extend those same protections to cover "gender identity." 

    Matt Foreman of the Task Force, who recruited the trans-or-bust ENDA coalition, is fond of using himself as a "what not to do" example. When Foreman headed up the Empire State Pride Agenda, he agreed to go along with cutting trans protections from a landmark statewide bias law, and it passed as a gay-only measure.  Since then, the New York Assembly has not moved on to add "gender identity," and trans activists grumble that politically active gays seem more interested in pressing marriage than righting their transgender wrong.

    So how do Foreman & Co. explain what's happening across the river in New Jersey? Trans activists like to point out that the New Jersey legislature passed workplace protections for gay and trans folks both, somehow convincing themselves that what worked in that fairly blue state would also work on Capitol Hill.

    That nifty narrative has now been derailed by legislative action on the state's hate crime law, which covers sexual orientation and not gender identity -- until now. This week, lo and behold, the New Jersey Senate unanimously backed a new bill that would add in "gender identity," and the House is expected to do likewise. Didn't they get the memo that incremental progress just isn't kosher anymore?

    In fact, New York, New Jersey and Capitol Hill are all examples of why it makes sense to pass the broadest possible legislation when the votes are there and accept incremental progress when they're not. It took years for New York to adopt SONDA -- yes, the S.O. stand for "Sexual Orientation" -- so it's no surprise that trans rights didn't miraculously work their way through the political labyrinth that is Albany.

    There is every reason to believe that with SONDA and a gay-only ENDA on the books, transgender protections would be enacted when the votes are there. The difference, of course, is that gay, lesbian and bisexual folks -- who exponentially outnumber our trans brothers and sisters -- would at least be protected in the interim.

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    January 04, 2008

    Learning from the mistakes of 2007

    Posted by: Chris

    Ted_kennedy More good news for the early days of 2008:

    Ted Kennedy says he will be introducing a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the Senate that includes "sexual orientation" and not "gender identity" and plans for a vote soon. A report by Lou Chibbaro in today's Washington Blade explains why:

    Until this week, Kennedy’s office had not stated publicly where Kennedy stood on the demands by many gay and transgender organizations that Congress should withhold any action on ENDA unless it includes protection for transgender persons.

    “Although Sen. Kennedy strongly supports protections against job discrimination for transgender workers, inaction won’t advance justice for anyone, and will just make it harder to pass any version of ENDA in 2009,” said Kennedy spokesperson Melissa Wagoner.

    “We will most likely work to move the House-passed bill, rather than introducing a separate Senate bill,” Wagoner told the Blade by e-mail. “Because the same legislation must pass both the House and Senate, now that the House has acted, the only realistic way to get a bill to the president’s desk this Congress is to have the Senate pass the House bill.”

    There's no joy to be had in the decision to leave out "gender identity" from the bill, but it is the right decision to bypass the incredibly divisive battle over ENDA in the House. Fellow Bay Stater Barney Frank originally introduced ENDA in the House with gender identity included and was excoriated by transgender activists when he reintroduced it as a gay-only measure because the votes weren't there for trans protections, Who can blame Kennedy for avoiding that kind of backdraft? Trans activists and their "United ENDA" allies have only themselves to blame.

    Expect similar recriminations of Kennedy despite the fact that he, like Barney, successfully pushed through the first-ever transgender rights bill -- the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act -- though the strategy of attaching it to a controversial Defense Department bill proved flawed.

    Not surprisingly, Chibbaro reports that United ENDA's coalition leader, Matt Foreman of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, is actually opposed to any action on ENDA until 2009, when he imagines the Congress will be ready to enact protections for transsexual and cross-dressing workers. An internal Human Rights Campaign memo leaked last month by trans activists similarly anticipated nothing until '09.

    Fortunately (in this case), gay and trans rights are largely ineffective on Capitol Hil -- even with our allies -- and Kennedy's spokesman told the Blade that passage in 2008, even in an election year, is doable:

    Asked if Kennedy thought ENDA could pass the Senate in an election year, Wagoner said, “Yes, if enough Republicans support the bill to give us a realistic chance of breaking a filibuster.” …

    Jim Manley, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said this week that Reid strongly supports ENDA and favors holding a Senate vote on the measure in 2008. Manley said Reid would defer to Kennedy on the “strategy and timing” of such a vote.

    Democrats took back the Congress in 2006 promising to enact basic gay rights legislation. To date, they haven't succeeded in doing so, despite bipartisan support on both ENDA and hate crimes. Today's news lends hope that they might just succeed after all.

    (Photo via Washington Blade by Lauren Victoria Burke/ABC News/AP)

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    December 21, 2007

    GNW Pick: Only in San Francisco…

    Posted by: Chris

    Once in a while you come across a story from the Bay Area that has a certain twist that makes you say, "Only in San Francisco…" In just the last two days, I came across two. Both are serious, mind you, crime stories actually. But they take that left turn at Albuquerque and never look back…

    • "Gay son's death in trans woman's attack angers mom": QUICK LOOK: The mother of a gay man who died after a fight in the Castro last year is blasting a decision by the San Francisco District Attorney's office this week not to refile manslaughter ... (MORE)

    03_07_adams_511 The first comes from the Bay Area Reporter, San Fran's venerable gay newspaper, about the district attorney's decision not to seek a retrial of Kyle Adams in the death of Chad Ferreira, a gay man, in a street fight in the Castro. Adams was found guilty of felony assault but the jury deadlocked on more serious counts.

    According to the prosecution, Ferreira confronted Adams for punching Ferreira's friend. After the two came to blows, Ferreira was knocked to the ground and hit his head on the curb. Adams subsequently kicked Ferreira in the head, but the jury couldn't agree on whether it was the fall or the kick that actually killed Ferreira. All terribly sad and tragic.

    The "San Francisco twist"? It's not even the fact that Adams proclaimed after the trial that he is actually a she, as in a transgender male. It's that the victim's mother and the jury foreman agree that the gender switch was actually a ploy for sympathy in winning a lighter sentence.

    "It's awfully convenient," the foreman said. Adams was indignant in response:

    Adams told the B.A.R. that she had identified as a transgender woman before her fight with Ferreira. But she said on the night of the incident with Ferreira, she was dressing as an effeminate flamboyant man and not as a woman. Adams says she considers herself to be a pre-operative transgender woman and is taking hormones. She learned she will be able to continue to receive hormones in state prison. Unless her sentence is overturned on parole, Adams will have to serve three years in state prison before being eligible for parole.

    Sounds like a heavier sentence came with its own set of benefits.

    • "S.F. man arrested for stalking over post-sex trans secret": QUICK LOOK: A 25-year-old California man allegedly shocked to learn that he was engaged in a sexual act with a transgender woman was sentenced yesterday to four months jail for engaging in a month-long terror... (MORE)

    The second story involves a young man angry after learning he had engaged in a sex act with a male-to-female transgender woman. Police say Robert Delavictoria "posted threatening anti-gay screeds on the front door of the couple's San Bruno home and plastered much of their apartment complex with homophobic graffiti." Some of that graffiti alleged the transgender woman was HIV-positive, which the prosecution said was untrue.

    Delavictoria was initially charged with six felonies, including two hate crime counts, but eventually pled no contest to one felony count of stalking with a hate crime allegation.

    The San Francisco twist? The victim actually appeared in court to ask for lenience in sentencing, arguing Delavictoria was in need of counseling and sensitivity training more than punishment. There are several levels of irony here, including that the whole point of hate crime allegations is to increase punishment, not decrease it.

    So rather than eight months in jail, Delavictoria got half that, along with mandatory counseling from Community United Against Violence, "a multicultural organization working to end violence against and within our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQQ) communities." So much for arguing that hate crime laws aren't intended as a form of thought control, if those convicted are forced to undergo re-education, however well-intentional, from our own advocacy groups.

    The final irony, at least for me, is trying to imagine what Delavictoria will be taught in his sessions. There's no question, of course, that his vandalism, mischief and stalking were completely unjustified under the circumstances, but this isn't a course in anger management.

    Will he be taught that it's perfectly OK socially for a transgender woman to not reveal her "status" -- even with her own sex partners? I can think of perfectly reasonably arguments both ways on that one, and I would imagine that 99.9% of us would want our sex partners to volunteer that type of information.

    Not doing so certainly doesn't justify vandalism, stalking or violence, but it's also not particularly good manners, and in fact quite inconsiderate and (dare I say it?) deceitful. Will Delavictoria's re-education stay neutral on that point or insist otherwise?

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    December 14, 2007

    Twinkdom is safe at least for now

    Posted by: Chris

    Image003 I am happy to report that gay twinkdom is safe and sound, as Adam Dahl came out victorious in Metroweekly's annual Coverboy of the Year contest.  You may recall that the D.C. gay weekly's annual vote-fest, which usually pits a dozen twinks up against the occasional musclebear or leather boy, this year featured something else entirely. Amidst all the well-defined 20-somethings was "Alexander O.," a female-to-male transgender man who waxed on about his girlfriend and how much he loved "The L Word."

    Adamdahl Some transgender activists saw Alexander's candidacy as a chance to score some socio-political points and started drumming up support for him, even reportedly introducing him at a trans rights banquet. So I did my part, letting folks know that it was a bit odd to see a FTM trans man who identifies with lesbian culture and has a girlfriend as a contestant in a gay Coverboy contest. The predictable hilarity ensued, though if you take the time to weed through the usual vitriol, there is some interesting and provocative debate among the comments.

    Anyway, hats off to my ex-roomie and all around super guy Adam Dahl (who unveiled his full name on the cover of this week's issue). It couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Kudos also to Jeff Code for his amazing (as always) photos. (Pout for the camera, Adam baby, pout!)

    Adam, I expect a raspberry margarita with my name on it at the Diner upon my return to Washington in January!


