Guest Blogger

HRC once again tries to put ENDA down the memory hole

Filed By Guest Blogger | July 01, 2008 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Duanna Johnson, HRC, Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solmonese, LGBT community, trans rights, transgender

Editors' Note: Guest blogger Lena Dahlstrom is a crossdresser from the San Francisco Bay area who also performs as a drag queen under the stage name "Joie de Vivre." Don't make her angry... you wouldn't like her when she's angry.

At Sunday's Pride I was hit up for donations by the inevitable swarm of HRC (Human Rights Campaign) supporters. With the first one I was angry, but polite -- pointing out I'd support HRC when they've proven they actually mean it when they say they support trans rights and won't sell us out again, like they did with hrc.jpgENDA last year. The second one tried to sooth me by saying that HRC wouldn't stop working for an inclusive ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act). And that's when I lost it.

Hell hath no fury like a pissed-off drag queen. While I made clear to the volunteer that I wasn't angry at her personally, I let her know loudly and in no uncertain terms that HRC's president, Joe Solmonese, made a promise at the nation's largest trans conference that HRC would only back ENDA with protections for gender identity and expression (which I might add also protects anyone -- gay or hetero -- who's not straight-acting) just a few weeks before HRC broke its word and backed a version of ENDA without these protections. So after being lied to like that, why exactly should I believe them now?

Both supporters looked embarrassed and couldn't really give me a good answer, other than asking to "express my concerns" to the folks at the main HRC booth. HRC apparently must have anticipated folks like me -- their recent beatdown by local LGBT groups and the nationwide boycotts of their annual fundraising dinner by many local LGBT (and non-LGBT) leaders and the fact that San Francisco Pride nominated HRC for a Pink Brick (for people or institutions that have "done significant harm to the interests of LGBT people") might have clued them in that a lot of other people are still furious with them. In fact, the volunteers had been given special fliers to hand out to folks like me.

It's really good thing for the folks at the HRC booth that because I was volunteering to work the gates to the Pride Celebration (collecting donations for various LGBT groups) that I didn't get a chance to read the flier until I got home. Because once again, HRC is rewriting history. The letter from Solmonese and two HRC board members says they're sorry, oh so sorry, that political expediencies exigencies left them no choice to support an neutered ENDA because the House was going to vote on it anyway and that "all of the LGBT groups involved agreed that a losing vote on gender identity would set back progress for the future."

The problem is the letter fails to mention a few teensy, tiny little things:


  • Like Solomon's promise. (Watch the speech yourself and see if he "misspoke" as Solmonese claimed only last month.)

  • Like the fact that there was no chance that ENDA was going to get signed by Bush anyway, so it was strictly a symbolic vote, and had HRC asked that it be postponed it would have been.

  • Like the fact that while other LGBT groups did agree a losing vote would be a set-back, HRC was the only one of nearly 400 LGBT organizations who wanted to move ahead with a vote for a non-inclusive ENDA regardless of what HRC clearly seems to be trying to imply in its letter.

The thing is, I'd actually had some hope that HRC was beginning to learn from their debacle. I was heartened that they were quick to speak in the case of Duanna Johnson (a trans woman who's beating by police in custody was captured on video) and that they provided extensive coverage on their website of the first-ever Congressional hearing on trans employment rights. It's really no different than if you've felt betrayed by a friend or lover. Actions speak louder than words. But part of those actions is owning what you did. HRC's fend-mending tour has been a series of a non-apology apologies. In its letter, HRC insisted that "our time to unite as community is long since overdue." I agree. But continuing to spin the issue to look blameless and hope people forget what actually happens only flames that divisiveness.

That's not say I won't work along side HRC when our interests overlap. The point of alliances is that you're joining forces toward a common goal with folks that you may not like, nor may not agree with on other issues. Protecting marriage equality is an important issue -- one that affects trans people too -- so I'll be putting my time and money into fighting California's marriage discrimination initiative this fall. Plus the reality is that HRC is the 800-pound gorilla of LGBT lobbying groups on Capitol Hill (and seemingly works just as hard at crowding out other LGBT groups as it does lobbying Congress). So any future lobbying efforts on ENDA or hate crime protections will have to take them into account.

But as long as HRC continues to piss on me and then tell me that it's raining lemonade, they shouldn't expect me to trust them -- let alone donate time or money to them.


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Every Pride here in Atlanta, it is the same ol' s-word. They get young, plyable kids to hand out fliers and try to get money from people and lie to them saying they really support trans right too. I get angry at them when they say I'm wrong. They say I should talk with someone at the booth, and my response is, "Why should I? I have already talked, many times, to Joe Solomese directly. It don't do no good." It's almost become a Pride tradition to see how many HRC people I can piss off at their booth. They almost tried to have me arrested one year handing out our fliers, but the Pride Committee approved of me doing that. Atlanta Pride is this weekend. Stay tuned.

I've been distrustful, indeed openly hostile towards HRC since 1996, and the only thing that will earn any semblence of trust in them, for me, now, would be full support of a fully inclusive ENDA, and active opposition of anything short of that. However, after the events of last fall, I'll add to that the fact that any statements of support of T issues from Smith, Solmonese, or Luna will have to be accompanied by polygraph test results from a licensed examiner. They are professional liars.

What Solmonese did last September was a bald=faced lie in front of 1000 people, not misspeaking. I'm absolutely certain he intended and meant to lie when he entered that hotel banquet room, and absolutely had to know that gender was being removed days henceforth. No hearing this year can change that.

