Monica Roberts

The Best Defense Is A Good Offense

Filed By Monica Roberts | September 12, 2008 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: ballot initiatives, civil rights, Monica Roberts, strategy, transgender

The Montgomery County trans law finally being implemented is wonderful news to all of us working toward and looking forward to the day that all transgender people, no matter where we reside have civil rights coverage. Congratulations to all of you in Maryland who worked your butts off to make it happen.

UCF_Texas offense.jpgNow that this battle is won, our friends in Hamtramck, MI, and Gainesville, FL, need our help to fight off the Forces of Intolerance. But before we gird our loins for the next fight, we need to analyze what went right, what went wrong, make the necessary corrections and pass that hard won intelligence to our friends now on the front lines of this next civil rights battlefront.

What we also need to do in the GLBT community is come up with a coordinated strategy for beating back these right-wing attempts to roll back our civil rights, and I'm about to tell you how we do that.

So as we say in football country, the best defense is a good offense.

While I'm not gonna give all my ideas away in this post, since our enemies do read The Project, I will offer some general thoughts on what we proactively have to do to send these referendums to crushing defeat.

1- Get the public to focus on the fact that our opponents want them to take away people's civil rights.

The Forces of Intolerance know that there's irrefutable evidence that transgender people need civil rights protection and public sentiment turning in our direction. They can't throw that "special rights" shade as often as they used to because it's as played out as an 8 track tape. They only have fear to use, and thanks to Barney, their fear-mongering weapon du jour is the "showers and bathroom" argument.

Reasonable people do not want to be put in a position where they are taking away someone's rights. We have to constantly remind them that's precisely what our opponents are asking them to do. The Californians did that brilliantly by changing the title of Proposition 8 to make it clear voting for it would take away people rights. .

2-Rewrite their referenda

One of the things the Reichers do well is when they put together these recall referendums, they use deceptive Orwellian language to do so. Ward Connerly's anti-affirmative action ones are prime examples of it. They claim to be protecting affirmative action programs and are confusingly worded or titled. They're designed to deceive you into thinking a yes vote means you're protecting the programs when in fact you are actually voting to eliminate them.

The way we beat Connerly in Houston was force changes in his ballot initiative language to a straightforward yes or no question. It was what I was suggesting the Maryland peeps do as a fallback position if they'd lost the court battle.

3-Make them look like the mean spirited, intolerant jerks they are.

While you're debunking and utterly destroying their arguments, you also want to use humor as a weapon to make them look like the buffoonish, bigoted, mean spirited jerks they are. Think the "Righteous Flock" from the Porky's 2 movie.

Fundies hate to be made fun of, and if you tweak them enough, you can knock them off their game to where they'll make a mistake you can pounce on. Fortunately that isn't hard, because most of the time they'll shoot themselves in the foot. But if they don't, you'll have to do the smart legwork and bury their arguments in an avalanche of facts that will make them overreact.

4- Propose our own ballot initiatives.

Nothing's stopping us from proposing our own ballot initiatives. The initiative process works both ways, people. Let's force them to react and burn up money trying to kill one of our initiatives for a change and bring our progressive voters to the polls at the same time.

These are just four suggestions that I hope will get us to start thinking offensively on these issues instead of defensively. We have the moral high ground on this issue of transgender civil rights, they don't. The public is on our side. 110 plus jurisdictions have transgender rights protections.

So lets go out there and win a few for the civil rights team!


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Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | September 12, 2008 4:27 PM

Another thing that we have to do is stop the vicious and bloody in-fighting. Some much more time and energy is wasted on us fighting each than is remotely helpful.

Some people may not want to hear it, but organizing protests against HRC instead of organizing lobby visits and educating voters is doing nothing to advance LGBT rights. It may make some people feel good, but that is about it.

I know that some are going to respond that they can walk and chew gum at the same time, but each person has only so much energy and so much time. And, we have to ask ourselves what is going to be the most effective use of individual time and energy talking trash about HRC or organizing lobby visits and educational outreach to elected officials who are not on board with trans inclusive legislation.

I vote for talking trash about HRC!

(Just kidding, Michael.)

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | September 12, 2008 4:48 PM

I say let's take aim at LCR. That's something that we can all get behind.

Not sure I would be. A case could be made for their working against LGBT rights.

Ugh. Kill me now.

Will someone please explain to me why it is that every single time that magical [not to mention invalidating and disempowering] word "infighting" is spewed from someone’s lips they are always arguing that the solution to the perceived problem is for those who are being oppressed and violated – those doing the bitching – to STFU.

