Brynn Craffey

Fallout from the ENDA debacle?

Filed By Brynn Craffey | September 29, 2008 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: ENDA, Prop. 8, transgender

I volunteered for "Equality Now, the No on 8 Campaign" yesterday, as I've been doing on recent weekends, and I met an amazing 17-year-old FtM. I'll call him "M," as I didn't ask him if I could write about him. A senior in high school, not old enough to vote yet, he is nonetheless bravely putting his body out there on the frontlines fighting for LGBT rights. And not only for marriage equality! Previously, he testified before California Governor Schwarzenegger on SB 777, "The Student Civil Rights Act Of 2007," helping to ensure passage of the critical legislation to enforce anti-bullying laws in schools.

This young man gives me hope for our future. And considering our experience yesterday, we're going to need it.

M and I were assigned to go talk to folks at the annual transgender picnic in San Diego's Balboa Park. This was my sixth or seventh time going out into public, approaching strangers, asking them to sign the promise to vote no on 8, inquiring if they have time to volunteer or money to donate to the campaign, and generally educating them about marriage equality. It was my first time at a specifically trans event. And the reception we received was the most hostile I've yet received anywhere.

Now, M knew a few people there, and they were happy to see him and reacted well. Several of them had already volunteered for the campaign. Likewise, a couple of other folks I approached said that they had already given time or money. I can only take them at their words, although in light of the general hostility, I did find myself wondering if what they said was a brush-off.

Overall, the vibe was acutely unfriendly from the moment we approached and remained mostly hostile even after we identified ourselves as transgender and started talking about Prop 8. If we hadn't been trans and if one person hadn't recognized me from Loren Cameron's book, "Body Alchemy," I felt like people would have actually turned their backs on us or asked us to leave. After about an hour of talking to individuals, we came away with a single pledge to volunteer, five or six promises to vote, "No," (at least one without contact information), and not a single cent in donations.

It was demoralizing.

I don't want to project...and maybe I'm wrong. But after 17 years involvement in the transgender community, I had the distinct feeling yesterday that what I was experiencing was ugly fallout from last year's ENDA debacle. One FtM I spoke with the longest responded to my initial approach--before he found out I, too, was FtM--with, "I don't like the language of the campaign. You keep talking about same-sex marriage, or gay marriage. You don't even mention transgender!"

I couldn't really argue with that--the focus, language and activists of the campaign are overwhelmingly lesbian or gay, and it is possible--maybe even likely--that the campaign organizers have deliberately decided to leave "trans" out of the message, both to simplify it and avoid an anticipated negative reaction to trans inclusion.

I did argue with this guy, however, that Prop 8 is a transgender issue. Sure, I have changed all my ID, I could have walked down to the county clerk's office even before last June and married a woman of my choice. Still, if anything would happen, say a juicy inheritance from one of my wife's relatives, that would give her family pause--and with the extent of transphobia out there, there are a host of possible issues to give families pause, including but not limited to inheritance, health emergencies that leave a partner with diminished capacity, and child custody--I can guarantee you that as long as marriage is predicated on "one man, one woman," mine would be open to legal challenge.

As of last June, marriage licenses in the State of California identify "Party A" and "Party B." Gender is left out of it--as it should be. Which, in my opinion, clearly makes defeating Prop 8 a transgender issue.

For most of my 17 years in the transgender community, I have encountered a persistent undercurrent of homophobia among individual transsexuals that frequently takes the form of, "I'm not gay. Why do I have to come to the Lesbian and Gay Center for support group meetings?" Or, "Why would I want to march in the Gay Rights parade?"

On the other hand, many gays and lesbians may not appreciate the truly toxic level of rejection, ridicule, judgment, and even casual offense present in the lesbian and gay community against transsexuals.