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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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    December 08, 2007

    GNW 5: Memphis trannie mayhem

    Posted by: Chris

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall Here are the Top Five most popular stories over the last 24 hours on Gay News Watch, along with an Editor's Pick from me at the end:

    1. Lexus Toyota threatens lawsuit over gay porn star Lexus: QUICK LOOK: What does Toyota have to do with gay porn? A lot, apparently. The U.S. branch of the Japanese automaker recently sent a communiqué to Daniel Grangier, president and CEO... (MORE)
    2. Jeffreyneilson GOP ex-aide admits sex with teen he met on gay site: QUICK LOOK: Jeffrey Ray Nielsen — the well-connected Orange County conservative activist who claimed the liberal media was out to get him by publishing a series of exposés on his... (MORE)
    3. Jodiefosteraward Foster almost comes out accepting women's award: QUICK LOOK: Jodie Foster gave a moving and surprisingly candid speech when she received the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award at the 16th annual Women in Entertainment Breakfast this... (MORE)
    4. Lulabrazil Brazil's president announces first gay rights confab: QUICK LOOK: Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva announced last week that he will convene the first-ever national LGBT conference in South America's largest country. The... (MORE)
    5. Cloutier1 After arrest, gay Calif. mayor-elect loses in recount: QUICK LOOK: The new mayor of Vallejo, Calif., is finished after less than 48 hours on the job. Two days after Gary Cloutier was sworn in as the city's chief, a recount of ballots...


    • Dacoriangreer Cross dressers attack McDonald's workers in Memphis: QUICK LOOK: Three men who were dressed as women and attacked a Memphis McDonalds worker have been charged with assault. Dacorian Greer, 23, Danny Mitchell, 26, and Lynn Gillespie,... (MORE)

    Not only is the story a bit bizarre, but it was irresistible for me because it comes from my hometown and was first reported by the TV station where my brother has worked for some 20 years. He's no longer on the editorial side of things, but I had to check out WMC's original report because local activists have been critical of the way the story has been covered.

    Here are the highlights, with the language I'm guessing would be objectionable in my italics:

    Memphis Police continue to search for search three cross-dressing crooks who started a fight at the McDonalds on South Mendenhall Sunday night. It was definitely not business as usual at a local McDonald's Sunday night as a carful of angry transvestites pulled up to Martez Brisco's drive-thru window.

    "Men trying to look like women, drag queens, transvestites is what they were," Brisco said. There was an argument at the window and that's when things started to get a little strange.

    "They come to the window, tap, tap, tap. I'm still ignoring them. I guess that just pissed them off worser," Brisco said.

    Three men, dressed as women, jumped out of the car, ran into the restaurant armed with a tire iron, and started swinging at employees, but not before they disrobed, kicking off their stiletto boots, hoop earrings, and jackets. …

    Albert Bolton had bandaids covering scratches where one of the drag queens mauled him with his fingernails.

    "I was fightin with 'em, trying to protect him, and he scratched me," Bolton said.

    As the fight carried on, the manager grabbed a pot of hot french fry grease and launched it at the men. One of the men retaliated, smacking the manager in the head with a wet floor sign sending him away in an ambulance.

    Before they drove off, the cross dressers smashed in the drive-thru window.

    Police are working on a more detailed description of the trio. Authorities said they are looking for a black car and three men dressed as women.

    1128071014431 It's a colorful story, reported colorfully. The primary objection, I'm guessing, would be to the description of the trio as "men dressed as women" rather than as "transgender women."

    I wouldn't quarrel with the way WMC did it, considering we don't know nearly enough about these three to know whether they were, in fact, drag queens, cross-dressers, trasvestites or transsexuals. Yes, "transgender" is an umbrella term for all of these things, but the more specific terms aren't offensive. I know that "men dressed as women" pushes buttons for trans folks, but it's accurate at least for drag queens and cross-dressers.

    Then again, even after reporting on transgender issues for more than a decade I'm repeatedly told I need "Transgender 101" training -- which is activist code for buying into their rhetoric and usually their political agenda.

    I believe that we should leave it up to people to decide what it is we call them, so long as the terms they use are defined adequately to remain accurate and not skew reality.  WMC covered this bizarre fast-food fight in ways an LGBT publication would not -- although it's notable that Out & About, the local GLBT newspaper, borrowed almost the entire WMC story.  Still, all in all, it seemed fine to me.

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall For a complete news summary, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/transgender

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    December 06, 2007

    Matthew Shepard Act RIP?

    Posted by: Chris

    Nyrally_2 Is the Matthew Shepard Act dead?

    Senate Democratic leaders Harry Reid and Edward Kennedy acquiesced this morning to demands by Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee to remove the Matthew Shepard Act from the Defense Department funding bill, the Washington Blade and 365gay.com are reporting. That deeply disappointing decision comes several weeks after press accounts first surfaced from Capitol Hill that the hate crime measure was caught in a wedge in the House between conservatives who opposed the hate crime add-on and liberals who opposed Iraq war funding.

    In an (unfortunately typical) unbylined story that cites no sources, 365gay.com reports: "In a private meeting Wednesday night, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and House Democratic Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., that if the Senate continued to insist on the hate crimes provision the defense legislation would fail." (Usually when Logo's 365gay engages in such irresponsible (and illegal) journalism, it means they've stolen the story outright from another media source, probably in this case Congressional Quarterly, which restricts most of its web content to subscribers. Who knows, in this case. As it turns out, 365gay stole the info from AP, which 365gay at least pays for but did not appropriately credit.)

    That AP report quotes an unidentified House as saying the hate crime inclusive DOD bill was "40 votes short, not four or six."

    Regardless, the saga surrounding the Matthew Shepard Act is most striking in contrast to what happened with the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The parallels are obvious: a House whip count showed the votes weren't there for transgender protections in ENDA, so they were stripped and the compromise bill passed the House. It appears the same fate befell the Shepard Act as part of the DOD reauthorization, although it's unclear whether the inclusion of "gender identity" helped tank the hate crime bill, too.

    Even if the Shepard Act would have siphoned off too many votes from the DOD bill as a gay-only measure, the Democrats don't get a bye on this one. The tactic of adding the hate crime bill to the Defense Department bill was suspect from the beginning, but it was Kennedy and Reid who decided to do so, knowing the Iraq war already made that legislation a white-hot button. Granted, they did so because President Bush threatened to veto a stand-alone Shepard Act, but having chosen that path the onus was on Congressional Democrats to see the measure through to passage.

    This is the rub on the Democratic Party and gay rights on the federal level. Despite overwhelming support for hate crimes and workplace protections for years now, the Democrats have not made either measure a sufficiently high priority to get the job done, even when they controlled one or both houses of Congress and the White House. A gay-inclusive hate crime bill has passed the House and Senate several times before, only to die because Republicans killed it in conference, Now that the Democrats are in charge, and we get the same result.

    Also on the hook are Matt Foreman, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the so-called "United ENDA" organizations. These groups managed to mount a massive lobbying push after Barney Frank announced that trans protections were being pulled from ENDA so that it could pass the House. But despite weeks of advance notice, they stayed almost entirely silent when the fate of the Shepard Act -- which is trans-inclusive -- hung in the balance.

    There's no excuse for that, and it makes that earlier ENDA fight look less and less like one over principle and more and more like Beltway posturing by the Task Force to elbow the Human Rights Campaign out of favor with grassroots GLBT groups. HRC isn't off the hook either, having waited until after the Thanksgiving holiday, losing two critical lobbying weeks, to issue its first action alert signaling the hate crimes bill was in jeopardy. During the ENDA fight, HRC also mounted a no-holds-barred lobbying effort for the trans provision, but inexplicably we saw nothing like that for the Shepard Act.

    Thankfully, the Blade is also reporting that Barney Frank, for one, hasn't given up the fight on hate crimes and is calling on the Senate to pass the Shepard Act again as a stand-alone measure by the end of February. Considering the hate crime bill got 60 votes in the Senate even as a controversial add-on to the DOD bill, that should be an easy sell. So should be finding a less controversial bill to tack the Shepard Act on as an amendment, shielding it from a possible Bush veto.

    But as always, we wait for Congressional Democrats (and our Washington, D.C. lobbying groups) to actually produce results.

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall For a complete news summary, click or bookmark:

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    December 05, 2007

    'United' for the Matthew Shepard Act?

    Posted by: Chris

    Lccr_letter The Human Rights Campaign has issued another action alert warning supporters that the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, passed by the House as a stand-alone bill and by the Senate as part of the Defense Department reauthorization, remains in jeopardy. According to the HRC alert, House Democratic leaders may decide as early as Wednesday whether to keep the hate crime amendment.

    As I posted several weeks ago, the hate crime add-on is caught in a political wedge between conservative House Republicans who oppose its inclusion in the defense bill and liberal House Democrats who oppose the defense bill because of unrelated provisions on the Iraq war. Moderate Democrats, on the other hand, are doing what moderate Democrats all too often do, declaring a "moral victory" in passing the hate crime bill while suggesting it be jettisoned to save the bigger legislation.

    It took two weeks, but HRC finally alerted its members late last week that the bill was in jeopardy. Now Congressional Quarterly is reporting that informal House-Senate conferees have resolved all outstanding issues relating to the huge defense bill except the hate crimes amendment. CQ reports:

    House Democratic leaders plan to decide in the next day or two whether to include the provision, aides said. It is considered vital by many in the Democratic constituency who have been lobbying House leaders to include it in the final defense bill.

    But the provision could jeopardize the whole bill. In the House, liberals upset over war spending could join forces against the bill with conservatives concerned about the hate crimes language.

    This is the time when the rubber meets the road, and all that pro-gay rhetoric from Democratic Party leaders needs to be backed by action. It was Democrats -- Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts among others -- who decided to peg the Shepard Act to the DOD bill, primarily to discourage a threatened veto by President Bush. But having committed to that strategy, now is not the time to abandon it.