FWIW, as you can tell I wrote that in anger and neglected to mention that I'm definitely not one of those people who obsess over HRC. I think we should better spend that time and energy moving forward on strategies to succeed. There's plenty of other organizations that trans people can -- and should -- get behind.

But actions have consequences. I believe in applauding HRC when they do the right things, which they have done -- and I believe in holding their feet to the fire when they do the wrong things (and continue to refuse to own what they did). It's no different than any other group who hold accountable the people who profess to lobby on their behalf.

I think a lot of the simmering anger toward HRC could be defused if HRC would admit they broke a promise, or at least admit they made a promise that they couldn't keep, admit that they're going to show through their actions that they've changed, and outline what specifically they plan to do to regain people's trust.

As I said in the piece, HRC is going to be part of the lobbying picture like it or not. But until proven otherwise, I see them as a fair weather ally.


As a Lesbian, I am torqued about just what a gutted mutilation of a bill the HRC ended up supporting. There were enough exclusions in the document to provide an out for nearly any kind of bigot.

Gender expression exclsuion left Butch Lesbians hugely vulnerable, as we have seen time and time again in the media. My stster-in-law's wife is soft butch and still gets harrassed solely on her gender expression.

No more.

I have said this before and I will say it til we have it: ENDA has to be for EVERYONE!

HRC should seriously change it's motto to "screwing over trans people for over a decade"

I personally caught them red handed with a smoking gun in the cookie jar both in 97 and 99..... before me others did as well.

They count on a new generation of activists willing to bury the ax coming along every couple of years and sure enough, they do....they don't even have to change the playbook.

Those that refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Stephen Clark | July 1, 2008 6:02 PM

Typical of these rants, neither the original blog entry nor any of the comments explain how HRC is supposed to wave a wand and conjure up the additional 30 to 50 votes that the trans-inclusive bill needs for House passage or the significant number of additional votes that it will need in order to surmount a Republican filibuster in the Senate. HRC is not preventing the bill from passing, the opposition of too many member of Congress is. Raving endlessly about HRC and Joe Solmonese, however, does not generate one single additional vote in either the House or the Senate.

Maura Hennessey's characterization of the bill as a "gutted mutilation," moreover, is absurd. The non-trans bill is the same basic bill that the community has been trying to get enacted for 40 years. No one thought it was a "gutted mutilation" until now. It would be better if it could pass with trans protections too, but without them, it is still as strong a bill as it ever was.

Stephen, with HRC it's more about the lying and the misrepresentations than it is about the passage of the actual bill itself. We're not idiots. We know HRC doesn't vote on actual legislation. At the same time however, we also know that HRC's endorsement carries weight in Congress and we are attacking them for their irresponsibility and lack of courage in the way they use their influence.

We attack HRC's actions and their right to be seen as a legitimate leader in this movement. We seek to disempower HRC and put the reins of this movement in the hands of activists who are respected and trusted not only by the politicians, but also by the millions of LGBT Americans who's lives can and will be significantly affected by the results of their actions.

The current ENDA is not the same as the original bill nor even last year's. The exemptions are indeed wider in non-inclusive version than they were in the inclusive version. Personally, I'm hoping for an inclusive revamping of the whole thing next year.

The point from us was NEVER the number of votes. We wanted to have the House vote on a fully-inclusive bill so we would get every House person on record on whether they support the fully-inclusive bill or not. Then, we could do laser-focused lobbying on those who voted no.

But, now we have nothing but hearsay on who we need to lobby or not. Barney gutted it because of his transphobia and HRC supported this stupid move, even after saying they wouldn't. What part of "lying" are people having difficulty understanding?

ENDA doesn't include housing, accommodation, religions, financing, the military, schools and companies with less than 15 people, most of which are covered by all other equal rights bills in US history. ENDA in this weak form is a piece of crap for straight-looking gay and lesbians, much less non-gender normative LGBT people. This is a compromise? Not according to the dictionary.

I don't usually just cross-post things directly to my blog, but I couldn't agree with you more. Thanks for the to-the-point response to the HRC's deplorable and divisive tactics during this year's Pride season. And thanks especially the descriptive last sentence about it "raining lemonade". It gave me a laugh, something that's sorely needed at times when confronted with the continued ENDA fallout.

-Transpassage (http://transpassage.wordpress.com/)

Jennette Caden | July 1, 2008 7:58 PM

I got a call over the weekend from an HRC fundraiser. When I told him that I could not
renew my support for an organization that does not support me, the fundraiser expressed complete surprise at that statement. I proceded to tell him about what JOE said at SCC and then my being in DC when Barny Frank and HRC threw us under the bus. If the guy was faking it about not knowing what happened with ENDA, he faked it REAL well.

Not that it makes a big difference, but one more person knowing is one less ignorant person. I also informed him I am concentrating my time and money here in Ohio where we are trying to get an equal employment AND housing bill passed.

Oh, and at Pride, I wore my "It's not EQUALItY without the T" t-shirt". HRC people manning their booth never said a single word to me, like I wasn't even there. Go figure.

Stephen, as others have pointed out, what people are livid about is not the votes, it's that HRC made a promise they would only support a version of ENDA that included gender identity/expression protections -- and then they broke that promise only weeks later. Maybe they should've have made the promise in the first place. But they did, and they solicited donations from the trans communities on the basis of that promise.

What was especially infuriating was they broke their promise over what was a symbolic vote anyway -- do you really believe that Bush wouldn't veto ENDA?