Take yesterday. When I returned to the Equality Now HQ, discouraged and disappointed, without planning it, at the debriefing I found myself at the center of a sort of ad-hoc "Trans 101," in which I was educating No on 8 volunteers about FtMs. As these things happen, it was part consciousness-raising, part biology and history, and--the element I hate most--part freak-show. But somebody has to do it, right? Or we'll never evolve. So there I was, trying to toughen my skin, field the questions, and educate these lesbians, gay men, and allies about what it means to be trans and the intersection of LGB and T. And remember, I had just spent an hour in the hot sun passionately arguing from the other perspective, to members of "my own community," why marriage equality should matter to them.

As I was winding down and feeling more than a little bit exposed, I commented, "And I've spent years arguing with trans folks about why 'T' belongs with 'LGB,' cuz believe it or not, a lot of people don't think it does," and this one very young gay man who'd I'd developed a rapport with (I thought!) when we'd volunteered together a couple of weeks previously and I'd talked to him about being trans, bi and queer-identified, blurted out, "Well, I don't think it does belong. Lesbian, gay and bi are orientations, while trans is an identity."

Ah, well.

I rarely find myself speechless, and I did manage to sputter something to the effect of, "While that technically may be true, your position goes against history, in which it was drag queens and transsexuals who led the riots at Stonewall. And we're either going to sink or swim together, because our enemies don't make these fine distinctions. You never hear them saying, 'Oh, I really like lesbians and gays, but those transsexuals give me the creeps.' To them, we're all queers."

But I left the campaign headquarters yesterday feeling more down and discouraged than in a long, long time. Quite simply, I am tired of fighting this same, self-destructive battle. It is one thing to hold the line against our multiplying enemies--the Religious Right has become so strong in this country! But why do I have to keep fighting with my supposed lesbian and gay allies and then turn around and argue with members of my trans community?! I remember the argument about trans inclusion in ENDA going back to the early-1980's, when I first came out as a lesbian! Just when is this stupid argument going to end?

And when are we going to have employment protection? ENDA has been in process since May 14, 1974--34 years! That encompasses my entire employment career to date. And it is simply incredible that we still do not have federal employment protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and--yes, dammit!!--transgender people.

Catholic Ireland is way ahead of us. It is absolutely incredible.


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I am tired of fighting this same, self-destructive battle. It is one thing to hold the line against our multiplying enemies--the Religious Right has become so strong in this country! But why do I have to keep fighting with my supposed lesbian and gay allies and then turn around and argue with members of my trans community?!

I can relate to that. I've sometimes thought about packing it in following my commitment to TDoR in November for that reason. It seems like the arguments aren't just going on forever, they're picking up steam and allies we once had are jumping on the seperatism bandwagon.

The one thing that encourages me (something you also indicated) are the youth. To them, a lot of times, the semantics are irrelevant. To them, community is what matters.

:(

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | September 29, 2008 8:20 PM

Marriage equality affects us all. For one, the general public doesn't understand the differences between the G, L, B, and T, let alone the nuanced distinctions between the various subgroups within them. When the government and the majority of society recognize that gays, lesbians and bisexuals have the same right to marry the person they love as straights do, it advances all of the GLBT rights movement because it is an issue of equality and fairness.

On a personal level, I, as a gay FTM, am directly affected by marriage equality. Many other trans people of both sexes and all sexual orientations are as well, because different jurisdictions have different rules for determining sex. In places where sex change is not recognized, a straight FTM is legally female and cannot marry a woman. Those laws need to be changed too. Regardless, the ability to marry should not be dependent on the sex or gender of the parties involved.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | September 29, 2008 8:29 PM

Marriage equality affects us all.

I couldn't agree with you more! I only wish more people saw it as clearly as you do.

I get so discouraged by self-centeredness and the in-fighting.

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | September 29, 2008 10:27 PM

It frustrates me to no end as well. I love my GLB brothers and sisters, even the ones who don't accept me. And I even love the T people who hate me (believe me, there's some vicious infighting in the T community). I just can't hate any of my brethren. The rainbow flag belongs to all of us.