    Curiously silent in the weeks leading up to this moment are Matt Foreman, the Task Force and their "United ENDA" crowd who launched a website, lobbying effort to encourage Democrats to bail on ENDA if transgender protections were removed. It is beyond curious that they have been so silent when a bill that has already passed both houses and does include transgender protections hangs in the balance.

    HRC did release a missive on the letterhead of the Leaderschip Conference on Civil Rights -- the same group that along with HRC came out in favor of Barney Frank's compromise ENDA -- that calls on ranking Democrats and Republicans on the House and Senate Armed Services Committtees not to bail on the Shepard Act. And the Task Force and a number of other "United ENDA" groups are listed as signatories.

    But signing a letter is not real lobbying and is nothing compared to the full blitz they put into effect on ENDA.  The Task Force website, remarkably, still devotes one of its top three "alert" positions to the ENDA battle -- one of the other two is on the pressing needs of LGBT Asian-Pacific Islanders -- and there's nothing on the entire site I could find about the hate crime bill.

    Funny how the Task Force could devote so much energy to an ENDA battle that coincidentally cemented its relationships with the grassroots at the expense of rival HRC and now cannot muster only the energy to sign on to a letter for the Shepard Act.

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    December 01, 2007

    Twink-gate update

    Posted by: Chris

    Adam_dUPDATE: At the end of the post.

    A little birdy tells me that Metroweekly has scheduled photo shoots with the top three finalists in its Coverboy of the Year contest, though it isn't telling the three which of them won the tally. Still, word is that my old roomie Adam is in the Top 3, and a certain tranny boi who loves "The L Word" and dates women is not.

    It also seems that in the last 24 hours, certain transgender list-serves have caught wind of my original post about Alexander and are posting vitriolic comments accusing me and many of you of all sorts of "transphobia."

    A lot of the reaction is to the suggestion that I (or you) called Alexander a lesbian disguising her/himself as a "tranny boi." That's not something I wrote or believe.  What I was trying to argue is that Alexander's bio had much more in common culturally with lesbians than with gay men. And since Alexander likes women and is dating a girl, it was passing strange to include him in a competition for gay boys.

    Alexander_o_blog I did include a reference to a column by lesbian journalist Jennifer Vanasco, who has written about how it depresses her and some other lesbian feminists that at least some butch lesbians feel the need to identify as transgender rather than stretch the definition of "woman" to include a more masculine identity. Whether that's true or not I would leave to others better informed to decide. I emailed privately with Jennifer about my post and she backed away some from the views in her column.

    Regardless, my more basic point was cultural about a "gay male" identity. A number of the commenters to the original post are female-to-male transgender folks who insisted they are gay men because they are men attracted to men. That may well be. I wasn't writing about them and, frankly, if Alexander liked boys and preferred "Six Feet Under" or "Ugly Betty" more than "The L Word" -- and wanted to take an Atlantis cruise rather than Olyvia -- I would be much more comfortable with his inclusion in the contest.


    A reader responded to this post by pointing to some of my own words in the originalTwink-gate post that led some to believe I was calling Alexander a lesbian. In particular, I wrote this:

    • The editors of Metroweekly — which began years ago as Michael's Weekly, a typical gay bar rag and now identifies as "Washington D.C.'s GLBT News Magazine" — never come right out and explain how a lesbian became a "Coverboy," but we find a clue in Alexander's willingness to talk about transgender issues.
    • Is a butch lesbian who identifies as a tranny boi no different than a gay twink, despite his passion for "The L Word" and Angelina Jolie? If Alexander wins Metroweekly's Coverboy of the Year, will he "raise awareness" of transgender issues, or just raise a few hackles about how political correctness can rob the fun out of even the silliest of beauty contests.

    Can't argue with a direct quote. It appears I'm guilty as charged. Since I know I never had it my head that Alexander is female, much less a female, then I can only assume I was being purposefully provocative. My choice of words was unfortunate because it's not what I actually think.

    (That first sentence is especially a mess; it led one reader to think I was calling MW a bar rag, understandable given my somewhat tortured construction. I actually meant it used to be a bar rag. It transformed years ago into one of the nation's better gay entertainment weeklies.)

    I do think there is something to the argument that Jennifer Vanasco made about how there is a slippery slope between butch lesbian and FTM tranny boi, but in the grand scheme of things, I'm a fish out of water arguing the point too strongly. As someone comfortable in his own gender, I can only take others' word for it on how it feels to be trapped in the wrong anatomical one.

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    Once more into the ENDA breach

    Posted by: Chris

    Hrcdivision That Washington Blade story quoting a polling expert criticizing the wording of the Human Rights Campaign poll on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act has drawn the expected chorus of howls from the "trans or bust" crowd. As a reminder the survey asked GLBT respondents to pick which of three opinions about ENDA most closely reflected their own:

    • 68 percent said national GLBT groups should support ENDA even though it does not include a provision for transgender workers "because it helps gay, lesbian and bisexual workers and is a step toward transgender employment rights";
    • 16 percent said national GLBT groups should oppose ENDA "because it excludes transgender people";
    • 13 percent wanted groups to take a neutral stance "because while it helps gay, lesbian and bisexual workers, it also excludes transgender people";
    • 3 percent didn't answer the question.

    John Statura, who directs the Purdue University Social Research Institute, told the Blade that the survey is "playing games" by asking respondents to evaluate the "because" rather than ENDA itself.

    In response, my old friend transgender activist Pauline Park over at Logo's Visible Voice leapt on the criticism to question the legitimacy of the survey. Park also took issue with the portion of the majority answer that says the gay-only ENDA is "a step toward transgender employment rights."

    Mike Signorile, another vocal "trans or bust" supporter, claimed the Blade story proved HRC had been "skewing polls to back up [its] bad decisions and dishonest dealings."

    That particular claims defies logic, not an usual feature of a Signorile argument, considering HRC was itself pushing the "trans or bust" strategy back in early October, the time frame of the survey in question. If anything, HRC buried the results of a survey it didn't like until the release suited the organization's reversal in viewpoint. Still slimy, to be sure, but it doesn't undermine as much the findings of the survey itself.

    As to Statura's criticism, in one sense he seems to misunderstand the purpose of the poll, which was not to choose between bills so much as choose between strategies, which means the "because" statements are exactly what needed to be analyzed. Even more striking, however, was this criticism:

    “I don’t know why they didn’t go with a straightforward, ‘Here’s the act. Should we support it, should we oppose it, or should we take a neutral stance’” he said.

    But the HRC survey did do exactly that. The survey's other question, which has gotten much less attention, asks:

    This proposal would make it illegal to fire gay, lesbian, or bisexual workers because of their sexual orientation. This proposal does NOT include people who are transgender. Would you favor or oppose this proposal?
    Favor: 75% (strongly favor: 59%)
    Oppose: 23% (strongly oppose: 15%)

    So worded the way Statura wanted, the results were even more strongly in favor of Barney Frank's compromise, gay-only ENDA -- even though the question reminded respondents that transgender workers would not be protected. Funny how the Blade story, Park and Signorile all neglected any mention of that particular result.

    The other survey "expert" quoted in the Blade story is Christopher Barron, a Washington political consultant and former Log Cabin Republicans political director. I'm not sure why Blade reporter Josh Lynsen would have selected Barron, given the long-time animus between HRC and Log Cabin, and since the story doesn't even indicate whether Barron's consulting work might ally him with any of the GOP business interests who oppose ENDA.

    Regardless, Barron and Statura both raised nonspecific concerns about the methodology behind the survey as well, but without details it's difficult to know what these additional concerns were. A two-page memo from Knowledge Networks, which conducted the survey, was provided to Barron and Statura but doesn't provide much demographic data beyond gender (51-49 female) and that 1% was male-to-female transgender.

    The memo did not break down the sexual orientation of the respondents, which could be a key point that does question the credibility of the survey. As we know, Knowledge Networks also provided the pool of GLB respondents for the Hunter College poll this week that purported to show Hillary Clinton enjoying almost two-thirds support.

    The two big problems with that survey was its gender breakdown -- like the ENDA survey, 51-49 female -- and sexual orientation breakdown -- 49 percent bisexual. A number of us who've seen demographic breakdowns on "the GLBT community" for years questioned any survey that is split 51-49 female and 49-51 bisexual. Most demographic indicators show that those self-identifying as part of the GLBT community are overwhelmingly male -- 65 to 70 percent -- and very few are bisexual.

    The Blade story doesn't indicate whether Statura is gay or has any familiarity with the gay community, so it's unclear whether he would even think to raise questions about the demographic breakdown of the poll.

    Unfortunately, all of these questions, raised by whichever camp, bring to mind how treacherous it is for anyone to say they know what "the GLBT community" thinks about any particular issue, especially one as divisive as the ENDA debate. But just so we're clear, it was the United ENDA crowd -- led by Matt Foreman and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force -- that made the false and misleading claim to "represent" GLBT Americans on this issue. Not the other way around.

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    November 30, 2007

    Two weeks later, HRC wakes up

    Posted by: Chris

    Bnnr_actionalert Way back on Nov. 16, I posted about media reports that the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act was in serious jeopardy, even though it had passed both the House and the Senate. The problem then, and now, was that Senate Democrats attached the hate crimes measure to the Defense Department reauthorization, setting up a classic political squeeze.  Now House conservatives are objecting to the hate crimes addition and House liberals are objecting to aspects of the DOD bill dealing with the Iraq war.

    In classic Clintonian Democrat fashion, Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) pressed his colleagues to jettison the hate crime add-on, saying that to do so "does no harm to the principle involved in the hate crimes bill." Funny, even as it "does no harm" to the principle of the hate crime bill, it kills for this session the bill itself.

    I wrote in response, way back on Nov. 16:

    What's truly striking about this legislative machination is not the willingness of some Democrats to once again ignore promises to pass even basic gay-friendly legislation. We've come to expect that after 8 years of Bill Clinton and 15 years of off-again, on-again Democratic Congressional leadership that has yet to enact anything.

