Recently I received an email from the Stonewall Democrats. This fundraising letter lauded the newly-released draft of the 2008 Democratic Party Platform, calling it "...the most pro-LGBT proposed platform in Democratic Party history." The list of relevant platform planks seems to indicate that the platform is indeed exactly that, but what is inexplicable here is the easy acceptance and celebration of something we can't as yet be sure amounts to even crumbs from the Democratic Party on the single most important issue to literally millions of LGBT American workers. Check out this little nugget:
"We will enact a comprehensive bipartisan employment non-discrimination act."
Can someone please tell me what the heck this is supposed to mean? The Stonewall Dems describe this as "A united, comprehensive strategy on ENDA that includes both sexual orientation and gender identity," but I'm not as willing to trustingly read in that which isn't there. Looks like the Democrats are back to playing word games again, trying to look like they're promising us the world, while in reality they're actually offering us nothing substantial at all.
"(C)omprehensive"? By who's measure? Do they mean comprehensive in terms of what it would cover or in who it protects? What are the elements in an employment non-discrimination bill that would be required in order for it to be considered comprehensive?
And "bipartisan"? That makes me even more nervous. Just how many Republicans do they think they're going to line up to vote in favor of an inclusive ENDA? What kind of compromises would have to be made in order to see it happen? Or maybe it's just that transgender and gender variant inclusion isn't required for the Democrats to introduce a bill they consider comprehensive?
In addition, I think the use of the word "comprehensive" may be telling, just in and of itself. Consider this: The Democratic Party is neither stupid nor ignorant. They know perfectly well that if they'd had the courage to use the term "fully inclusive" instead of "comprehensive" in the above statement our community would be all but dancing in the streets with joy and gratitude.
The Democratic Party knows exactly what's been going on with ENDA, HRC, and the trans community over the last year or so, and they have to know that if they had the courage to make a truly bold and affirmative statement on transgender inclusion in ENDA in the Party Platform, they could easily cast themselves as the heroes of this drama and help to unite the vast majority of LGBT voters around the Democratic Party just in time for the election. Yet they have apparently not chosen to do that.
When you look at it in the right lens, this one key word sends a message to transgender and gender variant Americans directly from the Democratic Party and it's a pretty clear one: "Transfolks, you and your issues are on the table, but there's a limit. We're all quite comfortable including you in a hate crimes law. After all, that's easy to get done and it makes us look good. Thing is, many of us are still not quite so sure we want to make the effort to actually fight for you and possibly expend valuable political capital on your behalf in order to protect you from discrimination in the workplace, so we're leaving ourselves a back door just in case we decide to chicken out again."
Could I be completely wrong about this? Sure I could be and I hope I am, but I don't think that's the case or I wouldn't be writing this. I firmly believe that if the Democratic Party wanted us to know with a certainty that it supports protecting transgender and gender variant people from discrimination in the workplace, they'd state it as a fact and in no uncertain terms.
The fact that they're resorting to vague, hard-to-define descriptors like "comprehensive" leads me to believe that the signs are not good, that a lot of these people are still running scared from justice and equal rights for all Americans. They're not running quite as fast as they used to, mind you, but they're still doing everything they can to keep us at arm's length.
Of course, I must also point out that I'm talking about the Party as a whole here, not every individual politician in the Democratic Party. Many Democrats are supporters of inclusion and an inclusive ENDA, and it's not fair to overgeneralize. Yet at the same time, if this proposed Party Platform is indeed an accurate reflection of popular current political thinking within the Democratic Party, we may be in big trouble with ENDA '09.
If there's one truth that writers, activists, and politicians all fully understand and respect it's that words have power. The choice of a single word or phrase can speak volumes to the proper audience. Given that this is a draft and not a final version, there may be hope for a possible revision here, but I wouldn't go as far as to say I'm expecting one. Even if we do get some sort of change, it's probably as likely as not that it would be for another doublespeak term like "wide-reaching" or "impactfull".
I don't know about you, but the needle on my bullshit detector is in the red zone.
(Crossposted on http://beckygrrl.livejournal.com/ and http://snipurl.com/31ncr)