I pledge allegiance to the flag
Of the United LGBT World Community...

Brynn
Prop. 8 could be a real problem for all of us if it passes. You see that, I see that and I'm sure that a lot of T's see it. Thanks for your hard work! A lot of T- people are very angry (&HURT) about what happened with ENDA and the HRC's . I would say that there is a BIG Back lash happing because of that! I also know that most people in the USA are frightened about the mess the country is in. They feel that they can not donate money or time to anything because of the fear of running out of money themselves! Again Thank You for your hard work in defeating Prop. 8 Regina

Brynn I mostly agree with you and I understand your logic.But what pains me is needing same sex marriage for me to basically be able to be in a heterosexual marriage.Don't get me wrong as I support same sex marriage for those who identify as lgb but I hate for it to come at the cost of gender recognition for transsexuals.Party A and Party B just sounds wrong to me for something like marriage that should be taken more seriously then it is.How about Life Partner A and Life Partner B it adds a sense of finality to the arrangements and recognizes for what it is supposed to be a lifetime commitment.

I'm in Australia, and am straight anyway.
Proposition 8 doesn't affect me directly.

But this isn't a "what's in it for me" issue. It's a Human Rights issue.

Jeez, and I'm supposed to be the Right Wing Death B*tch around here. When is the Left going to stop being so Goshdarn selfish??? Things have come to a pretty pass when a neocon is the only one showing a trace of old-fashioned idealism.

Sometimes you have to do things because they're right, not because they're pragmatic.

TS people please note - being backstabbed by Barney and the HRC is no reason not to do what should be done, regardless. Or we'll be admitting that pragmatism and "what's in it for me" is the way to go. We'll be no different from them.

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | September 29, 2008 10:34 PM

I wish people would lay off Barney and the HRC. Personally, I don't think they backstabbed us. They made a decision I don't agree with, but to call it "backstabbing" is a little over the top. We need to work with them and try to educate them so we don't have a repeat of the ENDA debacle in the future.

Personally, I don't think they backstabbed us. They made a decision I don't agree with, but to call it "backstabbing" is a little over the top.

We could come up with some less violent language, but the idea is the same -- that's what they did. In 2004 the HRC made a pledge to support only a gender inclusive ENDA. In 2007, that pledge was reiterated. A few weeks before the vote they said they wouldn't oppose the fake ENDA, but that they wouldn't support it either. Then, in the last 24 hours before the vote they threw their support behind the fake ENDA and threatened lower scores to any representative who voted with the United ENDA coalition.

They promised to have our backs, reassured us that everything was okay, and then when there was no time left to respond they did exactly what they pledged not to, and pushed through legislation that if made law would set back the trans rights movement a decade -- as we've seen every other time a sexual orientation only policy gets passed -- if that's not a backstab, what is it?

I'm all for moving on and working together against prop 8, but we'll never be able to move forward if we're re-writing history.

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | September 30, 2008 1:00 AM

I didn't mean to sound as though I wanted to rewrite history. I'm just saying we're not going to negotiate a peace treaty if we attack our semi-allies with unforgiving language. And certainly, for the time being, in order to fight Prop. 8, I think it's appropriate to put the history aside altogether and ignore our differences.

Wolfgang, I must disagree.

The only reason the South African Truth and Reconciliation commission worked was because both sides 'fessed up, so they could move on.

Pretending that atrocities weren't committed, that guilty parties weren't being let off just so everyone could feel good was not on.

Backstabbing it was, and we won't gloss over it.

We'll help anyway, of course we will. This one's important. But that's another issue, quite separate.

Unforgiving language is exactly appropriate when the guilty party won't admit they've done something wrong, when there's no remorse or repentance. Or indication that the act won't be repeated.

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | September 30, 2008 5:49 AM

Well, perhaps this is a case where disagreement is best, that is, having people on both sides of this argument during negotiations with HRC, Barney, the larger GLB community, etc.