Maybe the votes were there, maybe they weren't. HRC and Barney Frank says they weren't, Tammy Baldwin says they were. But HRC is being disingenuous when they claim that the House would've voted anyway -- if they'd asked for the the vote to be postponed, it very likely would've been. But they didn't.

Unfortunately, the main message that came from needlessly pushing ENDA to a vote was that trans people and anyone else, gay or hetero, who's not straight-acting are expendable allies in HRC's eyes.

I don't know if you're one of the many people who was irate after HRC and several other leading LGBT organizations urged people to go slow on marriage equality and not try to sue in their home states to get their California marriages recognized. But if you are, that feeling like these organizations aren't representing your interests are the same sort of anger we're feeling. Especially since there's actually more support for protecting the transgender and gender-variant from discrimination than there is for marriage equality.

John R. Selig | July 1, 2008 11:03 PM

Every time I get an email from HRC I forward it to Joe solmonese's personal email address which is joe.solmonese@hrc.org and then in the largest font size possible (which for my mar is 244 points) I type "Resign!!!" and change the text color to lavender. then I hit "send." He know who I am by name and he hates it when I do this.

I recommend that everybody else do the same thing. I long ago lost any respect for the HRC. The trans issue with ENDA was the icing on the cake but certainly isn't the only issue.

How the HRC could be out of step withover 300 national and local LGBT organization who were all in agreement is beyond me.

Think about it folks, when could 300 gay people agree on anything no less 300 LGBT organizations.

Solmonese needs to go. He is being paid over $250,000 per year ... for what?

It's good to see ol' friends like Cathryn and Jennette posting here. Cathryn, I do not forget for a moment how good you are in an office, and you're not the only one who's still reminding the 'young'uns that HRC's always thought of the T community as a toy to be played with. I've watched too many good people I know lose everything to be who they are, and I still refuse to accept anything short of T protection in ENDA. I also believe that there was an ulterior motive in these hearings, a setup, probably an attempt to substitute T protections in government hiring for the real thing - full inclusion in ENDA.

Yes, the hearing was a good thing. But HRC isn't off the hook unless a T inclusive ENDA passes with their full support. And, as for the missing 40-50 votes, had Barney Frank twisted arms, and HRC threatened Members' HRC ratings, with the vigor they did in support of the non-inclusive ENDA, not to mention been willing to give United ENDA the supposed "whip count" list of the 40-50 offices that needed work, there wouldn't have been 40-50 missing votes. I'm not the only one who thinks that, either.

Midtowner | July 2, 2008 1:01 PM

Seriously Monica, stop bashing HRC. They've done way more for you than you've ever done for yourself. They may not be a perfect organization but they are one of the best weve got...why dont you help instead tear down? Berating HRC Volunteers at our PRIDE here in Atlanta only shows what an ASS you are. Try to be constructive and see what that gets you...scheesh

Midtowner | July 2, 2008 1:33 PM

Hi All,

Sorry your so pissed off, but what HRC did was the right thing. Now they are working on a better ENDA, thanks for supporting them when they were fighting for all of us...

And Monica, you berating HRC Volunteers at my Atlanta PRIDE, only shows what an ASS you are..get a grip and do something constructive..like trying to get the Transvestitutes on Piedmont jobs...scheesh

Wow, "Transvestitutes". That's a new derogatory term I haven't heard before.

There's not much to respond to here except that Midtowner sounds more pissed off (hateful?) and angry at the tranny activists just for speaking up than any of the rhetoric here blaming the HRC.

Okay, that term has been turning itself over in my mind. I have to break this down.

The tone makes it clear that the commenter has a sense of contempt for "tranvestitutes" and is clearly making a jab. One first notices that it is a combination of "transvestite" and "prostitute". Yet it is odd, knowing that the population described is mostly people who identify as transgender. And knowing how much many trans people dislike being miscategorized as transvestites, it seems that the commenter is trying to deliberate frustrate and upset the transgender people to which they refer.

Additionally, by using transvestite as an insult, they are perpetuating the idea that being a transvestite is somehow bad or worse than being trans. As well as the idea that those who fit the psychological diagnosis of transvestite do not deserve support, help, or access to transition (thus perpetuating the need of transitioning people to forcefully through off any labeling as a transvestite).

Moving to the second half of the word, we see another contradiction. The poster suggests that the they ought to get jobs while at the same time naming them by their current occupation: prostitutes. This indicates that the poster does not consider their work to be actual work. And while many in that profession would prefer better working conditions or alternatives, that is not what the poster is calling for.

This appears as if the poster is calling for a shift out of their own dislike of the "eyesore" that visible sex work is considered as much if not more than the actual wellbeing of those doing such work.

Effectively, the term used in this context makes the argument that trans sex workers are not really trans, not really working, insignificant, worthy of dehumanization, and the primary - or perhaps only - way the rest of us ought to be concerned is about how we can remove them from places where they are publicly visible and put them in more "productive" positions.

That's a lot to pack into one term.

Midtowner | July 2, 2008 4:30 PM

Hey Tobi, Head hurt much after that? Transvestitutes is a funny term like Hot Tranny Mess (Which is also funny). Also if you lived in Atlanta you would understand the trouble with Transvestitutes and the crimes they are committing. Its not just a few cross dressing hookers its a really big deal...they are agressive, loud and CRIMINALS...hello.

These are not little guys who want to be women just trying to make it in the world...come on.. ANd when it comes to Trannys, I'm exteremely sympathic, understanding and carring..But I cant Stand loud Tranny activist who try to bring down HRC with their shrill bitchy (they have a right to be termed that) attitudes. They also seem to have an air that they are better..after all they will tell you point blank they are not GAY... like its a bad thing...so...

