Marti Abernathey

The Death of United ENDA Part III: The Funeral

Filed By Marti Abernathey | June 24, 2008 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: ENDA, gender identity, NCTE, NGLTF

In March I wrote a post called "The Many Faces Of Mara Keisling: The Death of United ENDA?" in which I put forth the theory that the coalition of over 300 groups was dead. In April I wrote "Starting From Scratch:The Death of United ENDA Part II" in which I furthered my theory by pointing out the words of Matt Foreman (the departing executive director of NGLTF) that alluded to the death of United ENDA.

Yesterday I received an email from NCTE regarding the upcoming hearings:

I am really proud of the role that NCTE played in getting us to this historical day. This is not only an opportunity to be truly heard by our fellow Americans, it will help to build the foundation for significant changes in federal laws protecting transgender people from discrimination. Witness have not yet been announced." - NCTE newsletter

According to my sources, the role that NCTE and NGLTF has played in these hearings has been minimal. This only reinforced Donna Rose's blog post from March 3rd which I referred to in my post.

During our conversation today HRC came up several times. Joe (Racalto, Barney Frank's senior policy adviser) went out of his way to assure me that HRC is taking the lead in these hearings in many ways. As far as our community is concerned I'll take his word for it and let it all unfold....

And most recently from HRC email:

HRC has been a key player in working with Congressman Andrews, and well as Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) in ensuring that this critical hearing took place. We have also has been working with a coalition of groups, including the ACLU, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in preparing for the hearing.

HRC is activating resources throughout the organization in support of this hearing. Our own Diego Sanchez, member of the Business Council and the Boston Steering Committee, has been invited to testify at the hearing. Workplace Project staff are garnering letters of support and written testimony from corporate America, and another member of the Business Council, Meghan Stabler, will also be submitting testimony for the record. The Religion and Faith Program has secured written testimony from Religion Council member Reverend Erin Swenson and is soliciting statements of support from other faith leaders and groups. Our Web Team is working to ensure that the hearing, and all of our resources on transgender issues, are highlighted on our website and the Communications Department is using its connections to secure extensive coverage of this historic event. And, of course, the folks in Political and Legal are working closely with witnesses, congressional staff and coalition partners to ensure the hearing is the most productive discussion of this critical issue possible.

More information about the hearing will be posted on the committee's website here -- http://edlabor.house.gov/committee/schedule.shtml -- when it becomes available, and the subcommittee hearing will likely be webcast there as well.

We're very excited that HRC is part of this historic hearing!

Keep in mind that in January of this year Keisling said:

Our official position right now is we are extremely disappointed and angry at HRC. ... The real bottom line is right now NCTE will not do anything that will rehabilitate HRC as a legitimate spokesman for transgender people ... until they stop actively hurting trans people', said Keisling. She characterized HRC's advocacy of the sexual orientation-only version of ENDA in the House, as well as its expected lobbying to pass the bill this year in the Senate, as hurting trans people.

As for NCTE's future plans for ENDA, Keisling said that after the election she expects advocates to lobby a new Congress and a new president in favor of passing a trans-inclusive ENDA bill.

'It is our expectation that in 2009 Congress is going to hear from a very united LGBT movement,' said Keisling. 'Whether that includes HRC I have no idea.' - Trans-HRC schism widens

Those words ring solidly hollow, as the United ENDA coalition now swings from the gallows. Especially given the fact that HRC admits that NCTE and NGLTF have worked together to organize the hearings.

Herwitt said a coalition of LGBT and civil rights organizations, including HRC, NCTE, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the ACLU and the National Center for Lesbian Rights, have been coordinating strategy for the hearing and have been meeting and talking regularly.

What is obvious in all this is how anemic NCTE and NGLTF have become (especially since the departure of Matt Foreman, and most recently David Noble, from NGTLF). It also shows that the HRC is still the gatekeeper to Congress. With the reality of that situation some very important questions need to be asked:


  1. Do we keep asking the HRC to include us?

  2. Should we try and shame them into caring about our issues as much as they care about their own?

  3. Should we continue to give money to groups that support this pathway to equality?


The answer to these questions are vital. The coming years will be a time to rebuild the movement. We need to talk about what our next move as a community is. Like any death, it is a time to reflect on how the end of this life mattered to us, and what we can do to change our own future.


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Marti - it's so good to read a post from you. With all your Obama work, it's been sad not to see you around the blog.

You ask some really tough questions. Personally, I don't give money to the HRC anyway. But in my opinion, any group that doesn't represent the entire community isn't worthy of my support - monetary or otherwise.

It sure does look like this issue has moved beyond just united ENDA.

Although, as I said at the time, wasn't United ENDA just a letter and a webpage?

Some of this is a tough call. Not regarding the HRC, mind you: my attitude there (and being non-American, all I can do is advise) would be just to walk away from them, don't trust them to lead any trans-advocacy, and keep doing what you're doing. The HRC's actions right now simply reflect that they've realized that their past actions might affect contributions from trans-aware GLB people.