Agreed - and that discussion can wait. Because what we have to do now is work together to put a stake through the heart of Prop 8. To state what should be obvious.

Things have come to a pretty pass when a neocon is the only one showing a trace of old-fashioned idealism.

I have been described as "radical" in my political stance, and I'm ... not idealistic, but I am still in favor of LGBT rather than separatism.

I also feel that Barney Frank and HRC need to be held accountable for what they did do - selling out trans people for short-term political gain.

We reaped what we sowed.

The desire of Untramontane Greerian Lesbian Purists and Assimilationist Gay Men to establish themselves as mainstream, and moving the trans to the margins to be forgotten, which has been happening since the old Mattachinists reconstituted themselves as the leaders of the gay rights movement after condemning Stonewall's radicalism, has come home to roost.

We cannot repeatedly bargain away the trans in every compromise that we make to obtain queer equality. I honestly cannot take the trans community to task for turning their backs upon us. We have time and time turned our backs on them.

Dale Carpenter has editorialised repeatedly that the T needs to go. Did the HRC take him to task for it? Did the NCLR?

No.

Matt Foreman, who has now seen the light, bargained away trans rights to employment during the SONDA battle in New York in 02. Trans are still unprotected in much of New York State.

Jokes are made at T expense in the media repeatedly. Is their any call for boycotts of hose who do so, as opposed to those boycotts of businesses who support Prop 8?

Exactly why should Trans support any measure beneficial to gays or to Lesbians right now? Yes, the NCLR did support T inclusion in ENDA, but the HRC did not, nor did many gay male and feminist Lesbian authors.

The Trans took a beating.

One of the frequent arguments used was that the Trans could marry and the gays could not(I know that the argument is fallacious, just quoting) so the Gay men and Lesbians felt absolved from inistsing on T inclusion.

We did this.

We failed to make strong stands against trans bigotry and marginalisation. Frequently, we failed to take any stand against it.

Members of our own communities discriminate against trans people and we frequently say nothing.

We left unchallenged the calls for removing the T from LGBT community centres.

This is the result, the crop of weeds sprung from the bad seed.

And, in my view, we deserve and we earned this.

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | September 29, 2008 10:54 PM

Maura wrote, "Exactly why should Trans support any measure beneficial to gays or to Lesbians right now?"

Because, right now, we're standing on the threshold of a new era in American history, and in the next ten years, we have the potential to take the LGBT movement further than ever before--in the history of the world.

The historical cycle favors us now. We're about to elect the first black President of the United States, and the most GLBT-friendly one ever. Courts across the nation are making rulings in our favor and public opinion is rapidly shifting to the left.

Dawn is breaking on the Era of LGBT Civil Rights. This is our moment, and it is our duty to stand together under our common banner and meet our common enemy on the battlefield.

Exactly why should Trans support any measure beneficial to gays or to Lesbians right now?
Because it is the right thing to do.

Maura, we've argued in the past - but this. This was what I was talking about in my responses to Bil's questions about trans people over the past couple of weeks.

Not just marginalizing trans people but then telling us that we didn't do the time and the activism to earn a place at the table when the gay/lesbian rights movement had spent energy kicking us to the curb to keep us out of the activism.

That said, I'm not interested in separatism. I want coalitions to work.

Not that you don't know this already, but...

Because we are GLB too.

forgetting the others is like forgetting ourselves.

transgender is not separate from GLB. Nor is GLB separate from transgender.

There are lesbians who are T. Gay men who are T. Bisexuals who are T.

T can't include itself if isn't doesn't include them.

This, too. A lot of people don't really think in terms of intersectionality, and don't realize that a lot of trans people are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or queer.

To the general post, I have to say that I have been experiencing the same.

rank and file wise, the fury and rage is absolutely incredible. I'm responsible for some of it, feeling it myself, and I do not regret any of it.

It is not being channeled, though, and this is what happens.

As screwed up as our marriage rights are right now, near as anyone can tell, in terms of straight transfolks, Prop 8 doesn't hurt them.