    No, what's truly striking is the dead silence of all those voices that screamed so loudly at the prospect that "gender identity" would be jettisoned from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act under not-so-different circumstances.  All that lobbying mobilization, all the hand-wringing, all the flurry of press releases and "United ENDA" coalition building. Now? Nada. Zippo. Nothing from the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the rest of the usual suspects.

    Finally, this week, two weeks after the media reports about Democratic machinations that threatened the hate crimes bill -- which is trans-inclusive by the way -- the Human Rights Campaign finally put aside its turkey leftovers long enough to alert is members.

    The Task Force, which you'll recall was the loudest voice of division over ENDA, has remained completely silent about the hate crime measure -- even when it issued a press release about the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which ironically recounts the victims of hate crimes based on gender identity.

    The National Center for Transgender Equality, the leading trans rights group, has also been struck dumb by the threat to the Shepard Act.  There's an alert about an archaic regulatory action by the Department of Homeland Security, but nothing on hate crimes. The NTCE issued seven -- count em -- press releases during the ENDA debate and yet nothing about this new threat to the hate crimes bill.  Some allies.

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall For complete news coverage, click or bookmark: www.gaynewswatch.com/hatecrimes

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    November 29, 2007

    Does Hillary lead among 'real gays'?

    Posted by: Chris

    Hillary_and_gays A new survey released today claims that almost two-thirds of likely GLB voters in the Democratic presidential primary support frontrunner Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama trails with 22 percent and John Edwards with 7 percent. I've posted a much more thorough analysis of the poll on Gay News Watch, but here are a few nuggets:

    • Obama and Edwards register about the same support among gays in the poll as they do with Democrats generally, meaning Hillary's higher GLB numbers represent fewer undecideds among gay voters, who the survey found are much more politically involved.
    • Even as the only candidate backing gay marriage, Dennis Kucinich managed just 5 percent support in the survey.
    • Rudy Giuliani was the top candidate for half of GLB Republicans in the poll, with John McCain managing just 23 percent, Mitt Romney at 11 percent and Fred Thompson at 10 percent. Not surprising results considering Giuliani is the frontrunner generally and his gay rights record and positions are markedly better than the others.

    Even more interesting than the results of the survey, however, are questions about its methodology. The poll was conducted by academics at Hunter College in New York, but for their sample of voters they relied upon a pool provided by Knowledge Networks, the same group that provided the sample for the Human Rights Campaign's controversial survey showing some 70 percent support for Barney Frank's gay-only, compromise ENDA.

    HRC did a poor job of providing information about that earlier survey, and there are some hints about why in this new one -- which was paid for by an HRC grant but conducted by the Hunter College professionals. First and foremost is the demographic information on the Knowledge Networks sample group. According to Hunter College, the GLB respondents were 51 to 49 percent female to male, and 49 percent bisexual.

    I noted in my post about the earlier HRC poll that a 50-50 male-female breakdown about GLB Americans probably grossly overstates the percentage of GLB Americans who are lesbians.  Every indicator I've ever seen, from readership of GLBT publications to participation in GLBT events, has shown 60 to 70 percent (or more) of "us" are men.

    Then there is the 49 percent of the Knowledge Networks pool that is bisexual. Again that is grossly overstated, from information I've seen over the years about the GLBT demographic breakdown.

    Andrew Sullivan sees something sinister in those statistics:

    So the poll is designed to reflect a pre-ordained political "community", rigged for PC purposes to inflate the numbers of bisexuals and lesbians. No big surprise which Democratic candidate won in a landslide: the candidate HRC has been supporting from the start.

    I wouldn't go so far, at least not without additional evidence. But I do see how Knowledge Networks could back themselves into those numbers. Knowledge Networks "recruits its nationally representative sample of respondents by telephone and administers surveys to them via the Internet." So if they simply cull from the general pool of respondents those who self-identified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, then the more fluid nature of female sexuality might result in high numbers of both females and bisexuals.

    The question, then, is whether we consider female bisexuals who may well be heterosexually married and not self-identify as part of our happy "LGBT community" to nonetheless "count" as GLB voters, etc. It's a question that brings to mind the earlier debate about transgender issues, and whether heterosexual cross-dressers are part of the "LGBT community."

    My own take is that the information is useful, whether or not we consider it an indication of how "the gay community" feels about an issue, whether it's ENDA or the presidential race. The most important thing is to clearly identify just who the "we" we're talking about is, so that their opinions can be put into proper perspective.

    If my suspicions about the Knowledge Networks system are correct -- and hopefully the LGBT press will delve further into the issue, both as a political story and just to get a better sense of who it is we are -- then we still don't have a good idea about the presidential proclivities of "the GLBT community," at least in the way that most of us mean when we use that (loaded) term.

    As a side note, the Blade has published an interesting report airing criticism about the methodology of HRC's survey on ENDA, though it focuses more on the wording of the questions than on the demographics. Curiously, when the Hunter College folks asked the Knowledge Networks gay pool about ENDA, they got contrary results. Only 37 percent agreed that, "It was right to remove the protections for transgender people from this bill in order for it to pass this year," while 61 percent said, "It was wrong to remove the protections for transgendered people even if this makes it easier for the bill to pass this year." 

    Of course that wording is just as treacherous, focused on "removing protections" for trans workers rather than ensuring protections for GLB workers, and grossly understating the political reality by saying that removing gender identity makes it "easier."

    The survey also reminded us how woefully uninformed most GLB folks are, since fully 40 percent thought GLB workers were already protected from discrimination under federal law.

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    GNW 5: Foot-shooting edition

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: At the end of the post.

    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall Here are the Top Five most popular stories over the last 24 hours on Gay News Watch, along with an Editor's Pick from me at the end:

    1. Sheilakuehl Churches boycott schools over new Calif. gay bias law: QUICK LOOK: At least two churches are encouraging parents to keep their children home from school today and tomorrow in objection to new California antidiscrimination laws that protesters... (MORE)
    2. Silencedeath Silence on HIV linked to infection rise in gay, bi men: QUICK LOOK: An HIV/AIDS epidemic is re-emerging in the United States among homosexual and bisexual men who are no longer frightened about the deadly disease and are returning to... (MORE)
    3. Godaddygirl Go Daddy parody of Larry Craig axed for Super Bowl: QUICK LOOK: Three months after Go Daddy Group Inc. said it might pass on advertising in the 2008 Super Bowl, the Scottsdale domain-name registrar notorious for its racy ads said... (MORE)
    4. Frenchdragqueen French drag queen arrested in string of 18 deaths: QUICK LOOK: A 68-year-old man has been arrested by French police on suspicion of murdering 18 people, most of them homosexuals, between 1980 and 2002, officials say. The suspect,... (MORE)
    5. Moroccanbride Bride arrested after Moroccan gay wedding protests: QUICK LOOK: A wedding for a well-known gay man in Morocco ended with the colorful 'bride' behind bars, along with five other wedding guests, and sparked riots and calls for authorities... (MORE)


    • Donnarose2 Last two transgender members quit HRC council: QUICK LOOK: Two transgender members of the Human Rights Campaign quit yesterday, saying the group's support of an employment nondiscrimination bill that excluded transgender workers... (MORE)

    It's difficult to decide which form of activism is more self-defeating, the religious extremists who are keeping their children away from school to protect them from a gay rights law that hasn't even gone into effect yet. Or, on the other hand, transgender activists like Donna Rose resigning from the Human Rights Campaign because the organization was willing to go only 99 yards and not the full 100 in support of trans inclusion in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

    Solmonese It appears the anticipated showdown between Rose and HRC Prez Joe Solmonese at the recent Dallas Black-Tie Dinner never materialized. A report about the event in the Dallas Voice only mentions that Solmonese received a "thunderous" ovation when passage of ENDA and hate crimes came up. Rose claims in her resignation letter from the HRC Business Council that she failed to receive any response for a meeting with Solmonese after the whole trans-ENDA debacle.

    I'm not surprised. I know personally how prickly Solmonese can be toward his critics; he's refused to meet with me or even acknowledge my "hello" at the gym or at restaurants since I first criticized him on the editorial page of the Washington Blade.

    Still, except for its dramatic flair, Rose's resignation does her own cause no service, disengaging from the very group she wishes to lobby.


    Paul Schindler is is reporting today in Gay City News that Solmonese's refusal to meet with Rose was the "last straw" in her decision to quit the HRC Business Council. Reading the blow by blow, it's difficult to decide who's the bigger drama queen:

    Brad Luna, an HRC spokesman, took exception to Rose and Green's characterization of Solmonese's silence, noting that the group was in frequent back and forth communication with them about the possibility of a meeting. Rose acknowledged that she had been in email touch with HRC staff, but insisted that Solmonese made clear by not responding personally that he was not interested in a meeting.

    Luna noted that Rose did not seek to talk to Solmonese when both were in Dallas this month for an HRC dinner, to which Rose responded, "I don't think Joe wants to talk to me. I've heard Joe has taken exception to some of my comments, which I can understand. But as leader of a group like HRC, you have to be able to talk to people."

    Just when it seems HRC and Solmonese could not mismanage the HRC-transgender issue any worse, they somehow manage. Luna, the HRC spokesperson, only barely escaped his own meltdown with the LGBT press, after ignoring for weeks requests from a number of journalists for more information on that HRC ENDA poll.

    You have to ask whether the folks at HRC's fancy national headquarters are so bunkered down that they don't care about all those they're alienating, or whether simple arrogance is at work. Either way, it's way past time for some major league fence-mending.