Im just a white, middle aged gay guy who loves HRC..I guess its ok to disparge me...huh


Stephen Clark | July 2, 2008 4:56 PM

>Lena Dahlstrom: I don't know if you're one of the many people who was irate after HRC and several other leading LGBT organizations urged people to go slow on marriage equality and not try to sue in their home states to get their California marriages recognized...

No, I was not irate. The warning that was issued not only by HRC, by the way, but by all the major groups articulated the only sensible position on this issue. If you sue in most places seeking recognition, you will lose and set the movement back. If you take a case to the U.S. Supreme Court right now -- the Court that just constitutionlized gun rights -- you will lose and create a disaster for the movement. You people who demand immediate perfection on everything across the board now but never offer a peep about about the tactics necessary to get from here to there are, frankly, irresponsible.

No, Rebecca Juro, you're mistaken. Although the bills have evolved a bit since the 1970's, the Frank bill contained the same basic language that had emerged well before 2004. It simply does not incorporate the new trans language. You've made this argument about loopholes previously, but you've never substantiated it, and it's always been incorrect.

>Monica Helms: "ENDA doesn't include housing, accommodation, religions, financing, the military, schools and companies with less than 15 people, most of which are covered by all other equal rights bills in US history."

Well, the federal law that prohibits employment discrimination against women (Title VII) does not address any of those other things either. So, like Rebecca Juro, Monica is simply wrong. It illustrates how little understanding you have of the issue, moreover, that you fail to understand that basically all federal laws regulating employee rights have the same sort 15-employee floor. The feds don't regulate small businesses. The sole issue is whether the bill includes trans language or not.

The same time and energy that is still being spent beating the dead horse of Solmonese's promise could be spent lobbying Congress. You can fume over past things that can't be changed, or you can push forward. And if HRC won't represent you, then find someone who will. But do something besides obsessively griping about the same micro-issue over and over and over and over. It won't generate a single additional vote for a trans-inclusive ENDA. But if you'd rather complain about Solmonese than try to pass a bill, that's your (exceedingly short-sighted) choice.

Midtowner, so you're an extremely sympathetic, understanding and caring person who enjoys using what most of us trans people would consider epithets. I'm familiar with the folks you're referring to in Atlanta, and make no mistake "transvestitute" is a derogatory term, and as I've explained before, "hot tranny mess" is also derogatory in the same way that clueless straight kids who use "that's so gay" as a put-down are. Would you be OK with me calling you "faggot"?

Also, would you please be specific about how HRC is "working on a better ENDA"? And please don't tell it's better because it'll include gender identity/gender expression this time around. 'Cuz we've heard that that one before -- in fact, HRC's breaking its promise on that is precisely what the trans communities are angry about.

If HRC did an about-face and decided that they won't fight California's marriage discrimination initial this November -- say in the name of the greater good of getting Democrats elected -- would you be angry with this? I suspect so.

But what do I know... I'm just an uppity bitch, right? And lemme guess, some of your best friends are trans, right?

"Im just a white, middle aged gay guy who loves HRC..I guess its ok to disparge me...huh."

That says it all. I actually know who this person is because he has shown the same lower posterior in Southern Voice on several occasions. Notice he's ashamed to use his real name.

Please remember this "Midtowner," "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." - Abe Lincoln -

Please, continue speaking.

Midtowner | July 2, 2008 7:01 PM

Its a screen name...Monica--hello. Yes you and I have different points of view on alot of things... I'm just tired of the bulls**t some of you guys spew all the time...

Come on I know life has been hard but why attack the people, or organizations that are trying to do good? Why scream at little volunteers at PRIDE. They just want the world to better too..

We should have drinks one night..you'd probably like me :-)

Brianna Harris | July 2, 2008 7:21 PM

Gees, I would never, in a million years, have guessed that midtowner was just an average run-of-the-mill GAY guy...hmmmm. Obviously written by someone who HAS NOT been screwed over by HRC. I'm willing to bet that all of your "tranny" friends have a hard time seeing the "extremely symapthetic, understanding and caring" side of you when it comes to them and their issues. I may be going out on a limb here, but I also would bet that most of your transgendered acquaintances would object to all of your ever so endearing terms for us including "trannies". Just, as Lena mentioned, I imagine you would object to me referring to you as a faggot. Incidentally, I attended the first ever New England Transgender Pride March and Rally on June 7th in Northampton Ma and HRC was quite conspicuously absent. You would think that a historic event such as this would bring an organization that is so supportive of transgender rights running. You can proudly add my name to the list of uppity tranny bitch activists that believe we got screwed over by HRC when they bailed out on their promise to support nothing less than an all inclusive ENDA.

Midtowner | July 2, 2008 7:33 PM

Haha..I stirred up a big o hornets nest of Hot Tranny Messes didnt I...hehe. You never call your friends tranny?? I find that hard to imagine...Its not a bad term... You guys/gals need to relax just a bit and roll with the flow.

We will all get there, and just you watch we will do it together...

I may not have been screwed over by HRC, but have been screwed over just as much as you... I also know more than you think I might about TG issues. I just dont swallow the whole I hate the world bit. And yeah my TG friends think Im a bitch but they know Id be there to kick some serious butt if they needed me...

Seriously...

"I'm just tired of the bulls**t some of you guys spew all the time..."

"guys?" You truly need some heavy duty education. Are you too old to learn anything? Would you allow someone to educate you? Or, will you continue to use the term, "transvestitutes" for ever African American trans woman you see, regardless of where they are or what they are doing?