I never hear anyone say to HRC, "Hey! Stop all of this infighting! Stop actively working against trans folks and pretty much every other queer who exists outside the margins of mainstream gay identity. That’s infighting!"

Why? Why are you not telling HRC that, for the good of the cause, they should just get in line with what trans activists want and stop all this damn bickering?

The concept of infighting is so offensive it boggles my mind. It suggests that legitimate complaints and challenges should be brushed aside and the status quo should be maintained. That privilege should remain unchecked. That those who are actively being hurt by the actions of others should ignore this violence because it’s best for "the community". Ha!

Seriously, either write a letter to Joe telling him to stop infighting or get off this dead "infighting" horse.

You know, Nick, isn't the entire American LGBT movement infighting? I mean, we're just arguing with other Americans, declaring them the enemies, instead of going after those people who really want to destroy us? We ought to stop that in-fighting and go along to get along.

Jeez, why did that paragraph up there sound so Republican?

Another thing that we have to do is stop the vicious and bloody in-fighting.
You bring up a good point, Michael, but not the one you think.

Before we can start talking about defending existing T rights from attack, we have to establish those rights in the first place.

From the Southern Voice:

The Doraville City Council voted unanimously Sept. 2 to include
"sexual preference" — to mean gay men and lesbians — in its employment non-discrimination policy....

In a 6-0 vote, the council passed the measure that states: "The City will, therefore, provide equal employment opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, sexual preference, veteran, disabled or familial status. ...

Bates, who was elected to the Doraville City Council in 2007 and is believed to be the first openly gay Republican elected in Georgia, said he did only want "sexual preference" included in the policy at
this point. Bates said he believes gender identity needs to be included in the city's nondiscrimination statement when more education
takes place with city employees, administrators and residents....

Councilmember Bob Roche, who sponsored the nondiscrimination policy to
include protections for gays and lesbians, said he also wanted to include gender identity. But questions raised by some council members and residents convinced him to back off for now.

"In Georgia, as you know, you can fire someone for being gay. I wanted to fix it. If we can get gays and lesbians now, we can go back," he said, noting the situation felt similar to what occurred with the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act. That law originally included gender identity, but transgender people were removed when it was learned there would not be enough votes in the House to pass it.

"This is an issue near and dear to my heart," Roche said. "I know it's not a touchdown, but if we can get the ball halfway down the field, we
have a better chance. It shouldn't be this way, but we live in the South."

To gauge the bitterness of the opposition to this 6-0 vote, there's this:
While Mayor Ray Jenkins did not vote on the measure, he acknowledged he was unsure why this issue was raised in the first place.

"I'll be fair with you, I know nothing about this," he said. "I don't know why any of this came up. We don't discriminate against anybody. I know nothing about it."

Maybe if some GLBs stopped being part of the main opposition to trans* rights, we might get a bit further.

Need I remind anyone that Wisconsin Trans* people have been waiting 33 years for the same protections that Gays and Lesbians get? Or that the average wait for trans* people to be included in GLB-only legislation is now 16 years?

ENDA was symbolic, it was supposed to be symbolic. And it was. It symbolised trans people being not just expendable, but disposable. It is being used by gays now as a template - it's socially acceptable to exclude trans*. Had a trans-exclisive bill been voted on, and failed narrowly (or even passed), we would be in no better and no worse a situation than before, federally. But regional GLB groups would not take their cue from ENDA to be trans-exclusive, as they are doing now.

i really like what you had to say, monica....you sound like one of those "angelic troublemakers" that civil rights leader bayard rustin commented on - every community needs a few of them. be well...

My fellow Texan,
Remember there was infighting back in the day between the JH Jackson conservatives who preached 'going along to get along' and decried Dr. King's nonviolent tactics.

There was also SNCC, the Black Muslim, the Black Panther Party and others who all vehemently disagreed on tactics and strategy on how to get there, but were united in the overall goal of uplifting our people.

We all agree transgender civil rights needs to happen. The problem is that the HRC-transgender community battle isn't a simple disagreement on tactics and strategy.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | September 12, 2008 4:53 PM

Monica,

I hope that you are safe and away from Hurricane Ike.

I agree that the disagreement in the community is not simple or easy to solve. But, we have to, at times, agree to lay aside our disagreements in order to get candidates elected who will vote for pro-LGBT legislation.

I am a firm believer in using a multiplicity of tactics from a multiplicity of locations. Sometimes though I think we allow the disagreements to work against us rather than for us.

Michael,
You apparently missed that entire string posted here by Bil where trans leaders - myself included - were talking about our willingness to talk with HRC. Only a few trans people in HRC responded back and no non-trans HRC person posted a thing.

