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On ENDA: what this discussion shouldn’t be.

This is a general response to discussions I’ve read and heard from a variety of places about the ENDA bill. While every item I mention below is something that I did observe, I don’t mean to imply that all things below happened in any one forum. I am writing this in second person as a rhetorical device. Please do not assume I am accusing you, personally, of anything specific.

  • This discussion should not be about whether or not Barney Frank is a ‘phobe. He’s a politician. I don’t care whether he likes or hates the transgendered. I care what he does.
  • This discussion should not be about whether or not transsexuals are so selfish as to be willing to torpedo the lesbian and gay community’s efforts to get ENDA passed. Much of the opposition to the split in EDNA is coming from organizations dominated by lesbians and gay men.
  • This discussion should not be about who suffers more discrimination. We’re all screwed under the current government.
  • This discussion should not be about whether or not John Aravosis (or anyone else) is a racist or any other personal aspects about him. If you want to argue with him, fine, but argue with what he says not whom you perceive him to be. I say this not to defend John, but because some of the focus I see on him is what I think of as a major distraction.
  • This discussion should not be about who is or is not qualified to speak for transsexuals, lesbians, gay men, bisexuals or anyone else. That’s because no one is qualified to speak for anyone but themselves.
  • Similarly, this discussion should not be about what “my friends” think. If you feel the need to bolster your own argument by drawing people into the discussion who aren’t here to participate in it, you’ve suggested to me that you don’t feel confident about your own point of view and need outside help to bolster it.
  • This discussion should not be about what bad experience you had with people who are lesbian / gay / bi / transgendered / etc. in the past. Whatever specific experiences you have had with specific individuals, that has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not you or those other folks you don’t like deserve equal rights under the law.
  • This discussion should not be about whether or not passing ENDA at this point will “get us our rights.” It won’t. No passage of ENDA will give any of us any rights we do not already have, because if our President has no qualms about vetoing health insurance for poor children, he’s got no qualms whatsoever about vetoing rights for those queer people. He will veto this bill whether it includes gender identity provisions or not. Period.
  • This discussion should not be about who decided that LGBT are all in the same boat. In the last two decades, groups went from “lesbian and gay” to “lesbian, gay and bisexual” to LGBT. These were all decisions made by active members of these groups who participated in difficult discussions before making the changes. You are welcome to form groups which are specific to your own narrow issues and you are welcome to try to change those existing groups to focus on your more narrow issues. These are options you have, but please understand that these changes did not take place clandestinely.
  • This discussion should not be about why anyone calls themselves whatever label they choose. That’s a personal decision that is completely beside the point.

I’m a big fan of argument, even unpleasant argument, but I’m not a big fan of the sort of argument which distracts us with irrelevancies. So here’s what I think of as the relevant questions:

  • What are the useful aspects of passing a non-inclusive ENDA at this particular point in time?
  • What are the problematic aspects of passing a non-inclusive ENDA at this particular point in time?
  • Is it better to split ENDA into two separate bills or better to have a single version on the floor, and is a single bill without gender provisions just as bad as no bill at all?

Reasonable, honest, people can disagree on these things. They can even disagree on them without personally attacking one another. I would, personally, like to see more of these disagreements without name-calling.

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