I'm not personally hurt by the Arizona version.

I've said before -- marriage is without much meaning when you can't find work so you can't even be yourself.

And yet, every day, I am out canvassing and out speaking and posting online in all manner of places to get these things turned down.

Not because its the right thing to do. I can't say that for my own motivation.

My motivation is because of my transkith -- some of them cannot marry. That needs to change.

I find this backlash to be harmful to ourselves for that reason.

But as was already noted, we've been crapped on one time too many.

It has driven a wedge that *must* be dealt with.

Now.

Or none of us will get anything.

I'm T, and I certainly want to see marriage remain legal in CA. Why? It is a T issue, particularly for those T people who marry, regardless of who you marry, for it may be perceived differently depending on legal definition.

For instance, I'm a CD, but I could well transition someday. My wife would probably stay with me, if I did. I live in a state that will never, most likely, recognize any form of civil union or marriage. If I were to undergo surgery, I could change my papers and be legally female in my state. I would then be in a same-sex marriage. Under my state's laws, any "officer of the court" could invalidate my marriage. Confused yet? Yes, it's a T issue.

I do believe we're going about it all wrong, just as we're going about ENDA all wrong. What should be done is to have the term "marriage" returned to its status as denoting a religious sacrament, and replace it with the term "civil union". Simply consider the legal part of "marriage" a civil union, and leave the term "marriage" as a church issue. "

Instead of ENDA, I would simply make law the notion that nobody may be hired, fired, promoted or demoted, or compensated, based on any factor other than bonafide qualifications, then define those qualifications - and obviously gender identity or sexual orientation would be specifically excluded as ever being bonafide qualifications of employment.

Of course, those proposals make sense, and since Barney Frank and HRC have never worked in any sort of commonsense manner, they'll go nowhere. But, if that revolution were to happen, and I could become supreme monarch (so that I could be king or queen, as my whims dictate)........

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | September 30, 2008 6:06 AM

Polar wrote, "What should be done is to have the term "marriage" returned to its status as denoting a religious sacrament, and replace it with the term "civil union"."

If Prop. Hate were to pass, that would probably be the next step. The fundies wouldn't be happy with it though. Not only do they hate the term "civil union," and the second-class citizenship it implies, it would defeat their whole reason for denying "Teh Gayz" the right to marry, because we could still get married in liberal churches.

I think Prop. Hate will fail though.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | September 30, 2008 12:43 PM

This has been a great discussion here!!

Thanks to everyone who has contributed, and also kept it polite and on issue.

You guys rule!

the entire community needs to recognize that our enemies make no distinctions in the differences between us. anyone who does not neatly conform to the male/female binary in gender or sexual orientation is QUEER. we are stripped of equal rights, equal opportunity, and even the right to love. we are denied basic humanity and are often referred to as abominations. we are the "third gender", and the rights that are denied to any of us are rights denied to all. yes, certain issues seem to apply to some more than others but the underlying principle remains the same. we are one, unified by oppression. we face discrimination and hatred solely because we are different; we do not conform to the binary. those within our community who fail to grasp our common humanity, those who can only see our differences, have more in common with those who oppress us than they do with us. that is a pity. we are family. and that is a lot to be thankful for.

the entire community needs to recognize that our enemies make no distinctions in the differences between us. anyone who does not neatly conform to the male/female binary in gender or sexual orientation is QUEER. we are stripped of equal rights, equal opportunity, and even the right to love. we are denied basic humanity and are often referred to as abominations. we are the "third gender", and the rights that are denied to any of us are rights denied to all. yes, certain issues seem to apply to some more than others but the underlying principle remains the same. we are one, unified by oppression. we face discrimination and hatred solely because we are different; we do not conform to the binary. those within our community who fail to grasp our common humanity, those who can only see our differences, have more in common with those who oppress us than they do with us. that is a pity. we are family. and that is a lot to be thankful for.