You also missed a posting where Bil made some comment about getting a pass to an HRC event at the DNC and Jed, Joe S's partner, made some comments on the posting. There was a minor exchange that was about as mild as can be and Jed stormed off in a huff, either not having the guts to stick around and defend his position or not really giving a shit about having that exchange. He ran away, not us.

Becky Juro talked about Joe not wanting to be on her show. He runs away. They have what us military people refer to as a "bunker mentality." "If we ignore the trans people, they will stop bothering us." I don f---ing think so.

As far as "assigning fault" to one party or another, it can be said that it has nothing to do with "fault." It has everything to do with arrogance on their part. "We are bigger and richer then you, so your problems don't matter to us." We're ready. They're not.

Whoa, Monica!!

Could the Red Sox ever use you right now?!! You've started smacking 'em outta the park every at bat, girl!! Great ideas.

Sounds like you've been reading Reveille For Radicals,

I think she'll be fine through Ike, Mike. She lives in Louisville now, I think.

Michael, I'm in Louisville, but my family's scattered in South Park, Sunnyside, Hiram Clarke and Alief.

It's one thing to disagree about tactics. It's another thing entirely for one segment of the community to use its political power, economic power and influence to prevent through various means a segment of it from gaining civil rights that it desperately needs.

I love your ideas Monica but how do we get the ball rolling?Which City's,County's and States will be the first to see this new strategy?Will enough people volunteer to get signatures for any potential ballot iniative? How about we in the T community set up are own nationwide organization with state and regional appointees and a national committee.Plus don't forget it takes green backs to print up the signature forms and the gasoline to get to the various sites to collect signatures and volunteers.

I fully agree with Nick and Monica here, Michael. Stopping infighting is a two way street. Both sides have to put aside their differences and start talking. Yet, despite the numerous invitations to do so, including my own in my open letter to Joe Solmonese just a few days ago, it is HRC which refuses to engage witht eh trans community in honest and public dialog on these issues, not the reverse.

I'm sorry Michael, but HRC is the problem here. They won't even do as much as speak with us openly and honestly, so how can healing process even begin to happen?

We've opened the door, repeatedly. It's HRC which has refused to walk through it. Now, who's fault is that, really?

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | September 13, 2008 3:01 PM

Rebecca,

I don't think it is about assigning fault to one party or another. From my perspective, both some transgender activists and some folks connected to HRC have put roadblocks in the path to open and honest dialogue.

I guess that I am in a unique position because I worked for HRC for 5 years and have worked with transgender activists. I don't see either as being all good or all evil.

The black and white way that this situation seems to have developed is making it difficult to come to a resolution that will advance the interests of the entire LGBT community.

(I commented on the wrong Michael comment above)

Michael,
You apparently missed that entire string posted here by Bil where trans leaders - myself included - were talking about our willingness to talk with HRC. Only a few trans people in HRC responded back and no non-trans HRC person posted a thing.

You also missed a posting where Bil made some comment about getting a pass to an HRC event at the DNC and Jed, Joe S's partner, made some comments on the posting. There was a minor exchange that was about as mild as can be and Jed stormed off in a huff, either not having the guts to stick around and defend his position or not really giving a shit about having that exchange. He ran away, not us.

Becky Juro talked about Joe not wanting to be on her show. He runs away. They have what us military people refer to as a "bunker mentality." "If we ignore the trans people, they will stop bothering us." I don f---ing think so.

As far as "assigning fault" to one party or another, it can be said that it has nothing to do with "fault." It has everything to do with arrogance on their part. "We are bigger and richer then you, so your problems don't matter to us." We're ready. They're not.

Hey now, I don't think it's fair to hold Jed up as a standard of what HRC does or doesn't do. He doesn't work there. He has no decision making power in the least. I'd guess he just got tired of arguing over an org he has no power over other than pillow talk.

The way I remember that conversation he was defending me from charges of being "bought and paid" for by HRC for accepting entry to a concert at the DNCC - and not defending HRC's actions over the past decade.

I know I got tired of that thread quickly - and the response by some of the commenters - so I'm perfectly willing to give him a pass on that one. He hung in longer than I did.

Michael,
Despite my long time vehement opposition to HRC, I took some heat in this community for being open to meeting with Joe Solmonese a few months ago.

Now my attitude is why bother? Give me one valid reason why I should waste my valuable time meeting with an organization who has the same values as the Log Cabin Republicans?

It has been SSDD for a decade now. We've had transperson after transperson meet with the Evil Equal Sign Org. We've even had transpeople who tried to work within HRC, and yet they still refuse to do the one morally decent and correct thing that will give them street cred in the transgender community- relentlessly push an inclusive ENDA the same way they have twisted arms and browbeat people to push a non-inclusive one.