Bil, do I have permission to post links to various letters and articles in Southern Voice where this person has made these horrific comments a multitude of times? Actually, I don't have to. People can look up the word, "transvestitutes" in SoVo's archives and see the articles. I won't post them unless Bil says it's okay, because it gives this person's name. I don't want to violate the Bilerico posting policy, like Midtowner has already done, as in: "While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others."

Brianna Harris | July 2, 2008 7:43 PM

Gees, I never, in a million years, would have guessed that midtowner was just a run of the mill white, GAY guy...hmmmm....Obviously written by someone who HAS NOT been screwed over by HRC. I would be willing to bet that he would have a hard time finding all of those "tranny" friends of his that find him, oh so, "extremely sympathetic, understanding and caring". I would also be willing to bet that most of them would object to all of his, ever so endearing, terms for us including "trannies". Just as, Lena mentioned, I imagine you would object to me referring to you as a faggot. Incidentally, I recently attended the first ever New England Transgender Pride March and Rally on June 7th in Northampton Ma and HRC was quite conspicuously absent. You would think that a historic event such as this would have brought an organization that is so supportive of transgender rights running. Another big HMMMMMMMM..... You can proudly add my name to the list of uppity tranny bitch activists that believe we got screwed by HRC when they bailed out on their promise to support nothing less than an all inclusive ENDA.

Brianna Harris | July 2, 2008 7:52 PM

sorry about double posting, I was having trouble getting it to go through and then it went through twice, .... anyway, midtowner I'm curious about this "whole I hate the world bit". I'm not familiar with this, is this a southern thing or just a "tranny thing"? Please explain this to me. thanks

Midtowner | July 2, 2008 7:52 PM

Hey Monica I meant guys as people not to be derogatory..please. And no Im not that guy in the Sovo articles...I have left comments several times on articles in Sovo but thats about it...

I dont think I've been disrespectful except once, when when I called you an A** for berating the HRC volunteers. And I in no way was ever speaking of African American trans women..I was speaking of Transgendered or Transvestite women who prostitue themselves...

So to bring it down a notch..I apologize if I have offended you. I respect you and your work...seriously.

Brianna Harris | July 2, 2008 7:58 PM

BTW, I do not call my friends trannies....do you call your friends "fags"? Maybe it's just me but I've heard the term tranny used in too many unpleasant ways to consider it friendly.

Midtowner | July 2, 2008 8:04 PM

Hey Brianna, yeah sometimes we do..hey fag, hey gurl...hey pillow biter..on and on..Its funny...

But again its with my friends or my people :-). Which you are one of my people..and I am one of yours...even if I may appear to be an A**.

Brianna Harris | July 2, 2008 8:14 PM

Sorry, call me old fashioned but I find that kind of name calling even if it is with "my buds", degrading... I've been told by some that I'm over sensitive to some of these things. I guess that's what happens when you are marginalized as a person over and over and then by those that you are counting on the most to stand by you. I would think that, as a "white, middle aged gay guy" you would remember what that is like. BTW we do seem to agree on something....specifically, that very last part of your post.

Midtowner | July 2, 2008 8:19 PM

Hehe..you got me..
appearing to be an A** is not the same as being one :-).

Midtowner | July 2, 2008 8:28 PM

Again to everyone I meant no HARM...I may not be extremely sensitive, and say the right things, I do LOVE HRC and think Joe is doing a great job, I do get tired of all the infighting, and am pissed off the ENDA was derailed...dont care for Transgendered or otherwise prostitutes on the street, hate for little volunteers to be berated,
but I also hate the injustices that are perpetrated against GLBT (dont understand the Q yet but getting there)people...And specifically the TG community... I am a friend not any enemy and I garuantee most of you would really like me :-).

I respect you and enjoy dialoging with you...Monica, Brianna...Lena

Midtowner, ya know that saying about "with friends like these..."

My friends don't continue to use a term that they know I find insulting. Nor do they tell me to lighten up, 'cuz derogatory slurs are just soooo funny. They don't do either even if they do think I'm over-sensitive. Because there's that thing called respecting your friends' feelings.

I could explain why there's a big difference when a term that's often been an epithet gets reclaimed by members of the stigmatized group as a way of saying "yeah I am a [insert derogatory term here], wanna make something of it" -- and quite another when someone outside that group decides to fling it around carelessly. But it's pretty obvious you're not interested in listening.

Plus, my friends answer my questions when I ask them. I've yet to hear you answer any of mine. I have heard you call people names. Repeatedly.

Ain't no friend of mine....

'Nuff said. Don't feed the trolls.

Brianna Harris | July 2, 2008 8:55 PM

Yes, appearing vs. being is duly noted :-) I'm, obviously, not there with you on the HRC/Joe issue. Unfortunately, ENDA was derailed before it ever got on the tracks thanks to that person in Washington we have to call our President. Also unfortunately, we will never know for sure whether or not an all-inclusive ENDA had the votes it needed to pass since our so-called supporters all bailed on us before it ever got to a vote...now will we? WRT transgender prostitutes, due to the widespread acceptance (????) of trans-folks in the world, all too often we in the trans community are forced into prostitution because transphobes will not hire us. Sometimes it simply comes down to survival, prostitute or die...sad isn't it? At least they are not choosing to take their own lives like the other 50% of those in our community. Oh yes, last but not least, Lena stated very clearly in her initial post that she made it very clear to the "little, berated volunteer" that she was not angry with her, personally, but with HRC and Mr Salomnese. Maybe I would "really like" you, but I'm not sure yet.....:-p

Midtowner | July 2, 2008 9:06 PM

Lena, Brianna...maybe not friends yet :-) But swear if ya ever need me...I've got your back.