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    November 23, 2007

    An accidental Coverboy activist

    Posted by: Chris

    I wanted to share a bit of reaction to my post earlier this week about the "Coverboy of the Year" contest put on annually by Metroweekly, the D.C. gay entertainment magazine. The post was about whether it was kosher to include a female-to-male "tranny boi" (my words, not his) who loves "The L Word" and has a girlfriend in a contest for gay boys.

    I speculated in the comments to the post that the editors may have purposefully downplayed that something special about "Alexander O." -- even now they stop just short of identifying him as transgender -- so as not to arouse a concerted reaction from, shall we say, twink traditionalists.

    Now comes word from MW that in fact they weren't even aware of Alexander's uniqueness until they were well into his photo shoot for his original spread back in March for the weekly "Coverboy Confidential" feature.  Even still, it took reading between the lines in the year-end contest to figure out he wasn't like the other finalists.

    Adamd I also got a humorous email from my former flatmate "Adam D.," who I also spotlighted in the post. I thought I'd share it (with his permission) with you good folk:


    Little did I realize back when we met that someday there'd be a blog with your name on it that even remotely involved me. Even with my usual foresight, I was surprisingly mistaken! Not to mention speculation on my part as to what the topic may be. At the time, if given pen and paper, I'd venture to guess the subject matter would have little to do with spotlight coverage around a posterboy contest or, even more distant a possibility, something wrapped-up in sexual identity or gender studies. For the record, I'm hear to say that day has come and I'm all the more surprised, impressed and, shall I say, honored.

    In encounters with the other candidates, and trust that there have been plenty, it's clear we're all going through our own experience. I'd say this contest means something different to each of us, but regardless we're learning some things along the way. Whether we realize it today is one thing, but even as the announcement comes and goes, I gaurantee we'll chalk-up a nugget or two and move forward, just in-time for the next wave of coverboys to begin their own campaign season.

    Pleased to see you're prompting discussion; happy to be a part of it.

    "Adam D."

    Adam is a super guy, with a lot more substance than is going to come through in a "Coverboy Confidential" interview. And he was a terrific caretaker of "my boys," the beagle brothers Cliff and Norm, when I was away visiting Anderson in Amsterdam and São Paulo.

    If you want to cast your vote for "twink traditionalists," consider checking the box for Adam. Don't miss Jeff Code's fantastic photos of Adam (and the other finalists, of course). Voting is live now on Metroweekly.com and closes this weekend.

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    November 20, 2007

    Who's the fairest twink of them all?

    Posted by: Chris

    UPDATE: I've updated this post, and backed away some from some of my provocative prose here, in a later post worth checking out.

    Alexander_oThere’s something about “Alexander O.,” one of the contestants for “Coverboy of the Year” in the D.C. gay mag Metroweekly. The other ten finalists in the popular annual contest gab about the typical mix of fashion, pop culture and boy craziness that we’ve come to expect of the 20-something twinks featured weekly in the publication’s “Coverboy Confidential” profile.

    But Alexander’s bio reads a bit more, well, lesbian. His favorite TV show is “The L Word.” If he could have dinner with three people, alive or dead, he would pick Angelina Jolie, Katherine Moennig and Judy Dlugacz.

    It’s safe to say that 99 percent of gay men don’t know Katherine Moennig is the actress who plays the sexy, butch character of Shane on said Showtime series, and the remaining 1 percent couldn’t pronounce Dlugacz, much less know she’s the founder of lesbian Olivia Cruises.

    And then there is the matter of Alexander’s girlfriend, Melissa, who he describes as “hot,” “smart, sexy — she’s everything.”

    The editors of Metroweekly — which began years ago as Michael’s Weekly, a typical gay bar rag and now identifies as “Washington D.C.’s GLBT News Magazine” — never come right out and explain how a lesbian became a “Coverboy,” but we find a clue in Alexander’s willingness to talk about transgender issues.

    “I just want to be more visible and spread awareness,” says Alexander. “It’s OK to be transgendered — or not.”

    Inclusive words, to be sure, but Alexander’s campaign to be Coverboy of the Year is sure to rub some the wrong way. He’s already been introduced at a banquet of transgender activists, who were urged to support him, and a number of trans email lists are drumming up votes as well.

    Adam_d It rubbed me the wrong way for the sake of “Adam D.,” another Coverboy finalist and, I should disclose, a friend and former tenant of my Washington, D.C., apartment. To be honest, I teased Adam endlessly when he posed for MW, not to mention when his three picks for that fantasy dinner were James Dean, Enrique Iglesias and Jeremy Bloom. But Adam is smart and incredibly sweet and has his sh*t together, and at least I know who his threesome is!

    If Alexander’s underground campaign should succeed, as I suspect it will, it wouldn’t be the first time that trans activists have ruffled GLB feathers. For years, male-to-female trans women have tried to attend the female-only Michigan Womyn’s Festival, leading organizers to adopt a controversial “women born women” admissions policy.

    Lesbian journalist Jennifer Vanasco has written about how the popularity of gender-bending among young lesbians has all but eliminated femmes from the under-30 crowd.

    “Young women who once called themselves butch now call themselves tranny bois, and these tranny bois are mostly dating each other” Vanasco, a self-identified femme, wrote in a provocative column from a couple of years ago.

    Some of those who champion gender bending claim it will once and forever explode gender stereotypes, but it’s not immediately clear just how. Are “tranny bois” really bending genders when they don’t feel comfortable self-identifying as women in touch with their masculine side? Or is it reaffirming gender stereotypes to say that being butch means being a man?

    If Alexander is indeed someone who would have identified as a “tomboy” or a butch lesbian a few years back, does being a “tranny boi” really make him a gay twink, too?

    What’s most striking about Alexander isn’t necessarily what he may or may not be packing below — he’s happy to do a striptease on request, by the way, according to his bio. It’s that Alexander, who comes off as completely endearing whatever gender he identifies with, is more lesbian or even straight male than he is gay boy — spiky hair and tank top aside.

    We’ve all seen how changing cultural conventions can irritate, even as they generate greater tolerance and acceptance. Tranny teens have run for homecoming queen, and Bill O’Reilly practically foamed at the mouth earlier this month when a pair of happy lesbians were voted “cutest couple” for their high school yearbook.

    But breaking down mainstream conventions is different than pressuring one minority group to include another as one of its own. Some of those tensions came to light during the divisive debate over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and whether to go forward with “sexual orientation” protections if the votes weren’t there for “gender identity” as well.

    Some of us were upset at the idea that GLB people aren’t deserving of equal rights, or even our own organizations, because of the “LGBT” groupthink that has taken over the movement.

    Those who wanted to scrap Barney Frank’s gay-only ENDA, on the other hand, argued that gays are necessarily gender non-conformists. Some even broadened the definition of “transgender” far beyond transsexuals and cross-dressers to include anyone who doesn’t fit masculine and feminine gender stereotypes.

    But by saying “we’re all transgender,” in effect, the word itself becomes too watered-down to be useful as a descriptor. There are important differences between sexual orientation and gender identity, and blurring the lines doesn’t do anyone a favor, after a point.

    Is a butch lesbian who identifies as a tranny boi no different than a gay twink, despite his passion for “The L Word” and Angelina Jolie? If Alexander wins Metroweekly’s Coverboy of the Year, will he “raise awareness” of transgender issues, or just raise a few hackles about how political correctness can rob the fun out of even the silliest of beauty contests.

    Stay tuned. Voting on Metroweekly.com finishes this weekend.

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    November 14, 2007

    Trans character assassination

    Posted by: Chris

    Autumn_sandeen_long UPDATES: At the end of the post.

    The latest attempt at attacking my character by a transgender activist comes from Autumn Sandeen, who submitted a false and libelous post about me on Pam's House Blend. With the smug sarcasm we've come to know and love from so many of our trans activist sisters, Ms. Sandeen accuses me of plagiarizing her on the Richard Curtis cross-dressing blackmail scandal:

    I really liked Chris Crain's New York Blade article Cross-dressing and blogger hypocrisy. As well I should: It sounded a lot like The Hypocrites' Exposed Closets And The 'Flinch Factor'.

    After a few choice excerpts of Sandeen's earlier PHB post and my Blade column -- which was actually in both the Washington Blade and the New York Blade -- she concludes:

    The similarities seems between the two pieces seem so ... correlative? Perhaps I should mention here that my piece was posted here at PHB on November 1st, and Chris Crain's was posted on November 9th. Since we know Chris reads PHB, it really does look like I might really be doing all of the "thinnin around here, Baba Looey!"

    There are a few problems with Ms. Sandeen's false and libelous accusation. Not only would I never plagiarize -- much less borrow ideas from the likes of Autumn Sandeen -- the Blade column she responds to was based on a blog post I published on Oct. 31, one day before  Autumn Sandeen's Nov. 1 post she claims I copied.

    Also, I sent out the Blade column to dozens of newspaper editors (any of whom could confirm receipt) by email on Oct. 31 -- again, one day before  Autumn Sandeen's post:

        From:       [email protected]
        Subject:     A late-breaking column by Chris Crain about the Wash. gay blackmail scandal
        Date:     October 31, 2007 8:09:53 PM EDT

    Pam Spaulding has promised Sandeen's offending post will be taken down, and I appreciate the quick response. But since it was out there, it can't simply be erased. It ought to be retracted, by Ms. Sandeen herself, and an apology ought to be forthcoming.

    I have a great deal of respect with Pam Spaulding, and I do regularly visit the Blend, although to be honest I'm put off by all the smug nicknames they use for anyone they dub the enemy. I do not, however, read anything by Autumn Sandeen, who was responsible for several of the most hateful emails I've ever received over the course of a decade in the gay press. (Nothing I got from the Phelps clan can touch her!)

    It's unfortunate that Pam has chosen to give Sandeen's vitriol a larger pulpit than it ever would have on its own. The particular irony here is that Sandeen's attempted character assassination was based upon my having agreed with her -- well, actually, she agreed one day after me -- about how even media lefties treated the cross-dressing angle of the Curtis scandal for laughs.

