Recently the Human Rights Campaign had a conference call with certain leaders within the transgender community. The following information is from an email concerning the results of that conference call. I am going to dissect this email, but you can read it there in its entirety.
Up first was a needs assessment:
A professional survey to teach us just what the American people understand about trans and what they don't. By region, by demographics, by religion, etc. Let's do the state of the art survey so we know what we're starting with. Questions like "what does transgender conjure up in your mind"? "What is the difference between gay and trans"? "Do you know that just as many females transition to male as vice versa"? Let's get down to the core issues.
I'm really confused by this. Why do we need an in depth study on what Joe Six Pack people think of transgender people? HRC put out a study in 2002 and updated it in 2004, that said 60-78 percent of Americans support workplace protections for transgender people. If anyone is needs to be polled, it's the Congress. They aren't supporting what the majority of their constituents want.
Then we research the 110+ jurisdictions with protections and characterize what was done right and what was done wrong. We need to work with other groups that have been doing this. I also don't think it would hurt for Joe to sit down with them, apologize and begin the rebuilding. Trust is essential but will be hard to come by, and it would be a terrible waste of energy to try and go this alone. UnitedENDA should be a resource.
In my not so humble opinion, the problem with the HRC is that we have been, are, and will continue to be expendable. Apologies without action to change mean nothing. Will the introduction of ENDA in the Senate bring a change in HRC's policy of supporting a noninclusive bill? I've been told by multiple sources that David Smith has said that HRC will NEVER oppose a gay rights bill (even if it's not transinclusive). This seems to be the place where the rubber meets the road. If HRC wants to make inroads into the transgender community they should not only apologize, but commit to only supporting fully inclusive legislation.
Work with the National Center for Trangender Equality (NCTE) to find trans persons to target those 50 or so Congresspersons, and give them the data to help them lobby. But remember that nothing beats face-to-face contacts, and that means the rep and not the chief-of-staff or LA.
Work with NCTE? Wow, that was a short lived breakup! For the record, IFGE, NCTE and NGLTF already did that kind of lobbying effort in October. At the same time, HRC and Barney Frank were lobbying for the noninclusive bill. Representative Frank also used his power in Congress to strong arming other House members to vote for the noninclusive bill. The face to face meetings with the Representatives should have happened in May, when NCTE, the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC), and GenderPAC had their lobby week. Removal from ENDA was known to be a very strong possibility even then.
Work with GLAAD to develop video and PSAs for the targeted states and Congresspersons. We need to show them that we have materials that will help them withstand any hypothetical attacks.
Redouble the corporate work -- they've been doing a great job.”
Unfortunately, the work that HRC in this area was done by former transgender board members, Donna Rose and Jamison Green.
Then they end the drafts with some talking points.
We recognize that HRC's decision to follow a different strategy to secure a fully-inclusive bill was hurtful to some members of our community and we regret that. Because we share the same goal of a fully-inclusive ENDA, HRC is immediately launching a new public education campaign designed to continue the mainstreaming of transgender issues, with three initial priorities
Passing a noninclusive bill is not a strategy for success if you want inclusion.
Other thoughts (not sure where these fit above): Repositioning all of HRC's messaging to be more inclusive of transgender people, and more humble/apologetic about HRC's past exclusion of the transgender community.
Again, actions speak louder than words. We don't want to be a bargaining chip. We don't want to be seen as expendable. We don't want to be left out of ENDA. I can't say this any clearer.
Requiring each HRC Regional Steering Committee to undergo transgender awareness training, and to actively work to increase transgender participation on the Committee Holding "lunch and learn" sessions at HRC headquarters, where staffers can hear from transgender people directly on topics such as trans law, history, insurance, healthcare issues etc. Urging HRC staffers to consider transgender people for job openings
Are we so far apart that your folks need transgender awareness training?
The first step in rebuilding our trust in HRC must be for HRC to own up to the fact that we were promised one thing and the promise, for whatever reason, was broken. Members of the transgender community I've spoken to want an apology and an explanation, and the explanation must be sincere and convincing. They want to see a stop to public announcements that contradict private activity which many believe is still going on. Until that is done, it will be near impossible to get increased participation from the transgender community.
You've spoken to the wrong people...we want inclusion.