Midtowner | July 2, 2008 9:13 PM

You too..Monica :-)

Brianna Harris | July 2, 2008 9:14 PM

ok, maybe. Anyway, I gotta go. It was interesting dialoging with you. Hopefully next time you'll show us a little more of that "extremely sympathetic, understanding and caring" side. Good night.

Midtowner | July 2, 2008 9:34 PM

good night everyone...be safe, be happy...

HRC has done sooo much for me.....yeah right.

I have waterfront property in Louisiana I'd like to sell you at a premium price in the Atchafalaya Basin if you honestly believe that 'HRC is the transgeder community's friend'.

Just popping in to put in a reminder for civil discussion.

Midtowner: Perhaps "transvestitute" and "hot tranny mess" isn't offensive to you but is to others. You can have your own opinion - and share it - but surely you can see why telling the offended members of the minority group why they shouldn't be upset is rather like telling an African-American why "nigga" shouldn't bother them. At the least it's rather conceited and at the worst a deliberate "I'm better than you so do what I say" mentality.

I'm confident that's not what you intended though. Our readers aren't that rude.

Ladies: I think he is correct when he says the HRC-centric complaints are getting tiring and repetitive. Eventually that bitching has to turn productive to ever move past it. I realize not everyone is guilty of this, but I've seen quite a few "It's all about HRC" viewpoints when, actually, it's all about us. We have to work harder and smarter.

As for the "you guys" comment though? That wasn't intended to be rude or I'd be guilty too. You guys let it pass when I do it. Shit. See? *sigh* It's a speech pattern. Of course, since it's male-centric no matter what, none of us should say it, but we do.

That leads me into "trannie." I use it all the time too. A couple of you have mentioned it to me, but no one has really "complained." Almost every trans contributor on the site has used the term. As with Midtowner, I'd let the average trans person call me "faggot" or "queer" in the same goofy/conversational manner that "trannie" gets used in.

Marti, for example, can come up and say "You big fag!" and I'm gonna say, "You old trannie!" A trans person I've never seen before can come up and say "Always good to see another queer!" and I'd feel comfy saying, "Thank God there's a trannie here to talk to!"

I realize some might not like this term, but I tend to think of "That's so gay" as much more offensive because it's meant negatively. Trannie is just a more affectionate way of saying transgender or transvestite in same way Billy is used for Bill or Mikey for Michael or Mike.

My two cents. Carry on.

(And welcome to Brianna and Midtowner. Sign up for accounts and your comments won't be moderated.)

Thanks for stepping in, Bil.

As for the term, "tranny," let me toss in a little more context. It's not so much the meaning of the word that makes it offensive, but the context in which it's been used. It has a history of being used predominantly in the mainstream porn industry, where it is used alongside stereotypes of trans people as sexually voracious, available, and good fuck toys because we're supposedly an easier kind of woman to objectify.

Go ahead and google "transgender" and "tranny". The first will get your resources, support groups, and news articles. The second might get you a few of those as well, but about half will be porn sites. And that's a lot better than it has been in year's past.

It's complicated, of course, because a lot of people are trying to reclaim the term. Including a lot of trans guys who don't have the same history of being targeted by it. But the defining rule, just like with all reclaimed terms, is context. "I was so excited that the room was full of trannies" is very different from "I hate the shrill bitchy trannies". And the "I'm not transphobic, some of my friends are trannies" might not be obviously derogatory, but it's quite suspect.

I see "trannie/tranny" as words that we would use amongst ourselves, but many take offense if non trans people use it. However, I an not offended unless it is the tone of voice they use it in. Then, I would be upset if they used "Transsexual" in a derogatory way. I have used "Trannie" a lot, even in a title of a chapter in a new book that is out.

I am offended by the word "transvestite," mainly because the ones using it are the Religious Right. When a person in Atlanta (apparently not Midtowner) invented "transvestitutes," it started a storm of letters and angry people, and deservedly so. He was aiming it at the African American street girls, which is not a smart move in a city where there are a high degree of African Americans, thus a high number of transsistas.

Some of this sounds familiar. Oh yeah: http://www.monicahelms.com/blog/transgender/label-label-label.htm

I suppose Midtowner never thought to ask why so many transgender women must ply the streets for money? Might it be because of transphobia? The inability to get an honest job? Perhaps because the Real ID act makes it nearly impossible to cover a paper trail?

I suppose he also never bothered to notice that, the farther you widen the umbrella of protection, the broader the support becomes for civil rights legislation. The 1964 Civil Rights Act protected people on the basis of race, gender, sex, religion, and country of origin. It thus built a coalition of support including people of color, people born on foreign soil, people of faith, and women. ENDA ahould cover more people, not fewer - and trust me, T people will do their best to scuttle it, if it does not include us.

By the way, those of us who hold HRC's leaders in contempt, ARE active in our local organizations, and do lobby. I speak to 3 different Congressmen on a regular basis. We walk the walk.

Midtowner | July 3, 2008 8:16 AM

EUREKA!!!! I think I figured out why your all so mad at me for using those terms....and why gay guys get in trouble when using them and you all think were all A-holes... Monica you said "I see "trannie/tranny" as words that we would use amongst ourselves, but many take offense if non trans people use it."

