CommunityPam's House Blend

"Separate But Equal" Doesn't Really Mean Equal

Believe it or not, primarily I’m not a blogger. What I usually spend more time each day doing is archiving news for transgendernews.

And in that role, I’m exhausted. Usually the two other archivists and I average around 100 postings a week. Transgendernews IconThis week, we’re already up to 185 archived articles. The recent developments with regards to transgender inclusion in ENDA have caused the number of news pieces archived to just skyrocket. We don’t want to miss what any key individuals or groups are saying on ENDA – whether they are for or against the current House strategy of cutting out the transgender specific language out of the main ENDA bill.

Our transgendernews archive goes back to 2002. We’ve archived a lot of the public discussions about adding transgender people to ENDA bills over the years. In 2004, many of us transfolk optimistically believed the discussion was essentially over when all of the major LGBT 501(c) and civil rights organizations said they would only support a transgender inclusive ENDA.

Then, as it is now, transgender inclusion in ENDA was highly discussed. One can get a picture at this link of just how much the transgender inclusion issue for ENDA was discussed/archived in 2003 and 2004. I’m sure the archive is in no way a complete archive of the public discussion.

But what I do know, even from that incomplete picture the archive provides, is what Mara Keisling, the Executive Director for the National Transgender Center for Equality said in August, 2004:

Until now, we’ve spent an unconscionable amount of time trying to convince our friends to be our friends, that we’re all playing on the same team. Now we can concentrate on making some inroads.

Now, perhaps not.

It’s absolutely amazing what Representatives Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi, and George Miller, (the latter being the Democratic Representative who chairs the committee that will mark up the ENDA bill Tuesday) have done to undo the work on transgender inclusion that was thought to have been already done prior to August, 2004.

2005 HRC Congressional Education AdThis new congressional fight isn’t at all about educating Congress, as the Washington Post has suggested. At the recent Southern Comfort Conference, Human Rights Campaign Executive Director Joe Solmonese praised Mara Keisling for all of the education work that has occurred. NTAC, GPAC, and NCTE have all ran lobby days on transgender inclusion in ENDA going back to the nineties. The HRC itself ran an educational Ad Campaign directed at Congress back in 2005.

No, this isn’t about education. It’s not even really about passing ENDA. As Chris Anders, an advocate on gay issues for the American Civil Liberties Union stated:

“This is about House politics, not about moving legislation through Congress and to the president’s desk.”

I just want to scream “Employment protection for LGBT people — including transgender people like me — shouldn’t be about politics! It’s supposed to be about social justice, freedom, and equality!”

But apparently, it isn’t. It is about politics.

When we look back to August of 2004, why did all of the major LGBT 501(c) and civil rights organizations said they would only support a transgender inclusive ENDA? This is how the Human Rights Campaign answered that question:

Cheryl JacquesPassing ENDA without gender identity and expression is like passing a copyright law that covers books and television shows but doesn’t cover digital music or videos. But ENDA is about people’s lives, not MP3s or DVDs. That’s why it’s so important that we have the strongest and most comprehensive bill possible.
Past Human Rights Campaign Executive Director Cheryl Jacques

The Washington Blade stated in the same August 13, 2004 article where I found that Cheryl Jacques quote:

Human Rights Campaign Executive Director Cheryl Jacques pointed to polling data that shows 85 percent of gay voters support workplace protections based on gender identity and expression.

But here we are now, back to discussing whether or not transgender protections belong in ENDA. Pam, Lane Hudson (of the Huffington Post) and a lot of LGB and T organizations have argued for transgender inclusion. People arguing going forward with a “sexual orientation only” ENDA (without transgender protections) have included Chris Crain (former Executive Editor of the Washington Blade), Jonathan Capehart (writing the editorial for the Washington Post), John Aravosis (of Americablog), and Peter Rosenstein (who at one time worked for Congresswoman Bella Abzug — the congresswoman who submitted the first ENDA bill to Congress).

The activist community demanded transgender protections be added to ENDA legislation in 2004. Well, to remove the protections now, in the face what should have been anticipated opposition arguments, can’t in any way be seen as progress.

You don’t stab a man in the back nine inches and pull it out six inches and say you’re making progress.
Malcolm X

All of the major LGBT 501(c) and civil rights organizations added a T to their mission statements. They didn’t have to add T’s to their mission statements, but they did. After they added the T’s, they banded together and said that they “will only support ENDA if it is inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. That said to transgender people like me that “The LGBT community is a lesbian, gay, bisexual, AND transgender community.”

Rep. Barney Frank is going to submit two ENDAs next week — actually better described as an ENDA and a GENDA. But, “Separate but equal” ENDA’s aren’t going to cut the mustard at this point; either transgender people are the LGBT community, or transgender people aren’t. Two bills means transgender people like me are not part of the greater LGBT community. Rep. Frank is essentially saying it’s not LGBT, but LGBt.

Congressional Democratic Leadership, in the form of Rep. Franks’ ENDA and GENDA, has presented major LGBT 501(c) and civil rights organizations with a dilemma. Either these organizations can choose to support a single ENDA that covers both sexual orientation and gender identity, or chose not too. But, even though legislatively it may be easier and more convenient to leave transgender people out the main ENDA bill, the “separate but equal” approach to ENDA legislation will mean deep, public division for the LGBT community. It already has meant bloody havoc — and it’ll get worse.

So to the one, large, LGBT civil rights organization that has yet to announce how it’s going to come down on the “separate but equal” approach to ENDA, I have this to say:

My transgender peers and I am watching you, Human Rights Campaign, for your final statement on the “separate but equal” approach to ENDA legislation. If you support the “separate but equal” approach to ENDA, I know I’ll be among the first calling for you to take the T out of your mission statement. “Separate but equal” is not going to be an acceptable option at all to transgender people, their significant others, friends, families, and most of our allies.

As for congressional Democrats, they’ve lost a lot of LGBT respect. They’ve divided their LGBT base for politics alone — that can’t be good for future votes or political donations.

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