    No good deed goes unpunished.

    UPDATE: Thank you to Kevin Naff, the Washington Blade editor, for publicly standing by my column in his own blog post today.

    UPDATE: Both Pam Spaulding and Autumn Sandeen have posted apologies alongside the original post.  That was the right way to handle the situation, and it is appreciated.

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    Barney and Tammy back Hillary

    Posted by: Chris

    Frankbaldwin_2 No real surprise here. As Hillary Clinton consolidates her position as the choice of the party establishment, support from Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin and other Democrats in Congress is to be expected. Barney's support came along with a campaign role as a chief economic adviser. Commerce Secretary Frank, anyone?

    Also not surprisingly, Barney and Hillary both praise each other's commitment to civil rights. Barney said he is "convinced that Hillary Clinton is the candidate best equipped to pass laws that will treat all Americans with dignity, fairness and equality no matter who they are or who they love." He doesn't elaborate,so we're left to imagine why. Perhaps because she's most likely to win the nomination.

    Barney's sister, Ann Lewis, is a senior adviser on the Clinton campaign, and Barney is a longtime Clinton friend. Remember he stuck by them even when Bill signed on to support "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

    Finally, a third unsurprising angle to the Barney endorsement is bitter reaction from the transgender front. My old friend Pauline Park over at Logo's Visible Vote has this to say:

    The lead sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the U.S. House of Representatives, Frank released a statement saying that Clinton was “the candidate best qualified to serve as president.” Significantly, Hillary Clinton has never publicly expressed support — even in principle — for the idea of using federal law to protect transgendered people from discrimination.

    On this, as on so many other issues, Pauline is in desperate need of a fact-checker. Hillary Clinton's response to the candidates questionnaire from the evil trans traitors at the Human Rights Campaign confirmed that she supports inclusion of "gender identity" in both hate crimes and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

    But never let the facts get in the way of a good rant…


    Gnw_lighthouse_logosmall_2 For a complete news summary, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/demprimary

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    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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    November 11, 2007

    More voices in 'T' dissent

    Posted by: Chris

    I've known Rex Wockner for a decade and for more than twice that length of time he's been one of the most respected journalists within the gay press. Our politics are quite different and we've disagreed plenty over the years, but always respectfully. I offer that background to make the point that he's anything but "conservative," a label I reject for myself as well, but look at what he's written in response to the "trans or bust" ENDA fiasco:

    Forchris I maintain my position that gay people and transgender people are two different things. Most of the transgender people I personally know have had a sex-change operation and paired off with someone of the opposite sex. That is a very different reality from the gay bear circles I travel in -- in those uncommon instances in which I engage with the gay scene. It's a very different reality from the reality of most gay people. It's even significantly different from the venerable gay tradition of drag-queenery (which I've never done and don't "get," but that's beside the point). …

    I've been sitting here sort of picking my own brain and asking myself if gay and trans people do in fact have some crucial thing in common. … What do I have in common with a guy who wants to remove his willy, grow breasts, become a woman and get married to a man? From where did this relatively new concept of "the LGBT community" come?

    Andrew Sullivan echoed the same sentiments in a post headlined "The LGBTQRSTZ 'Community'":

    Andrewsullivansq The Croatian-sounding acronym only makes sense from the perspective of the pomo-left, whose control of the major gay groups allows them to dictate what is and what is not kosher for gay people. I support enthusiastically the right of transgender people to live their lives as they wish and to be free from government discrimination. But that question is logically separate from gay rights, and always has been. Many transgender people are heterosexual; most gay people have no internal conflict with their own gender. It remains important to insist that, just because so many in the gay world have been browbeaten into repeating the concept of an "LGBT community", that doesn't mean it exists.

    John Aravosis, a blue-dog Democrat partisan, has written similarly in Salon, "How Did the T Get in LGBT?":

    Johnaravosissq_2 I have a sense that over the past decade the trans revolution was imposed on the gay community from outside, or at least above, and thus it never stuck with a large number of gays who weren't running national organizations, weren't activists, or weren't living in liberal gay enclaves like San Francisco and New York. Sure, many of the rest of us accepted de facto that transgendered people were members of the community, but only because our leaders kept telling us it was so. A lot of gays have been scratching their heads for 10 years trying to figure out what they have in common with transsexuals, or at the very least why transgendered people qualify as our siblings rather than our cousins.

    I've been asking similar questions for years, ever since trans activists browbeat LGB organizations to add transgender to their mission statements. I didn't object to that idea, in and of itself, but I was deeply troubled by the idea that it was somehow "exclusionary" for gay people to have some organizations just for us. Trans folks do, so why shouldn't we? 

    I also worried, unfortunately prophetically, that including "T" in the mission statement would become a huge distraction for resource-strapped gay groups, as if our own battles weren't consuming enough.  The deepest disappointment has been Lambda Legal, an organization for which I have a great deal of respect, which has so confused including T in its mission that now it feels obliged to argue that GLBs shouldn't receive any legislative protection until the political will is there for Ts to receive the same.

    Then transgender activists and their allies pressed their "trans or bust" strategy for hate crimes and workplace rights. It was the crowning achievement of their leveraging of the gay rights movement, and so brazen that I labeled it "the transjacking" of the movement. Provocative yes, but accurate nonetheless.

    Now all that has blown up in their face, and by overreaching their attempt at forced "unity" has brought to the surface deep divisions within our "community."  The form the debate has taken hasn't helped.  While some have been respectful, most trans activists I've seen have been incredibly aggressive and personal and mean-spirited, always questioning motives and rarely addressing points of view actually expressed.

    The question now is whether trans activists and their allies will realize their misstep and correct it going forward.  The Nation is reporting that Ted Kennedy will introduce ENDA as a gay-only measure.  I think they're reading a bit too much into his statement over House passage, but regardless the issue will present itself again.

    There's no reason why we can't all lobby for a trans-inclusive ENDA and yet support a compromise measure if the votes aren't there for "gender identity."  It's the right thing to do for millions of GLB Americans.

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    November 09, 2007

    More on that HRC poll…

    Posted by: Chris

    The Human Rights Campaign, rather than answer questions from a variety of media outlets and bloggers about its poll showing 70% GLBT support for the compromise gay-only ENDA, has used its chosen media outlet -- the Advocate -- to release some additional information.

    The Advocate posted a non-bylined story today, though curiously it never explains its reason for being.  Regardless, the story indicates that the poll was "a random survey of 514 LGBT Americans conducted by Knowledge Networks, Inc., of Menlo Park, Ca., asked participants two questions concerning [the compromise] ENDA.":

    The first asked which of the following three statements was closest to reflecting their views:

    A. National gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organizations should oppose this proposal because it excludes transgender people.

    B. National gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organizations should support this proposal because it helps gay, lesbian, and bisexual workers and is a step toward transgender employment rights.

    C. National gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organizations should adopt a neutral stance for this proposal because while it helps gay, lesbians, and bisexual workers, it also excludes transgender people.

    The numbers were 67.7% for backing the compromise bill, 15.8% for opposing it, and 12.8% for staying neutral. As poll questions go, this one looks pretty straightforward with no attempt to bias the result. So far, so good.

    The second question asked people the following: "This proposal would make it illegal to fire gay, lesbian, or bisexual workers because of their sexual orientation. This proposal does NOT include people who are transgender. Would you favor or oppose this proposal?"

    The numbers were about the same: 59.1% favored the compromise and felt strongly about it, 15.4% favored it but did not feel strongly, 15.1% opposed it and felt strongly about it, and 8.8% opposed it but not strongly.

    That's an even stronger indication that three-quarters of LGBT Americans back Barney Frank's compromise ENDA, which is a remarkable contrast to the almost unanimous 350 GLBT groups who joined United ENDA's "trans-or-bust" strategy.  (Only HRC, Log Cabin, GLAAD, and a few other groups didn't sign on.) Will Matt Foreman be issuing an apology for lying to Congress about how "the community" really feels? Don't hold your breath.

    The Advocate story included standard margin of error info and broke down the demographics: roughly 50-50 male and female with 1% transgender.  If anything, that's weighted female-heavy. Every demographic study I've seen of LGBT America shows we're 60-70% male, and trans numbers run about 1%, though you wouldn't know that from the commitment of resources from so many lgbT groups.

    Still, a few big questions are left unanswered by the Advocate story, and should be dealt with directly by HRC.  First of all, the new Advocate story says the poll was conducted Oct. 2-5.  The Advocate originally reported just two days ago that the poll was conducted Oct. 26.  That's a big difference, and means HRC has known for weeks before it re-revised its position on ENDA how strongly GLBT Americans felt about the question.

    Also, one of the questions pressed by the Bay Area Reporter and others is how exactly these 500 LGBT Americans were identified and whether they were a representative sample. HRC has said the 500 were not culled from its membership list or from the Advocate's subscription list, but the new Advocate story still doesn't clarify where they did come from.

    Finally, there is the curious way in which HRC released the information. HRC prez Joe Solmonese has done a good job on at least one aspect of the ENDA controversy -- he's been accessible to the gay press for interviews.  So why play favorites with the release of this polling data and string out over several days the details behind its demographics?  Just answer the questions already.

    Does HRC really need more questions raised about its transparency and credibility?

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    November 08, 2007

    The debate before the debate

    Posted by: Chris

    (UPDATE:  At the end of the post.)