That turned on a light blub for me...I (and several gay guys I talked to last night) didnt see the harm in us using Hot Tranny Mess (sorry), etc the same way we call each other fag and gurl because we (cant speak for all gay guys) see you (transgendered) and us as one and the same. Your one of of us!!!! So we assumed that it was ok..and we blindly feel into a mess that we didnt understand. I assumed that LBGT allowed me to be part of the TG community and I was for all intensive purposes "one of you" and you were "one of me".

We get into the same trouble when we use Miltant Dykes etc...but I thought those words were ok for us...

Now please dont scream at me for being naive, or assuming, or male privelegde..etc...

Just trying to shed some light on things from my perspective...

Again ..peace :-)

Midtowner has a point. That's the way I see it too. We're all part of the same community in my head, so I assumed it was okay too - as I pointed out above.

I have to point out though that HRC's actions didn't help with the community divide when they - literally - said, "You don't belong with us on this," and the trans community got left out. If they are family, we can't treat them like red-headed step-children...

Midtowner,
Because of your new "enlightenment," I'm willing to sit down with you and accept that invitation to have some coffee. We can talk at Outwrite. Go to http://www.tavausa.org/contact.html and click on "President" and you'll be able to send me an E-mail.

Yeah, it's one of those awkward, all part of the same community but not things. A lot of cis-queers I know are a part of the trans community, but a lot aren't. Sometimes it's painfully clear. Sometimes it's not. So I can't really assume that being LGBT means someone is going to be trans-inclusive, let alone trans-friendly or a part of the trans community. HRC case in point. If I see the blue and yellow "=" sign up in an office, I immediately begin wondering not if but how much the organization is not connected to trans communities and/or transphobic.

I use the term queer, not because I'm trans, but because I AM queer (And because it's becoming very reclaimed in some places where it's the standard term to use). But while I will use the term faggot now and then, I'm not one. And so when I see a cute guy on the street, I'm not going squee and yell "It's a faggot!" And when I do use the term I'm conscious of how people might not be able to immediately see the context that I'm trying to use it in, so I have to help construct as much as I can to make the context clear.

Stephen, you said:

Typical of these rants, neither the original blog entry nor any of the comments explain how HRC is supposed to wave a wand and conjure up the additional 30 to 50 votes that the trans-inclusive bill needs for House passage or the significant number of additional votes that it will need in order to surmount a Republican filibuster in the Senate. HRC is not preventing the bill from passing, the opposition of too many member of Congress is. Raving endlessly about HRC and Joe Solmonese, however, does not generate one single additional vote in either the House or the Senate.

First of all, it isn't 30 to 50 votes, secondly the Democrats will may very well have a political Tsunami on their hands and could come very close to the 60 votes needed to block any chance of a filibuster. If you look at the number of new voters and the declining economy, you'll see dark clouds on the horizon for Republicans (and a lot of hard work out there for Dems).

Laura Hennessey's characterization of the bill as a "gutted mutilation," moreover, is absurd. The non-trans bill is the same basic bill that the community has been trying to get enacted for 40 years. No one thought it was a "gutted mutilation" until now. It would be better if it could pass with trans protections too, but without them, it is still as strong a bill as it ever was.

You obviously have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. The religious exemption was widened from HR2015 to HR3685, that made it substantially different from previous bills, even without GI inclusion. And it isn't "trans protections", but gender identity protections and they cover more gays and lesbians than they do transgender people (especially in cases like Spearman v. Ford Motor Co, where the plaintiff was harassed because he "appeared" to be gay...and that's GI). Before you bitch slap the author of this post you might want to actually have an idea of what your talking about.

No, Rebecca Juro, you're mistaken. Although the bills have evolved a bit since the 1970's, the Frank bill contained the same basic language that had emerged well before 2004. It simply does not incorporate the new trans language. You've made this argument about loopholes previously, but you've never substantiated it, and it's always been incorrect.

You're the one who is mistaken. You've shown your ignorance by calling it "trans language" for the reasons I stated above. If you have any question, one only need look at the definition of GI in HR2015:

GENDER IDENTITY- The term `gender identity' means the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual's designated sex at birth.

Midtowner said :

Sorry your so pissed off, but what HRC did was the right thing. Now they are working on a better ENDA, thanks for supporting them when they were fighting for all of us...

You're right...if you're rich, white, suburbanite, gender conforming (straight acting, straight looking) gay or lesbian person... but if your a gender variant (diesel dyke or sissy boy) person, you're f**ked because HR3685 will not protect you.

Hey Tobi, Head hurt much after that? Transvestitutes is a funny term like Hot Tranny Mess (Which is also funny).

Because people that are transgender people who are forced to work the streets are FUNNNNNNNNNNNNNY!!!! Your comment saying that you like transgender people is hilarious and reminds me of someone that says "I'm not racist, I have black friends!"

Brianna Harris said:

Obviously written by someone who HAS NOT been screwed over by HRC.

Here I agree with Stephen:

and if HRC won't represent you, then find someone who will. But do something besides obsessively griping about the same micro-issue over and over and over and over. It won't generate a single additional vote for a trans-inclusive ENDA.

You screwed yourself if you believed that HRC was going to gain your rights for you in the first place. Folks that were working at the grass roots level (like NTAC) were demonized (particularly the whisper campaign against Vanessa Edwards Foster, and more recently the whisper campaign against myself)and not supported by the ruling trans-aristocracy.

