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A Trans Perspective On The HRC/Logo Presidential Forum

What about the questions? Who is deciding what gets asked? You do. We all do. There’s a website (go there) that allows you to provide questions, so feel free to share your question if you’ve got something specific on your mind. I was approached to provide trans-related questions and invited people – both through this blog and through personal outreach – to provide their thoughts and I want to thank everyone who responded. This is larger than any one or two or three of us, and it’s important to be sure that as many of our voices and concerns as possible are heard. I share Monica Helms’ feelings as articulated in this morning’s Washington Blade Letters (read it here).

I have been told by people who would know that a decision has already been made that each candidate will be given a “T” question (their words, not mine). When I sent my list of questions this morning (the deadline was noon), part of the response I got back was that they particularly “like the more general ones because it requires them to be more forthcoming.” I agree. I don’t really feel like sharing my list of questions yet, but I expect I’ll do that at some point before the event.
Donna Rose, her blog “Donna’s Blog“, Friday, July 27, 2007

Donna Rose is the only transgender member of the HRC board. Given her insider knowledge into the HRC/Logo Presidential Forum, and hearing what she wrote was planned about asking each of the candidates a transgender specific question, I’m a little disappointed in the HRC/Logo moderator and questioners failure to ask any of the candidates but John Edwards a transgender specific question.

I’m sure that it wasn’t a shortage of issues, nor a shortage of submitted viewer questions that led to a dearth of trans specific questions. I submitted a question for Hillary Clinton that began with a quote from Barack Obama:

Sen. Barack Obama co-sponsored the Matthew Shepard Act (federal anti-hate crimes law) and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. When asked if he supports transgender inclusion, Obama said, “Absolutely. The transgendered community has to be protected. I just don’t have any tolerance for that sort of intolerance. And I think we need to legislate aggressively to protect them.”

I asked Hillary Clinton if she would also be as aggressive for basic civil rights and protections for transpeople as she would be for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.

Pam submitted a question:

I asked if any of the candidates would appoint a T in their cabinet, and how would they handle the political fallout the act. I wanted to see they respond personally to an issue that you know they don’t think about.

Donna Rose said she submitted trans specific questions although she didn’t write out her questions for general consumption., but didn’t post her questions until after the debate in her August 11th blog entry.

In Donna’s Blog she referenced an letter to the editor (addressed to Windows Media by Monica Helms) on issues affecting bi and transpeople that could be brought up at the debate:

(Ideas for bi and trans inclusive questioning after the flip)

Bisexual and transgender people are also affected by anti-gay marriage laws. Not all of those who identify as being bisexual want to be in an opposite-sex marriage. Many acknowledge they are attracted to both sexes, but choose to be with someone of the same sex.

Marriage issues can affect transgender people in very drastic ways. When a “straight” couple gets married and one of the partners changes their sex, they can stay legally married. However, more and more states are looking for ways to change that to force the couple to divorce.

Another problem is that the laws read: “Marriage must be between a man and a woman.” What is the definition for “man” and for “woman?” There will always be exceptions to rules, and some of those can impact the marriages of straight couples. So, no definitions are given. But the way the laws read in some states, transgender people are denied the right to marry anyone at all.

When it comes to families, transgender people get short-changed there as well. The courts in many states can be more lenient toward a couple that is gay or lesbian, but look at transgender people as being evil and a bunch of perverts. Transgender people are vilified in courts and are not only denied seeing their children once a divorce is final, but are given heavy child support payments to make. There have been a lot of exceptions to that, but they are not close to the rule.

Then there was the question about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I have worked closely with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network on this issue and I am aware that their official and published stance on it only mentions “gays and lesbians,” because the law only addresses “sexual orientation.”

However, unofficially, the group has helped several transgender people who have also been discriminated against because of this law. It is important for others to include bisexual and transgender people in the discussion regarding “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

It is important also to note that the Uniting American Families Act has already impacted transgender people who wish to come into this country, even if they are part of an opposite-sex couple and have been legally married in the country they came from. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has been written to also cover transgender Americans.

And finally, it would be nice to see the new administration also include and appoint some transgender people as part of their team. It seems not all of the candidates are very trans-friendly, so it is up to all conscientious GLBT people to continue to ask for rights that will cover every American. As Martin Luther King once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

I guess my perspective of disappointment is that Logo, the HRC, the moderator, and the questioners could have posed more questions that were inclusive of the B and T communities, and/or asked questions phrased in a way that included issues that included the rest of the “alphabet soup” community. The HRC and Logo apparently were aware of issues beyond the L and the G of the “alphabet soup” of broader community, gave thought to posing questions that went well beyond just the L and the G of the “alphabet soup” of broader community, but chose not to ask those questions.

Quoting again Monica Helms from her letter to the editor:

…”Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The GLBT community needs to embrace that sentiment every moment we fight for our rights. No one should be left behind.

Amen to that.

Four years from now, if the HRC and Logo sponsor another presidential forum, I’ll be blogging about having a transgender questioner.  I believe having a transman or transwoman on the panel of questioners would have made a great deal of difference on how inclusive the questions would have been for this presidential forum; I think it would make a positive difference for any future presidential forum as well.


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Autumn Sandeen

Autumn Sandeen