And this is a sad state of affairs. Sure there are 200-300 organizations in United ENDA (depending on how you count them), but so many of them are small. None of them has the resources to mount a nationwide educational campaign about transgender. HRC does. Mainstream media has been wonderful to us this year. Barbara Walters 20/20, Larry King Live, Opera, the Discovery Channel, Ugly Betty, All My Children, and others have done a largely commendable job of bringing a positive view of transgender issues before the public. Yet we still have to overcome the image that Jerry Springer shows them on TV and the image we ourselves give the public with our Gay Pride and Halloween parades. We can tell our stories all we want on HRC's web site and on Donna Rose's proposed website. The only people we will reach there are those who are specifically looking for this kind of information.
Do you guys have David Copperfield working for you? That was pretty amazing! You made United ENDA seem infinitesimally small... but how many people do the organizations of United ENDA represent? The Equality Federation... it isn't small, and neither is NGLTF.
At this time, I believe that only HRC has the resources to help us get the message out to mainstream America.
It seems like United ENDA did a pretty effective job at getting the message out before the vote. HRC does have resources, but can they be trusted? No. The folks of United ENDA have been there for us. There is a subtle admission in this email that HRC has lost the GLBT community's trust. An apology from a good actor, will not suffice.
The second step would be to truly understand the transgender community . As you well know, many in the transgender community are unemployed or underemployed. They cannot afford the time or the money to visit their political leaders and speak for themselves. Many have been denied the opportunity for higher education and thus cannot express themselves as they would need to when speaking to politicians and business leaders.
A study done by Erich, S., Tittsworth, J., Dykes, J., & Cabusas, C. (in press). Family relationships and their correlations with transsexual well being. Journal of GLBT Family Studies shows that:
47% had incomes below $30,000 annually.
6.7 % unemployed
9.0% part time (under-employed) employed
total unemployed and part time (under-employed) = 15.7
30.7% bachelor degree
16.5% master degree
8.8% doctorial degree
38.5% some college
5.5% high school
56% have a college degree
44% have a high school or some college courses
On the other hand, there have been more fortunate transgender individuals, particularly transsexuals, who have survived the attacks, found the strength to go on, found the opportunity for education, and found the conviction to live their lives as they should. They are accepted in their proper gender. These transsexuals are educated, with good paying, respectable careers. These people can speak for the community. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of them, the fight to get where they now are has been too long and too hard. They don't want to fight anymore. They have changed their gender, their birth certificates, their college records and work histories. They have moved hundreds, indeed thousands, of miles away from home to start new lives. They want to live the years they have left in relative peace, in their proper gender. I cannot fault them for that. Just as no one should be compelled to live in shame or fear, no one should be compelled to 'come out' and expose themselves to renewed expressions of discrimination and bigotry.
Our biggest source of burnout is that we're left to fight our own community, instead of our real enemies. Many transactivists walk away from activism because they're tired of fighting HRC for inclusion.
The third step would be to build trust through actions; communicate with our employers, develop new talent, and help us tell our stories to our lawmakers. Those employers who have signed on to equality will most likely listen to HRC. Convince those employers that allowing an employee a few days away from work to fly to Washington or their State Capital would be a good thing for business. There may be employees at those companies who don't even belong to HRC. Seek out those who would like to speak up if given the chance. Give us some training on how to present ourselves. Help the employees with airfare and lodging when needed. Help us get the lawmakers to receive us and to talk to us. Arrange the sit down time that many cannot get with our lawmakers.
Give us the opportunity to put a face on transgender; to demonstrate to our State and National legislators that we are worthy human beings, worthy of protection from harm, and of freedom from discrimination.
I believe HRC needs these first three steps of rebuilding trust and demonstrating commitment before the fourth step, The fourth step is what you really have asked how to do. By this time transgender who have responded to your call will have acquired the self-confidence of knowing they can speak up for the community. You will have developed new talent in the transgender community. At this point you can ask them to serve actively in HRC and expect them to serve well.
HRC has the political and financial clout to do all this. We have two years to prepare for the next volley in Congress. I think this would be a good start.
The truth of the matter is that HRC included transgender people in their mission statement in 2001. Much of what has been discussed above should have been done in the 6 years following our inclusion into HRC's mission statement. The tone of much of this email is of a parent to a child (step-child, even). HRC's lack of commitment to the transgender community has been so bad at times that the community felt it had to protest HRC. To have them condescend to us in the above manner is just down right insulting. HRC should be supporting us in our actions, not dictating what the transgender community should do. It's like a parent of an abandoned child coming back and giving the child advice after they've grown up.
Daddy Warbucks, ya ain't.