Barney Frank was right when he said:

Part of the problem, I have to say, is this: I've never seen a worse job of lobbying done by the transgender community. They seem to think that all they had to do was to get the gay and lesbian community to say "OK." I think they thought that this was a train, and that they were a car on the train. I said to them, "You've got to work this, you've got to lobby people." They did a terrible job of lobbying, and so we didn't have the votes.

and

Movements take time. There was not a lot of self-awareness of people being transgender in the '80s and '90s. You can't artificially create these things; they come up. The transgender community organized and came forward, but it's only been less than 10 years.

The harsh political reality is that our issues aren't of a sexual nature and therefore are ill fitted to be pushed through by a group that advocates for gender conformity in their sexual orientation message, with even Joe Solmonese pointing out the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity to Jon Stewart. I support HRC in their fight for marriage equality because I ID as queer, not because I'm gender variant. Until we stand up and build our own power base, we will always be the dog underneath the table. I'm not saying we should divorce ourselves from the GLB community completely, but we should build up our own orgs. I'm not saying this without action... I'm moving forward and I'm going to do exactly that.

Everyone makes a big deal about Joe's words, but very little is said about the HUGE HRC banner that was hung in the background. That wasn't forced there. The ruling transtocracy put that banner there. From the Southern Voice:

In another sign of increasing acceptance for transgender people, Southern Comfort organizers and the Human Rights Campaign presented the first annual Transgender Career Expo on Sept. 14 at the host hotel.

Mara, speaking of transgender issues not taking a backseat to gay issues said:

'There is not an LGBT organization that I can think of that is not as trans inclusive as it can be at this time,' Mara Kiesling, a transwoman and executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told would-be trans activists during a Southern Comfort training seminar.

We are asking people to PRETTY PLEASE include us, but it's going to take more than a cherry on top to make that happen (if ever).

Midtowner said:

You never call your friends tranny?? I find that hard to imagine...Its not a bad term... You guys/gals need to relax just a bit and roll with the flow.

Go call your black "friends" nigger and see how far it gets you.

Bil said:

I realize some might not like this term, but I tend to think of "That's so gay" as much more offensive because it's meant negatively. Trannie is just a more affectionate way of saying transgender or transvestite in same way Billy is used for Bill or Mikey for Michael or Mike.

You're wrong. Terms like trannie or tranny are meant to dehumanize people much in the same way faggot or nigger do. It's used to strip someone's humanity so you can bash the living hell out of them. I love you, but you're wrong on this one.

Brianna Harris | July 3, 2008 11:57 PM

I work with alot of GLBT folks as an activist for the trans community and, considering the history involved in terms like faggot, queer, tranny etc etc, I would never use those terms in any company. There are simply way too many negative connotations involved with all of those terms and out of respect for my friends and their possible sensitivity to them I would not use such terminolgy in their presence.... as I would expect from them in return. Yes, alot of these terms a being reclaimed. This, for me is still a little hard for me to swallow when terms like queer and faggot still dredge up bad memories from my childhood. Marty, I certainly never have expected anyone to gain my rights for me let alone HRC. The fact of the matter is that HRC, for all it's faults, has the namepower etc to get things accomplished. Unfortunately the Transgender Rights Movement is still a toddler in the grand scheme of things. We're standing at the line where the GL movement was 25-30 years ago and there is strength/power in numbers. The Transgender Pride events in Northampton, San francisco, New York are starting blocks that we need to build on. We're just starting to "feel our oats" and realize that we do have significant enough numbers to pull ourselves up and make a difference but at the same time IF (and that's a huge IF) we can count on support from greater organizations(like, dare I say it, HRC) it'd be silly to snub our noses at it.

Brianna,
Even though we are supposedly at the place where gays and lesbians were 25 years ago, is this the excuse that can be used to justify leaving us behind? Frank says we didn't do enough lobbying, so this means he can punishing us? The difference between where gays and lesbians allegedly were 25 years ago and where we are allegedly today is that the "gay movement" was not attached to any other movement.

The gay movement wasn't attached to Civil Rights movement, even though some tried. With the exception with HIV/AIDS issues, it was not attached to Disability Rights movement. We ARE attached to the gay movement, regardless of who likes it or not. The gays and lesbians didn't attach us, and neither did we. The rest of society attached us, because they can't see the difference.

This attachment has become a symbiotic relationship, similar to what the Trill in Star Trek. We cannot "survive" removed from the GLB people, and as much as they think they can, gays, lesbians and bisexuals cannot "survive" without us. The connecting thread is "gender identity and expression." There are too many gay, lesbian, bisexual and straight people who are affected by GI & GE. Too many. Frank thinks it's not an issue, but too many court cases have proven that to be nothing more than a fools dream. Society has forced us together and we need each other. We all have to be in ENDA for all of us to survive.

Marty, I certainly never have expected anyone to gain my rights for me let alone HRC. The fact of the matter is that HRC, for all it's faults, has the namepower etc to get things accomplished. Unfortunately the Transgender Rights Movement is still a toddler in the grand scheme of things. We're standing at the line where the GL movement was 25-30 years ago and there is strength/power in numbers. The Transgender Pride events in Northampton, San francisco, New York are starting blocks that we need to build on. We're just starting to "feel our oats" and realize that we do have significant enough numbers to pull ourselves up and make a difference but at the same time IF (and that's a huge IF) we can count on support from greater organizations(like, dare I say it, HRC) it'd be silly to snub our noses at it.

Briana,
HRC gets things accomplished for gays and lesbians. For much too long we've expected other organizations (and supported them with our dollars) to do the work for us. Believe me, I'm well aware of our age when it comes to advocating on the Hill. I'm looking at not having employment rights till I'm near retirement age (and I'm 40).

The actual proof of support from HRC has been crystal clear.