Cross-posted at DailyKos

Sure, this generation is not free of homophobia, but this is a generation that grew up with openly gay and lesbian people serving in Congress, acting in films, hosting television shows and fronting rock bands. This generation grew up in schools where students unite in gay-straight alliances and march for tolerance. This generation grew up in a country that shared a common grief over the murder of a gay college student. This generation grew up watching gays and lesbians marry on cable news, bicker on reality TV and compete in pro sports. This generation grew up with gays in the Secret Service, gays in the FBI, gays in the CIA and yes, gays in the military, such as former Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Eric Alva, the first soldier injured in the ground war in Iraq and a recipient of the Purple Heart.

Lisa Neff, columnist,

Where are we now? By “we” I’m alluding to the LGBT community and our allies, but what does that even mean anyway? We, the LGBT community, has never moved in lockstep. The inner quarrels within the queer community, over linguistics, over inclusion, over priorities, are just as intense today as they were right after Stonewall.

The truth is, quite frankly, is that we’re not a community bloc of LGBT folk, we’re a series of ideological factions fighting for control of this mythical movement that the Christian Right calls “The Gay Agenda.” Our allies and fellow LGBT Americans need to dispel the myth of being a one-issue constituency. Equal Marriage Rights are important to many in our community, and meaningless to an equal amount of individuals, who are more concerned about many other issues (transgender civil rights, single-payer health insurance and socio-economic justice just to name a few):

“Of course there is a gay agenda, but we need to be clear: There are a number of gay agendas… As we look at these gay agendas, we need to make sure that one gay agenda does not overshadow the others.”

Martîn Ornelas-Quintero, executive director of LLEGÓ, the National Latina/o Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Organization (org no longer functioning).

A year ago I would have surely said that if we all just agreed on a common measurement of LGBT social justice, we could find areas of mutual cooperation even with differing political priorities. Bullshit. We will always fight over how our LGBT civil rights organizations spend money, how they endorse politicians and how our movement includes (or refuses to include) appropriate racial, gender and class representation. So yeah, we’ll always fight and THANK GOD we do.

A year ago exactly, I was preparing for an internship at the National Center for Transgender Equality. Little did I know that one of the largest schisms in the history of the contemporary LGBT civil rights movement would erupt during my short time with NCTE.

Professr Dale Carpenter wrote an editorial for the Bay Area Reporter where he described a very important bill, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act as such:

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and leaders in the House of Representatives maintain that ENDA will pass if it is limited to protecting gay people from employment discrimination. But, they say, it cannot pass if it also includes protection for “gender identity,” a term that refers in part to the transgendered. Frank and House leaders might be wrong about this, or they might be too cautious, but nobody has yet offered a more reliable vote count…

Prof. Carpenter went on to state his opinion of the contemporary transgender rights movement:

Passage of ENDA is possible only because gay people have organized politically to educate Americans about homosexuality and to elect sympathetic representatives. When similar federal legislation was first proposed in 1974, it was an exotic cause. After more than three decades of hard work, the votes are finally there.

There has been no comparable effort – in terms of duration, intensity, or effectiveness – to educate or to organize for trans rights. This is partly because the idea is relatively new for most people. ENDA itself did not include “gender identity” until very recently. Trans protections have passed in a few (mostly) liberal states, but we don’t have a liberal congressional majority.

While ignoring the decades of intense and growing trans activism in America, Dale touched on a sentiment that many proponents of incremental pushes for civil rights believe in: that we can’t as a movement push for everyone’s rights at the same time. Dale Carpenter, Rep. Barney Frank and some LGBT activists spearheaded an approach to the bill that would settle for an ENDA without gender-identity protections, essentially leaving out protections for transgender folk and other gender non-conforming individuals.

Passionate opposition arose against this strategy from within the LGBT community. Most notably in the form United ENDA, a coalition of almost all of the largest LGBT organization in the nation (with the exception, most notably of the Human Rights Campaign) whose common purpose was to push for a fully-inclusive ENDA:

The undersigned represent the vast and celebrated diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in this country. Some of us are national leaders of organizations with tens of thousands of members and constituents, some of us run the only local organization in our state. But we are united in a common cause: We ask you to keep working with us on an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that protects everyone in our community, and to oppose any substitute legislation that leaves some of us behind.

We ask and hope that in this moment of truth, you will stand for the courage real leadership sometimes demands. You each command enormous respect from all of us and we do appreciate the difficulty of balancing a variety of competing demands. But the correct course in this case and on this legislation is strikingly clear. We oppose legislation that leaves part of our community without protections and basic security that the rest of us are provided.

You told us you supported a fully inclusive ENDA and would bring it up for a vote this year. We expect that you will honor that commitment and we look forward to working together to pass a bill that we can all be proud to support.

The interaction between these two ideological factions and the many other diverse opinions surrounding the issue touched off a firestorm of emotions, protests, legislative action and grassroots action. Ironically enough, Prof. Carpenter and his ideological allies on ENDA awakened the very transgender civil rights movement they claimed not to be existant. Through conflict over our priorities as a community, we built our movement and gained victories such as the recent history making congressional hearing on transgender employment discrimination.

Through intense conflict within our movement is when we grow the most, provided the disagreements lead to as much constructive dialogue as disagreement. Our LGBT rights movement thrives on conflict. That conflict forces to to perpetually improve out political strategies and widen our goals as a movement towards more inclusivity, not less. It’s through our inner conflicts as a community that we have built a movement strong enough to gain as much as was laid out in the beginning of this post.

In conclusion, the moral of the story is to raise hell, argue often, disagree when needed and organize ALWAYS.  


Author’s Note: My name is Travis Ballie. My area of activism centers particularly around queer activism. My goal is to write diaries on DailyKos as a regular update concerning issues facing the queer community and occasionally other issues dealing with race, gender and class. I sincerely hope to gain a readership base of committed LGBT activists and our supporters. Such a base will only enhance DailyKos and provoke greater thought. Just as a note, I may use terms like gay, lesbian, bisexual transgender (GLBT) or queer (a substitute for GLBT).




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