I love your ideas Monica but how do we get the ball rolling?Which City's,County's and States will be the first to see this new strategy?Will enough people volunteer to get signatures for any potential ballot iniative? How about we in the T community set up are own nationwide organization with state and regional appointees and a national committee.Plus don't forget it takes green backs to print up the signature forms and the gasoline to get to the various sites to collect signatures and volunteers.

Thanks amym488,
It was one of the ideas I came up with as NTAC Lobby Chair but never got to implement because the Vichy (and racist) elements of the transgender community were too busy attacking our fledgling multicultural organization with the bogus 'horizontal hostility' charge instead of listening to the fresh, creative ideas we had.

The beauty of this strategy is that while it can be coordinated with national action, you can do this on a local level.

You could for example, have drag/female illusionist do benefit shows to finance the local initiative as a way to get them involved in the process and for local leadership to forge links with that segment of the community in conjunction with local GLB orgs.

How you build that local community is up to you, just so long as it gets built and you stand up on your own two feet to do so.

Monica I have just relocated to New Hampshire in the last 6 months.There are two gay bars in the entire state and probably more Moose then lgbt people although through a group that I was a member of I was told there are over 450 post-op Ts women here.I agree with you that there is room for groups to lobby at the local level and it may be a way to get our voices heard from the Congressmen and Senators that represent us at the Federal level.If their unwilling to listen to what we have to say or are strictly anti T placing pressure on them at home may work better than trying to pressure them in Washington.I have an idea since the elections are so close if it is possible to find someone in the various Senate and Congressional districts willing to call the campaign staff of all the runners and ask them their position on T issues then if Bil is okay with it post the results here by state and district I'm willing to find out in my District of New Hampshire.

Hounding HRC will get us nowhere. Why beg an organization to accept the other part of LGBT (that being bisexual and transgender) for acceptance when clearly they do not.

It seems like for them they would rather try to assimilate into the ideals of what heterosexuals feel comfortable and normal is than hold fast to the people that rioted with them at Stonewall.

We must stop begging to come aboard and make our own ship. I hear enough people complain about this organization not accepting or that organization not doing this. So all the small BTQ organizations should merge together for the common goal. Acceptance without compromise.

I don't recall this posting having anything to do with HRC. No matter how much I dislike and distrust them, no matter how much contempt I feel for Joe S, David S, Marty R, and the rest of the satraps there, I recognize they're largely irrelevant where local laws are concerned, beyond their propensity for sucking money away from local orgs in cities where they host galas.

I'm very, very glad Montgomery Cty won in court. We all should write checks to the people fighting to keep the law alive in Gainesville as well. Passage of inclusive local laws have been the most important area of victory for GLBT people in the past 8 years, and if the Reichers begin to think they can erase these laws by ballot initiative or court action, they will push to repeal these laws in many cities that have enacted them. To channel Frank Zappa, not only CAN it happen here, it likely will, if not stopped here and now.

Getting past recriminations etc, let's see if we can address Monica's original point.

The first thing we have to do is get the Trans* friendly legislation in place. That means identifying the nature of the opposition and their arguments and finding strategies against them and answers to them.

If we don't have LGBT legislation as a whole, then we face the problem that we do in Gainesville. There, because anti-Trans* issues have not been addressed by LGBT as a whole, an overtly Trans-hostile campaign is being used to covertly remove long-standing rights from LGBs too. By saying "we've got ours, we'll come back for you later" and then doing nothing to counteract the anti-trans forces, incrementalism has become decrementalism.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 14, 2008 8:48 AM

Dear Monica,

You wrote an "action plan" and it quickly became a thread about old "recriminations, vehemence, infighting etc."

Where is the common ground for positive results?

I think (old boy Bob me who usually does not comment on trans issues threads for fear of being garroted) that we all have to get beyond bitterness and get on the bus toward a direction. You are all great individuals, let's go for the strength rather than our weaknesses. Peace.

Old Boy Bob - I agree in principle.

Now how do we go about getting Trans-friendly legislation in the first place? I'm open to suggestions.

The problem is, it's really, really difficult talking about the issue of how do we fight trans-hostility while not talking about the trans-hostility in certain areas. If you can think of a way of doing it without opening old wounds, please tell me.

As I said, if we can find a way of drawing a line under it, and saying "OK, mistakes were made, let's learn from them and move on" then we should definitely do it.

But when the "bathroom issues" and the like that are being purveyed by the Fundies are continuing to be purveyed by other groups, groups-that-shall-remain-nameless, what do we do? If we don't bring the issue up, we remain disarmed. If we do, we cause bitterness and resentment.

