Guest Blogger

ENDA - To Support It or Not?

Filed By Guest Blogger | September 29, 2007 9:51 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Barney Frank, Congress, ENDA, hate crimes against LGBT people, inclusion, LGBT civil rights, LGBT history, transgender

[EDITOR'S NOTE:] The following is a guest post by Peter Rosenstein. Peter has worked for Congresswoman Bella Abzug, the Carter administration, and the White House Conference for the Handicapped Implementation Unit. In addition, Peter has been a member of the Development Committee for Whitman-Walker Clinic, Chair of the Issues Campaign for DC Mayor Adrian Fenty, Chair of the Issues Committee for Washington DC Mayor Williams’ election campaigns, and a Senior Advisor to the Mayor.

Hate Crimes passes the Senate! The Democrats deserve our thanks because they managed to include not only the words sexual orientation but “gender identity” as a protected class.

Now comes ENDA and that seems to be the harder fight. There are still those who believe we should be second class citizens without employment rights. On the eve of the House taking up ENDA the issue of “gender identity” again was raised. Even some of our supporters appear to have a problem with this. Our national organizations must face this head on and make hard decisions, but our community doesn’t agree on what that decision should be.

Matt Foreman, now Executive Director of NGLTF who signed a letter that he would oppose ENDA without “gender identity” seems to have changed his views based on who he works for. In 2002 in New York when they passed their version of ENDA and State Senator Tom Duane tried to add “gender identity” Forman opposed it as Executive Director of Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA), and said in a December 25th, 2002 Village Voice article, “I’m no longer going to stand on statements that sound good and get us nowhere. We want deliverables.” Duane decried ESPA, led by Foreman, for their tactics opposing his trans-inclusive amendment calling them “vicious and mean-spirited” whey they even went so far as to threaten to withhold money from him. Duane’s amendment failed.

I want us to fight for “gender identity” in the bill but am not willing to give up ENDA if we can’t get it passed with that. I want ENDA passed after fighting for it for over thirty years. Bella S. Abzug (D-NY), who I had the honor of working for, first introduced it in the mid 70’s. So I have a real problem when many of our national organizations release the following statement which they did yesterday: “…We would also oppose any bill that did not protect transgender people”.

Our national organizations have had difficult decisions before and I have been pissed as hell at them for some of them. I stopped giving to NGLTF when they got involved in every issue under the sun and the Human Rights Campaign when they endorsed Alfonse D’Amato in New York. I stopped going to both their dinners for other reasons (including that they were interminably boring).

But the reality is that many of us give to one or another of them each year. Lately I have had to recognize that when all is said and done, HRC is the one organization that has the potential to accomplish the most for us. They have the clout to get all the Democratic Presidential candidates to a debate. They can change a candidate’s statement as we saw after General Peter Pace called us names and they have the potential to make a real difference in Congressional races as we have seen in the last cycle in a number of states.

I would expect that all our national organizations will debate whether or not to support ENDA if it is introduced without “gender identity”. The boards of HRC, NGLTF and P-FLAG should meet if they are truly serving us, to discuss this. They should take into consideration that we have been fighting this battle since long before our community added the “T” to our acronym. We started this fight for the nearly 30,000,000 gays and lesbians in the nation, if we use the 10% figure. It is time to get this bill passed and not hold it up for any reason.

We have always known that inclusion of transgender protections would potentially be a non-starter at this time. Though the issues our opponents raise regarding transgender employees are all specious, the fact is we haven’t figured out yet how to fight them effectively.

When the Boards of our national organizations adopted policies including “gender identity” in all legislation, they did so when nothing was moving or could move through Congress. So the decision was a fairly easy one and the right one.

But now we are faced with reality and crunch time for a decision in our community. I think we need to take the lead from Barney Frank (D-MA), who has been the leader of our community in Congress for 20 years, and move a bill that can win. His introduction of two bills makes sense.

We must ask if there is no way to move ENDA with “gender identity” can we afford to say no to ENDA now? If we do will we wait one year, two years, or another ten years? In that time how many men and women will lose their jobs or be denied jobs or promotions? How many will lose their own and their children’s health insurance? How many might lose their homes?

These are some of the issues that I expect the Boards of our national organizations to reconsider as they make this crucial decision. We need to only look at history to see that all civil rights legislation has been gained incrementally. It has never been all or nothing.


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Thanks for standing up for the least of us

I'm calling for you to be fired. Not because you're gay, of course. Because you're a big sissy who's not man enough to stand up for transgender protection. That's not a sexual orientation thing; it's a gender identity thing.

Think about it.

you didn't start any fight for equality. the transgender "drag queens" at stonewall did, while you were still wearing your mommies panties in the closet. read your history.

jeri hughes

The fact that Mr. Rosenstein uses the words "gender identity" in quotation marks, speaks volumes about his inability to grasp either the legitimacy of gender issues, or the importance of their inclusion in civil rights legislation.

I will quote twice from Dr Martin Luther King, and once from a book he admired - the Bible:

The first quote is

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

The second quote is

Cowardice asks the question - is it safe?
Expediency asks the question - is it politic?
Vanity asks the question - is it popular?
But conscience asks the question - is it right?
And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.

