I've spent the last three days since my May 4 birthday in our nation's capital exercising my constitutional right to petition my legislators for 'redress of grievances'.
Translation: I've been lobbying.
Lobbying isn't just for high priced hired guns working in concert with corporate interests to squash legislation designed to help average American citizens. It's also a powerful constitutional right available to you as a congressional constituent.
For the last eleven years I have been availing myself of that right as the former Lobby Director for NTAC and as a concerned citizen to get hate crimes and ENDA legislation passed for my transgender peeps and the GLBT community.
The mission that I chose to accept was to spend May 6-8 bouncing back and forth between the various House and Senate congressional office buildings drumming up support in the Senate for SR 909, their version of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill and thanking the House Congressional Black Caucus members for voting affirmatively on HR 1913.
I dropped my mom and sister's Mother's Day cards in the mail before Polar and I hit the road May 5 for a 9 hour drive through eastern Kentucky, southern West Virginia and Virginia.
After driving through the eastern Kentucky countryside, traversing the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains and past Virginia's Civil War battlefields, I finally arrived with Polar in Fairfax, VA a little after 9:30 PM EDT.
We got to the DC metro area just in time to flip on the local news and watch several anti-gay ministers go nuclear over the 12-1 DC Council vote to recognize same gender marriages performed in other jurisdictions. I also got to see Michael Crawford on TV eloquently making his point against a marriage opponent on TV the next evening.
Wednesday morning after my long ride on the Orange line I fulfilled a promise I made in the open letter I wrote a few months ago on the Project and my blog. I found myself in Rep Frank's (D-MA) office shaking Diego Sanchez's hand and being greeted with a big hug. He took a few moments out of his busy schedule to tell me and Polar what was happening on the Hill in their office to benefit GLBT peeps and the constituents in their district.
That wasn't the only prominent hand I got to shake over the next two and a half days I was on the Hill. I was fortunate enough to have a chat with Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) and his wonderful staff as well. While I'm very happy with my current congressman Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), when my district was represented by Anne Northup, I considered Rep Carson's late grandmother, the late Julia Carson my congressmember because she was the closest CBC member to Da Ville.. I've also adopted Andre as my congressmember as well.
I thanked him for not only his vote on hate crimes, but complimented him on the recent Bilerico guest post he wrote. I also let him and his staff know I write for the Project as well.
I also took the time to visit Rep. Barbara Lee's (D-CA) office to thank her for supporting HR 1913 and reminding people in her eloquent speeches that transgender people are human too. I stopped by the offices of some of my birth state CBC Congress members in Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) and Rep. Al Green (D-TX).
I also visited several other CBC offices to thank them as well for their support in addition to stopping by Sen. Roland Burris' (D-IL) office to ask for his support on SR 909. It was a joy to have chats with the various legislative assistants in the offices I had the pleasure of visiting, and watch them working hard to get legislation passed that helps all Americans and solve their constituent's problems accessing the federal bureaucracy.
It was cool to not only hook up with my old friend Vanessa Edwards Foster to talk Texan with her, but also meet Toni, Ro and Rebekah over dinner to discuss a wide array of issues affecting the transgender community. .
I observed as I walked the halls of the Longworth, Rayburn and Cannon
House Office Buildings and the Hart, Dirksen and Russell Senate Office Buildings that our opponents were working just as hard to stop what we were doing as well. I noted the young college interns headed back and forth toward the various offices and wondering if I was looking at a future Congress member.
I also noted the HMO lobbyists walking the halls trying to stop HR 676 (Universal Health Care) in addition to marveling at the beauty of Washington's architecture.
When we started heading back home, the thought crossed my mind as I headed through Maryland if I did enough to help the crown jewel legislation of our community pass. It's a thought that I had a lot of time to ponder. I also thought about the fact that I've been doing this for almost eleven years
But I was comforted in the knowledge that for the first time, thanks to a solid congressional majority in both houses and a president ensconced who will sign it, I am cautiously hopeful that what myself and the transgender community has worked for and dreamed about for years in passage of an inclusive ENDA and hate crimes bill will finally come to fruition.