    Just one day before Barney Frank and our GLB allies in Congress debated opponents of ENDA in Congress, Human Rights Campaign prez Joe Solmonese had a debate of his own, with Mike Signorile on Sirius Out Q. You can listen to the exchange here on Pam's House Blend, but here are the highlights:

    • HRC's strategy was actually to prevent the compromise ENDA from ever coming up for a vote on the House floor.  Once it passed out of Rules Committee, HRC reversed itself.  It's unclear why HRC would publicly commit itself to a strategy that depended on ENDA never making it to the House floor, something that was inevitable after Nancy Pelosi gave a green light.
    • HRC will score the ENDA vote on its congressional report card, which is pretty remarkable considering the many public pronouncements by Solmonese that HRC opposed (and then was neutral) on the compromise bill. At the same time, HRC will indicate somehow those members (it turned out to be seven Dems) who voted against ENDA on trans-inclusion grounds.
    • Amusingly, Signorile complains the internal ENDA debate "got really ugly," including "nasty comments about transgender people" online.  No doubt that happened and shouldn't have, but thus far I've only seen nasty comments by transgender people (and their allies), not about them.
    • Signorile took Solmonese to task for acting like a Beltway lobbyist and not a civil rights leader. All I can say is, "Welcome to the party, Mike." I've said many times that Joe is no doubt a talented tactician, although his ENDA flip-flops raise some doubts there as well.  But he never should have been named to lead the nation's largest gay rights group. He would have been much better suited to be political director, working for a someone who gets "the vision thing" and can inspire unity and progress in the movement.
    • Solmonese now claims he "misspoke" at a Sept. 14 meeting with transgender activists in Atlanta for the Southern Comfort conference.  "We do not support and in fact absolutely oppose any legislation that is not absolutely inclusive," Solmonese said then.  Believe it or not, Solmonese now claims HRC's position is still to oppose ENDA if it is not trans-inclusive, but only if it passes Congress in that form and is up for the president's signature.
    • Solmonese's take-away from the whole ENDA debacle is that HRC should be entrusted with more, not less, leeway to decide what's best for us. "In retrospect," he said, "perhaps the policy of HRC should be that we're going to evaluate each circumstance as it presents itself and do what we think is in the best interest of the community." Yes, he really said that.


    It will be very interesting indeed to see how HRC reacts to the chorus of criticism that seems to be coming from all directions.  From the left, the Bay Area Reporter is asking for the background info on the HRC poll that purportedly shows 70% of LGBT Americans backing a gay-only ENDA. 

    Few seem to doubt that percentage is about right, and it squares what the online survey conducted on this blog and Gay News Watch, but it is more than passing curious that HRC is thus far refusing to say who conducted the poll or its methodology and margin of error.

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    November 07, 2007

    Give 'em hell, Barney!

    Posted by: Chris

    Barney_frank_enda_floor(UPDATE: Yeah so I changed the headline for the post; the first one was too cheesy.  Also, I've posted Barney's emotional floor speech.  Give it a quick listen.  The best part comes in the last three minutes.)

    Throughout the House debate this afternoon on ENDA, Congressman Barney Frank has been an absolute lion, calling out Republican opponents of the measure for nit-picking at the margins when their true objection is to the protection of gays from discrimination itself. Then, when Rep. Randy Forbes of Virginia tried to send the measure back to committee, ostensibly to ensure that it does not impact federal marriage laws, Barney had had enough.

    In an impassioned and emotional speech, Barney talked about his own felt obligation to adopt ENDA to protect gays in 30 states who can be fired from their jobs based on nothing but their sexual orientation. He dismissed any suggestion that such a measure could have any impact on marriage laws, and pointed out the House had already adopted a friendly amendment that clarified ENDA would have no impact on the Defense of Marriage Act, signed by President Clinton in 1996, that prohibits federal recognition of state-issued marriage licenses to gay couples.

    The end result was the defeat of the Republican amendment, 222-198. I am also thrilled to say ENDA itself was passed by the House by an impressive margin of 235-184.  Thirty-five Republicans joined 200 Democrats in passing the historic measure, which was first introduced more than 30 years ago.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the podium and with a giant smile announced the result.


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    Who among us is the neediest?

    Posted by: Chris

    The House is (finally) debating the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (view it by webcast on CSPAN here), and Republicans have already tried to press for a vote to include transgender protections, a clear sign that they know it would kill the measure.

    As the House takes up ENDA and Tammy Baldwin's transgender amendment, it's worth testing the "third rail" of the internal LGBT debate here. It's an article of faith almost, for the professional activists who are pressing a "trans or bust" ENDA strategy, that T Americans are "most needy" when it comes to federal civil rights protections.

    The whole game of comparing neediness is rarely beneficial, but since the claim is made so regularly, I wonder whether it's really the case.  Consider the following, taken straight from the Human Rights Campaign's transgender FAQ:

    • Can Transgender People Adopt Children? Transgender people are not prohibited from adopting under law
    • Can Transgender People Get Legally Married? Although marriage is not yet a legal option for gay or lesbian people in any state, it is already an option – and a reality – for many who are transgender.

    Just last week, the United Methodist Church decided that a pastor who transitioned from female to male could remain in the pulpit; this same mainline Protestant denomination recently defrocked a minister after she publicly acknolwedged she is gay. That's because many religious faiths don't have the same specific objections to gender identity as they do to homosexuality.  Even as backward society as Iran executes homosexuals while subsidizing gender reassignment surgery.

    A document called "Transgender Tools," produced by HRC for use by employers, notes "a growing consensus that transgender people are covered under state and federal sex discrimination statutes":

    In the past few years, an increasing number of federal courts have interpreted federal sex discrimination laws to cover gender identity and expression, particularly in the area of impermissible sex stereotyping. In practical terms, this could mean that employers could be held accountable for anti-transgender discrimination in their workplaces.  

    Almost every story of transgender workplace discrimination I've seen involves the complicated issues surrounding the limited time period when an employee actually transitions from one gender to another, raising legitimate questions about use of restrooms and locker rooms, photo credentials, dress codes, health insurance and the like. These issues are complicated and serious, and they are also once-in-a-lifetime, at least at their most severe.

    The website for the National Center for Transgender Equality, the leading trans rights group, does not include a single detailed story of workplace discrimination, at least that I could locate.  It did, however, include some false and offensive "talking points" to be used to defeat workplace rights for GLB Americans:

    The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is one community and the community ONLY wants to move forward together with one unified bill. CALL TODAY!

    This is, of course, a lie. The HRC poll released this week confirmed what was absolutely evident anecdotally: the vast majority of LGBT Americans favor passing the compromise ENDA if the votes aren't there for transgender protections.

    None of this is to suggest that transgender Americans don't need workplace protection; of course they do. But T Americans already enjoy all sorts of basic civil rights denied to GLB Americans, including marriage, joint adoption and some workplace protection. To call them the neediest among us is a claim without support.

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    Ironic headline of the year…

    Posted by: Chris

    …goes to: the Associated Press report on the Human Rights Campaign's latest 180 on whether it supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which for more than a decade has been the group's signature piece of legislation:

    "Leading gay rights group supports job discrimination measure"

    How crazy is it that this headline actually has a "man bites dog" quality to it in today's bassackward glbT rights movement?

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    November 06, 2007

    Demagoguing to the end…

    Posted by: Chris

    Mattforeman Outmaneuvered by rival HRC and marginalized by the new poll showing 70% of the actual LGBT people disagree with his "United ENDA" farce, Matt Foreman of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force is not going down without a bit more demagoguing.

    So Foreman took issue with the combined wisdom of the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, among others, all of which argued for incremental progress where achievable. GCN takes it from here:

    NGLTF's Foreman was uncompromising in rejecting what he termed "an inaccurate analogy" between incrementalism in the Civil Rights era and accepting a non-inclusive ENDA today.

    "At no time during the African-American Civil Rights movement were light-skinned African Americans or dark-skinned African Americans left behind," Foreman told Gay City News. "What is being lost is that we need to be working for the best law, not a bill that can be passed today."

    There's nothing new in Foreman's effort to divide rather than unite, suggesting that the compromise ENDA will "leave behind" gender non-conforming gays, who are the "dark-skinned blacks" in his analogy.  I acknowledged the divide in a blog post weeks ago, and engaged Lambda Legal in a respectful debate on the legal limits of the compromise ENDA as well.

    What's new is Foreman's attempt to play wedge politics with the divide, now that it's clear what a small sliver of the community he represents. Only time will tell whether the Task Force and its "trans or bust" abandon the strategy that is responsible for so much damage and divisiveness.

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    Welcome back to the movement, HRC

    Posted by: Chris

    With the House poised to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act despite, rather than because of, the nation's largest glbT group, the Human Rights Campaign has belatedly remembered that the vast majority of its constituents would greatly benefit from passage of historic civil rights legislation. As a result, HRC has reversed itself -- I've lost track of how may times -- and once again actively supports passage of ENDA even if it does not include "gender identity" as a protected category.

    The policy reversal, which will probably have about as much (or as little) impact as HRC's fence-sitting has up till now, came complete with all sorts of ass-covering. First, there as a joint letter from the Leadership Conference for Civil Rights that included HRC, the NAACP and a number of other top civil rights organizations, that backed the compromise ENDA that could come up for a vote as early as tomorrow.

    The letter's take-away quote:

    It is “beyond dispute that transgender employees are particularly in need of those protections,” the letter says. “They face far more pervasive and severe bias in the workplace and society as a whole,” the letter says.

    “As civil rights organizations, however, we are no strangers to painful compromise in the quest for equal protection of the law for all Americans,” it says. “From the Civil Rights Act of 1957 through the almost-passed District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2007, legislative progress in the area of civil and human rights has almost always been incremental in nature.

    Hmm. Sound vaguely familiar to anyone else?

    HRC also pushed the release of a poll it conducted almost two weeks ago, which shows an overwhelming majority of "LGBT Americans" favors passing ENDA even if transgender protections are removed. And the knee-slapper from the Advocate's coverage of the poll:

    HRC president Joe Solmonese said the poll numbers weren’t immediately obvious to him or the organization before they conducted the polling.

    “There were so many people out there speaking so emphatically about where the entire community was that I thought maybe we should get a sense of it, and that’s why we did the poll,” he said. “So it was surprising to me, but I think it really speaks to the fact that there’s a big diverse community of GLBT Americans all across the country.”