I'd really appreciate some advice here. I agree, we should "go for the strength rather than our weakness". But how? I'm really trying my best to figure out a way without causing the usual bitterness, bitterness which in itself can only weaken and divide us. Bitterness we have to get over. But while the cause is ongoing, how can we? When even mentioning the problem causes bitterness, it's a conundrum I haven't found an answer for.

Please help Bob, I'm out of airspeed, altitude, and ideas.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 15, 2008 4:26 AM

Zoe, as I would be on the other side of the ocean, I would prescribe a true national convention (or internet convention) of all trans and trans friendly persons to set an agenda, state aims and also learn to bargain as part of progress.

I have to ask you. How can you be "weakened" further when you cannot talk about a problem? How can you find strength and common ground to act upon if you don't?

Can you find ten things you agree on as a group and five things you will hold in reserve to be solved later and move forward? Life is damn unfair and full of compromises where we know we are not getting all we would like, but if we can see progress (like Thailand that just builds transgender toilets) and build upon it all is possible. The issue of slavery in the United States took over 75 years to eliminated beyond the American Constitution and progress was slow, but it was palpable. It was enough to frighten the hell out of the South when Lincoln was elected.

Seriously, when I got a Gay themed documentary broadcast in 1974 in Bloomington Indiana ("We are a People")when "homosexual" acts were illegal in the state on a tax payer funded public TV station do you not think that I had to compromise and self censor? The Head of the Kinsey Institute wanted me to go further than I did with nudity, but I knew if I wanted it broadcast it would not fly.

Zoe, and of course Monica in that I am too ignorant to contribute more than this suggestion I will leave it at this simple reminder:

"It is always difficult if it is worthwhile."

Which is my own quote to you. Robert Ganshorn aka "the extremely youthful 55 year old boy."

Can you find ten things you agree on as a group and five things you will hold in reserve to be solved later and move forward?
No.

I'll quote from a comment over at Father Pat's:

Why not put your energy into rebuilding a vibrant gay men's community -- own your own privilege (to use their term) -- accept that Gay has NOTHING in common with LBTransQueer -- no common issues of any kind -- only endless LBTransQueer hatred and contempt to Gay men. Gay men alone have so many things that need addressing back in our own gay men's community (continuing AIDS issues, aging issues, sex-negative laws, homophobia and ageism, isolation, depression, drug and alcohol use -- none of these things have been "solved" and all need gay men to work on them in our own spaces with our own perspectives). Gay men once developed our own discourse that addressed our identities as male homosexuals – not the gender theories thrust upon us – we need to pick up work of men who died prematurely and sponsor and support gay male academics to develop our own Gay Therory freed from women’s theories. Why would any gay man waste time, breath and money on other communities who hate you as their privileged, oppressing enemy? I do not understand why you desert your own brothers for people who spit in your face and don't want anything to do with you except your money.

How do you deal with that? And it's not some fringe either, just read Citizen Craine or Xtra some time.

There was a time in the not so distant past when the fanatic minority of man-hating lesbians and the fanatic minority of women-hating gays did agree to bury the hatchet, and unite in the one single cause they both agreed on.

To purge the GL movement of Trans* people. Which they did, quite successfully.

That makes co-operation .... tricky. I think we have to just ignore them, and work with the sane majority of GLBs, who may not be as Activist, but have the numbers. The problem is when the Fanatics stab Trans* people in the back - and then don't get called out on it out of "solidarity".

God knows it's difficult enough dealing with the homophobes within the Trans* community too! They take the actions of this vocal minority of Gay and Lesbian transphobes, and project them onto the GLB movement as a whole. And some are just as Fanatic in their hatred as those they oppose, they only use the backstabbing as an excuse. If it didn't exist, that minority of Trans* homophobes would still feel the same. Fortunately their numbers are so few, they're irrelevant, and most GLBT peoplem don't even know they exist. They embarass us.

I feel uneasy saying this. I feel that by even mentioning the blatantly transphobic GL hate-junkies, I insult the many, many GLBT people who are on our side. They don't deserve that, it's the height of injustice. Even using the word "backstabbing", which while correct, is too emotionally loaded, makes me feel that I'm doing something terribly wrong in pointing out the problem.

I really want a united front, you see. I just don't want to have to continually pick knives out of my back in order to get it.

(insert obligatory ENDA gripe here)

Oh, good idea about making our own ballot measures to advance equality. Even if they don't work out, they'd still redirect resources.

Then again, they'd also redirect ours, and we have less. So we'd have to be strategic.