Regarding the NCTE and NGLTF, I can understand their situation somewhat. The offer to participate in a congressional hearing to promote awareness is an important offer -- one that would make a person seriously consider making a deal with the devil. Right now, these organizations are asking "where do we go from here?" (Alex is right, United ENDA was just a statement, albeit one that we can hold its member organizations to). While I distrust anything coming from the HRC, I can't fault these groups from being temptated to make the best of it during this moment of otherwise stalemate.

We have our similar GLB iceberg here in Canada, which allows me to predict the HRC somewhat (although to be fair, egaleCanada hasn't burned the bridge to the extent that the HRC has, yet -- I'd consider working with them, but wouldn't consider relying on them). There may be a day for reconciliation with the HRC. But it will be another day, with another administration and another vision.

United ENDA, however, remains until the member groups start to betray the original spirit of the statement by supporting non-inclusive legislation. That's not what the NCTE and NGLTF are doing here.

OTOH, the death of United ENDA would happen a lot sooner without people like you out there keeping them accountable. Including for statements like:

The real bottom line is right now NCTE will not do anything that will rehabilitate HRC as a legitimate spokesman for transgender people... until they stop actively hurting trans people

# Should we try and shame them into caring about our issues as much as they care about their own?

# Should we continue to give money to groups that support this pathway to equality?>

1. HRC is going to say they speak for the T community, regardless of what T people think of them. I would personally rather they never mention T people, if they're unwilling to support nothing short of an inclusive ENDA. If they're going to use the T word, they should support nothing but inclusion in ENDA. Porcine creatures will be going down the runway at O'Hare, first. I'd settle for HRC telling their former aides who are now working for Members of Congress to kindly allow T people to lobby their Congressmen, and quit isolating them from T people. HRC has been doing that since 1996.

2. We need to call them out when they tell lies and falsehoods, as they did in 2007. If a group doesn't support T people, that is their right. But don't claim you support us, then backstab us.

3. If ENDA passes without T inclusion, it will open the door to even more anti-T prejudice. It's almost required for survival reasons that the T community oppose the passage of a non-inclusive ENDA. Passage of ENDA without T is going to directly cause the unemployment and death of even more transpeople. It's impossible for us to pass GENDA on our own, there's too few of us. Short answer: heads they win, tails we lose. Shame is one of our only-and best weapons.

As for the hearings, I'll hold off until I see how it goes. Count me as a skeptic, and as one who sees it as a risky proposition.

United ENDA? What's United ENDA? It became irrelevant in November 2007.

I suspect the hearing is a showcase for Mara Keisling of the NCTE and HRC with little real intent for trans employment issues. I sent Mara an e-mail mentioning my situation (lost everything for being trans, got another job, was fired for being trans, recovered by getting a nursing degree...) and included my history of being a military officer (USAF). I suggested she might wish to include my history in the hearing. Mara never bothered to reply. If NCTE and by extension HRC have no interest in presenting the histories of trans folks in the workplace other than parading out their usual carefully groomed suspects I question their sincerity.

My impression is the the management of the NCTE and HRC enjoy stirring the waters now and again to make themselves feel relevant and garner donations yet really have no desire to resolve employment issues.

I hope these hearings will be televised, and I don't know how much good it would do to make an
effort to try and have it done. Contacting
C-SPAN may work if enough of us do it, but I trust Autumn Sandeen to tell us what happens in the hearings.
This much I can say - Diane Schroer gave a keynote speech at the BeAll, and I talked briefly with her. She is not a person who will be railroaded, and I'm glad she is on the panel.
But having said that, I have to wonder if HRC isn't trying to take the credit if the hearings go well, but put the blame on NCTE and NGLTF if they don't.
All the groups remotely connected with these hearings are now under a microscope. Let's see what happens.

The hearing will be broadcast here: http://edlabor.house.gov/about/index.shtml
on Thursday at 10:30 am. This hearing isn't associated with a specific piece of legislation so I don't know what we expect the the subcommittee to do after the hearing. Perhaps they'll just thank HRC for bringing the matter to their attention since no one in Congress knows who or what transgender people are.

Maybe by 2010 they'll decide to introduce a gender identity employment non discrimination bill but only if it has enough votes to pass. Congress doesn't introduce bills unless they're sure it will pass.

Don't forget to write to HRC and thank them for working with our voice in Washington. If HRC wasn't there to speak on our behalf, there would be no hearing without a bill attached. Oh, don't forget to sign your check.

The hearing will be broadcast here: http://edlabor.house.gov/about/index.shtml
on Thursday at 10:30 am.
The isn't this hearing associated with a specific piece of legislation so I don't know what we expect the the subcommittee to do after the hearing.
Perhaps they'll just thank HRC for bringing the matter to their attention since no one in Congress knows who or what transgender people are.
Maybe by 2010 they'll decide to introduce a gender identity employment non discrimination bill but only if it has enough votes to pass. Congress doesn't introduce bills unless they're sure it will pass.
Don't forget to write to HRC and thank them for working with our voice in Washington. If HRC wasn't there to speak on our behalf, there would be no hearing without a bill attached. Oh, don't forget to sign your check.

Ah yes. Scarcasm is so good for the soul.

And as usual, African-American transpeople are left out, period