    No, Joe. It speaks to the huge disconnect between the left-leaning professional activists who run HRC and the 300-odd organization in the "United ENDA" coalition and the consituents that they supposedly represent.  It is a gap that has long been a subject of this blog, and it will be interesting to watch whether Matt Foreman, who led those trying to cover-up the community's real views on the subject, will own up to their mendacity.

    Note the similarity between HRC's poll results and the unscientific results of the poll from this blog and Gay News Watch (below). In HRC's poll, 70% backed a gay-only ENDA, while in our little survey, 73% did.  Similarly, the HRC poll showed 20% only supported ENDA if trans protections were included; 28% of our survey respondents felt similarly.

    It speaks volumes that HRC sat on their poll, knowing what the community really wants, until the House Rules Committee set ENDA up for a vote and then, at the 11th hour and 59th minute, literally one day before, HRC jumps on the bandwagon.

    That's not leading; that's called following.


    For a complete news summary on ENDA, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/enda

    For a complete news summary on transgender rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/transgender

    For a complete news summary on gay rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/legalcivilrights

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    November 05, 2007

    ENDA back from the dead

    Posted by: Chris

    Zombies_sf_6 Just when it looked like the divisively named United ENDA crowd had killed historic workplace protections for GLB Americans, the compromise version pressed by Barney Frank appears back from the dead and scheduled for a House vote this week. Gay City News is reporting that a headcount apparently shows enough votes for ENDA to pass the House in a form that only protects "actual or perceived sexual orientation" and not "gender identity" as well.

    Given the expected defections of purist liberals like Dennis Kucinich, it will ironically take Republican votes to pass a gay civil rights bill for the first time through the U.S. House of Representatives. (The actual number of defectors is said to range between 8 and 60, GCN reports.)  The irony doesn't end there — the United ENDA groups, led by the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, have actively worked to defeat ENDA stripped of its transgender protections.

    The Human Rights Campaign has dutifully straddled the fence, not lobbying for or against the very same bill it pressed for a decade as its signature legislation, and has apparently promised not to count a vote for the compromise ENDA as a mark against House members on the group's annual congressional report card.  Smell the irony.

    Another bit of parliamentary weirdness reported by GCN relates to Tammy Baldwin's amendment to add "gender identity" back in to ENDA. At first, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised a floor vote on the Baldwin amendment, but then apparently recanted when House freshmen objected to the vote as no-win, since defying conservatives on trans rights will only anger the left if the amendment fails and they vote in favor of the gay-only bill.

    So the solution is being worked out in the Rules Committee but will involve Baldwin introducing her amendment, which will then be debated on the House floor, but then withdrawn before there's a vote. The idea is to prevent a lopsided tally that wounds trans rights down the road, whether in a solo "transg-ENDA" or in a reunited ENDA next Congress if it fails to become law this year.

    Assuming ENDA does pass the House, it's anyone's guess whether the Senate will dare touch this hot potato. Thank goodness another pragmatist, Ted Kennedy, is in control of the bill's fate there. Kennedy resisted for years introducing ENDA with "gender identity" included and unless I've missed it, he hasn't even promised it will start off trans-inclusive as it did (for the first time) this year in the House.

    If ENDA passes the House in compromise form, there will be pressure on Kennedy to introduce it trans-intact (pun intented) in the Senate so that "gender identity" has a chance to make it through, perhaps if ENDA is attached to some noncontroversial legislation. (The same wayward fate that thus far has stilted the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act.)

    Meanwhile, leading trans activist Mara Keisling is working overtime to reinforce the ridiculous idea that ENDA is dead anyway, so she and her "trans or bust" allies won't take the fall for klling it.  "There is no chance of this becoming law now," she told GCN. "We will have to get together and decide how to proceed in '09."

    Get together? Now there's a novel idea.

    For a complete news summary on ENDA, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/enda

    For a complete news summary on transgender rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/transgender

    For a complete news summary on gay rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/legalcivilrights


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    October 30, 2007

    The scales of ENDA

    Posted by: Chris

    One thing the "trans-or-bust" crowd doesn't seem to get is that whatever arguments they make about leaving trans workers behind also works in the opposite direction only with far more force.  Let's weigh the two sides:

    Pass the compromise ENDA:

    1. Millions of GLB Americans get historic workplace protections.
    2. Trans workers, who are much smaller in number, will remain partially protected by the long-standing Price Waterhouse precedent.
    3. Full "gender identity" protection will wait until XX date, unknown, when Congress is ready to protect transgender workers.

    Or we follow the trans-or-bust route:

    1. Millions of GLB Americans are completely unprotected from workplace bias in 31 states.
    2. Trans workers, who are much smaller in number, will remain partially protected by the long-standing Price Waterhouse precedent.
    3. Full "gender identity" protection will wait until YY date, also unknown, when Congress is ready to protect transgender workers.

    No one even knows if there is much of a difference between XX date and YY date, although apparently everyone assumes that both Congress and LGBT groups will work harder to pass T rights sooner if GLB rights come along with them.  It's ridiculous to think that LGBT groups will show no interest in passing T protections after achieving LGB protections, considering more than 300 of these groups are already willing to forego GLB protections to win T protections.

    As for Congress, if there is widespread resistance to transgender rights, how will tacking them on to GLB rights advance the ball?  No one has made that case, instead focused on guilting GLB Americans into acting against their interest.

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    October 28, 2007

    'Diseased' gay men vs. ENDA?

    Posted by: Chris

    The personal attacks over ENDA just don't stop.  As regular readers of this blog know, I have been called every name in the book for agreeing with Barney Frank's compromise ENDA strategy.  I don't bring it up in a bid for sympathy.  I'm a big boy and have a decade of experience under my belt of this sort of thing.  (Actually, I should add in another seven years when I edited student publications in college and law school.)

    I bring it up because someone needs to call out trans activists for the gratuitously personal way they attack anyone who dares to disagree with the "trans or bust" strategy for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. It's especially ballsy of them (pun intended, since they are all male-to-female) considering that they are asking GLB Americans to forego employment protection for their sake.

    Monica_helms A little birdie offered the latest example -- a column being shopped around to GLBT newspapers by Atlanta trans activist Monica Helms.  Here is a choice excerpt:

    The only voices I have heard in opposition of a fully-inclusive ENDA have come from white gay men who suffer from what I call “Chris Crain Disease,” or “CCD.”  Crain, a former editor, former newspaper owner, former American resident, lead the charge early on with his infamous “Trans-jacking” articles, spawning a new industry in gay journalism called, “Blame the trannies for everything.” 

    Crain is “Patient Zero,” and the disease is spreading rapidly. It is important that those who suffer with CCD need to study history to remind them that back in the late 1980s, when most of them were in grade school or high school.

    Actually, I was in law school in the late '80s, and it's particular ironic, considering Helms is calling a gay man "diseased," that the history lesson she promises in her column concerns excluding HIV from the Americans with Disability Act when it was under debate in Congress.

    One difference, of course, between ADA and ENDA is that there was no whip count at the time showing that inclusion of HIV would kill the bill.  Also, HIV is a disability, so it would have required excluding something within the protected category.  "Sexual orientation" and "gender identity" are different categories.

    It's also ironic that in the "pitch" to editors that accompanies her column, the three publishing credits Helms mentions (Washington Blade, Southern Voice and Houston Voice) were all columns I published as exec. editor of those publications.

    For a movement that spends so much energy talking about "respectful dialogue," "education," "teaching moments," "tolerance" and the like, it's long past time that someone called out our trans sisters for the immature and disrespectful way they personally attack anyone who dares to disagree. 

    And I'm not just talking about Helms. There's Pauline Park at Logo's Visible Vote, Phyllis Randolph Frye in Texas, Rebecca Juro on Bilerico.  I could go on...

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    October 27, 2007

    Has United ENDA killed ENDA?

    Posted by: Chris

    It looks like congratulations may be in order, to both the "United" ENDA coalition led by Matt Foreman and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, and Peter LaBarbera of the anti-gay Americans for Truth. They say politics make strange bedfellows, but who would have believed these two would hop in the sack for a quick lay?

    Mattforeman_2 D.C. newspaper The Hill is reporting that last week's "postponement" of a House vote on Barney Frank's compromise Employment Non-Discrimation Act may well be indefinite -- as in killing the bill for this Congress.  The Blade reported at the time that the delay was to give transgender supporters more time to round up votes for Tammy Baldwin's amendment that would add "gender identity" back into the bill.  Others suggested it was a short delay because House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had put a higher priority on other bills.

    Peterlabarbera3_2 According to The Hill, freshman House Democrats approached Pelosi at a breakfast meeting and asked that she not allow the Baldwin amendment to come up for a vote. Their concern was that the vote was a no-win situation for them, between conservatives like LaBarbera and corporate interests opposing the bill because they are anti-gay or anti-regulations and liberals like Foreman and United ENDA who opposed any ENDA that did not include "gender identity."

    That political squeeze play was enough for the first-term Dems, and apparently Pelosi as well.  And while some claim the compromise ENDA will still get a House vote, I seriously doubt it -- given Pelosi's public commitment that trans rights supporters will get a vote on their amendment.

    Thanks be to Foreman, LaBarbera and their allies, workplace rights for thousands upon thousands of GLB Americans may now be stalled indefinitely, and historic gay civil rights legislation will not receive its first-ever House floor vote.  All because transgender activists and their P.C. allies couldn't accept anything other than the same for them, despite their much shorter lobbying history.

    If ENDA is dead, the blood is on all their hands, and I hope history doesn't allow those on either end of the spectrum to clean it off easily.

    For a complete news summary on ENDA, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/enda

    For a complete news summary on transgender rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/transgender

    For a complete news summary on gay rights, click or bookmark: gaynewswatch.com/legalcivilrights

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