The third quote is from Daniel 5:27

Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.

Anybody who supports ENDA without gender identity inclusion is No Friend of the Transgender Community.

You can take your ENDA and kindly insert it where the sun shall not shine.

Susan Robins

I'll admit that ditching "gender identity" (which at least in my case, is currently in quotes because it's designating the language to be jettisoned) is the politically expedient thing to do. I'll even go further and say that most civil rights laws do move forward exponentially - adding this or picking up other segments along the way.

That said, let me say clearly that I completely disagree with splitting up the community. For example, while blacks, women, and hispanics were all added separately to our civil rights laws, those groups didn't consider themselves a community. Blacks weren't told, "Those of you who are X% dark can get protected, but the lighter skinned folks could pass for white. We'll come back for you later." Women weren't told, "Ugly women will get protection, but pretty women won't. They could flirt and get promoted." Why not? Because who's to say what's too light or too pretty? And who's to say who's too nelly or butch to fit neatly into the sexual orientation category?

By splitting our community into even more distinct sections is to play into the hands of right wingers across the country. The LGBT community is a loose coalition of diverse and extremely different individuals united only in their one commonality - they're queer. They're not the social norm. Gay and lesbians have sex and relationships with the same sex. Bisexuals, even more horribly, don't discriminate between genders. And worst of all for such a straight-laced Bible thumping fundie are the transgender, who change sexes themselves! *gasp* There is not bigger and easier strategy for a political win than "divide and conquer."

And that's exactly what the right wing will have accomplished here. Let's not play right into their hands.

Rosenstein is a community sellout and an anti-transgender bigot. We've known this for years. Don't take him seriously...he's a dinosaur, like his Beltway buddies.

Rev. Cathryn Platine | September 29, 2007 2:26 PM

And here is where the rubber meets the road.....far too many lesbians and gays would NOT be covered under the non-inclusive ENDA, in fact every other gay and lesbian who fails to totally conform to gender stereotypes. This has been well known to the leadership of HRC for over a decade. Frank knows this. A study was even done ten years ago among gay and lesbians...........75% of those who had experienced job discrimination felt it was on the basis of gender nonconformity, not orientation. Gays and lesbians, not trans-people, not gender queers, not transsexuals. A non-inclusive ENDA means that ONLY those who do not need the protections get them and that's the rub, it's a feel good bill only because by jettisoning the gender identity language it actually becomes meaningless to the entire community other than those with passing privilege.

How does that work you ask? Jane, a butch lesbian, is fired for looking too butch. When she tries to sue based on ENDA protections for orientation her employer points to the femme Mary and states she is an out lesbian therefore the issue is not orientation. Further, there is a legal consideration called legislative intent. Pass a non-inclusive ENDA and all future court decisions regardless of past ones can now be based there being no legislative intent to protect any gender nonconformity effectively erasing past favourable decisions. Think it cannot happen?......it already did in New York after SONDA became law and in exactly that manner.

In 1997 and 1999 I lobbyed Congress as part of trans Lobby Days. Both those years I met with aides and Representives and Congressmen who told me and showed me proof HRC had been pre-lobbying against our efforts. One very conservative Republican Congressman took over an hour of his time and even missed a roll call vote to talk to us frankly about this. HRC does not want trannys picketing their fund raisers or confronting them at events and so they are now trying to pretend they are supportive while letting Barney Frank pull off his transphobic last minute slight of hand. Pelosi wants to put a gay positive spin on the Democratic party with the least amount of cost.

Wake up people. Barney Frank is a well known transphobe who has been actively working against any trans inclusion all along changing only enough to keep his record muddy for deniability. Pelosi is about to get a HRC award and both she and HRC need a big "win" to keep the gay bucks rolling in. ENDA doesn't have a snowballs chance in hell in the Senate and they know it. By cutting out gender protections now, the fix is in for the future and it will not be including then......again, just as happened in New York year after year after year until finally the time arrived and it was off the table.

The crux of the issue comes down to one paragraph in Peter's post: "We have always known that inclusion of transgender protections would potentially be a non-starter at this time. Though the issues our opponents raise regarding transgender employees are all specious, the fact is we haven’t figured out yet how to fight them effectively."

Point 1 -- Peter, you are right, HRC knew trans-inclusive ENDA was extraordinarily risky and they made a choice. When the going gets tough, the ethic act with integrity and give in to bigotry.

Point 2 -- you can't figure out how to fight/educate "trans" bigots? How about having one or two gender-affirmed people as witnesses at the House hearing? Peter, did you see Barbara Walters' recent 20/20 show on the issue, or the recent Newsweek cover story on the issue? Pretty straightforward stuff to educate people with.

Point 3 -- the folks who don't want their kids educated by a "trans" person don't want their kids educated by a "homosexual" (the word they will use). (I'll save for another day the interesting point how groups like HRC have no problem using the word "transsexual" but avoid the word "homosexual"; sexual has no relevance to gender dysphoria, whereas it has a fair amount to do with sexual orientation. Both terms should be avoided because of their pejorative connotations.)

Point 4 -- Peter did you know that the NJ Legislature passed both the civil union law and the gender identity/expression anti-discrimination law on the same day in December 2006? Did you know that the Legislature was ordered by the NJ Supreme Court to pass a civil union law, and that the Legislature was under no court directive to pass a gender identity/expression anti-discrimination law? Do you know which bill garnered more yeas then nays Peter?

102-8-10 for the gender law. 79-31-10 for the civil union law. Peter, the "trans" folks had 29% more yeas than the gay and lesbian folks. Nearly 4 times as many legislators were against G&L people than were against T people.

Christine

Christine,

A couple of key points about the NJ trans rights bill:

1. The bill sat for two years not even voted on because the NJ legislature was too busy pandering to senior citizens and soccer moms to bother taking it up, even though it was supported by over 70% of residents and a strong majority in the legislature.

2. The reason it finally got a vote was becuase at last year's NJ Democratic Committee Convention, NJDC President Diane Legreid referred to a drag performer, Devon Cass, who was about to perform at the GLBT Caucus meeting, saying "We cannot have THAT walking in the hallway... You cannot have that inside your Caucus. The State Committee will not have someone like THAT attending dinner -- THAT cannot come inside the ballroom. What if the press sees THAT -- what if they report on THAT in tomorrow's papers?", and threatened that the State committee would boycott the GLBT Caucus, right in front of NJ transwoman Babs Casbar, I might add.

GLBT activists as well as allies in attendance were so enraged by this woman's public display of transphobic bigotry that it threatened to become a major public issue, and part of the payback for community leaders (but not community press ;)) backing off was a promise on the part of the Democratic leadership to bring up and pass the trans rights bill.

Had this not happened, I have no doubt NJ transpeople would still be without protections today. The reason it got as many votes as it did was because the Party leadership was worried, rightfully so, that if it didn't we'd raise holy hell in the media.

Annoyed in PA | September 30, 2007 11:15 AM

So I have a question for those who want to dump the T in GLBT. What do you say to all those who are many of these letters all at once, and who could be fired for the T if not the L?

In my case, I transitioned M>F years ago, and today I am out as a lesbian with my partner of 22 years, but I am "stealth" in regards to my trans past. I am legally, socially, and functionally a lesbian, I blend 100%, and I do not consider myself a trans person anymore. But the simple fact remains that if a non-inclusive ENDA were passed, my employer could still fire me if they learned about my T past and state that it is not because of the L.

I lost my job and career when I transitioned the first time, which is why I learned the hard way to keep my trap shut. So, depending on what point in my life you pick, I have been L, B and T. So I would hate to leave any of the letters exposed.

Didn't anyone learn from the lesson in NY? There will never be coverage for T folks there because the T groups were sacrificed at the end. This appears to be the basis now for the national strategy, and I'm pulling my support for HRC and other wavering groups because of this.

Rebecca,

I disagree on your take on why the NJ Legislature passed the law barring discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression. That one event was a blip on the screen, though one that surely was embarrassing to some people.

The more important point, relevant to ENDA, is the public perception towards "trans" people. Gay and lesbian issues are far more divisive than gender identity issues. How ironic that some people this past week were making the same comment about regarding Iran.

I need to restate one sentence in my original post. The words are garbled: Point 1 -- Peter, you are right, HRC knew trans-inclusive ENDA was extraordinarily risky and they made a choice. When the going gets tough, the ethical act with integrity and don't give in to bigotry.

Christine

Peter's neighbor | September 30, 2007 5:06 PM

It's sad to see Peter laud the hate crimes bill passing, as he so strongly opposed that bill including gender identity - using the same tired, old arguments he uses here:

http://www.washblade.com/2007/5-11/view/columns/10553.cfm

And really - taking Matt Foreman to task for changing his position in a principled manner and sticking to it while Rosenstein takes credit for the hate crimes bill he opposed should tell anyone all they need to know about Rosensteins' moral compass.

But what's really sad is how this reflects on Hillary. We all know that Rosenstein is on Hillary's LGBT leadership committee. How could any of this or his public statements have happened without her consent; knowing how it would have to reflect on her? Could he really bring such dissension to her doorstep without having discussed the issue with the campaign or other members of the leadership committee?

If not - why do they let him remain on the committee?

Whoever said that the gender presentation of gay and lesbian people will be a valid pretext for firing them under the exclusive ENDA was right on the money. The correlation of those personality traits varies from person to person...but it is there. Conservatives know this so sure we will make it harder to fire a gay male as long as he is the image of manliness. So in a sense this act or lack of action is the ultimate expression of "femiphobia". It's don't ask but you can tell..

The TG'd community is to blame to some extent. Time and attention have been paid to inconsequential fights. The most attention paid to the struggles of those who need the help the least. In their efforts to control ever aspect of our image, make it more suburban, gentrified, etc. They made our whole group look like overbearing people who don't need any real protection. :tsk:

It would be nice if we could just have a law that said "Hire and promote the most meritorious candidates based on performance, skills and experience." That would cover every group of people. I know the real world does not work this way. Which is really sad.