I am still stunned by last week's statement from Capitol Hill about Congressmembers' miseducation on trans issues in ENDA:
There continues to be concerns on the part of many members about the transgender issue, particularly about the question of places where people are without their clothes -- showers, bathrooms, locker rooms, etc. We still have this issue about what happens when people who present themselves as one sex but have the physical characteristics of the other sex, what rules govern what happens in locker rooms, showers, etc.
As I explained last week, this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the issues.
We are advocating and educating our little hearts out. What's it going to take to help these Congressmembers understand the issues? I've offered to help by providing a free webinar for Congressmembers and their staffs. I'm awaiting approval from Representative Frank's office. (I actually made a grave faux pas by making the offer to some Congressional offices without passing it by Representative Frank's office first and got hit on the nose with a rolled up newspaper. So now I'm doing it the approved way.) Which reminds me - the National Center for Transgender Equality has just announced lobby days (and a free policy conference) March 14-16. Get yourself to DC and educate those Congressmembers!
Here's what steams me just a little. If we know there's a concern about trans issues, why were there no transgender or transsexual witnesses at the Senate hearing? Why didn't anyone at the House hearing testify about how these types of situations are handled effectively every day in businesses throughout the US where trans people work, with no one running down the hallway screaming bloody murder?
I do not blame Representative Frank for making this comment. Far from it: I applaud him for having the courage to state the problem aloud. But forewarned is forearmed, and now is the time for the sponsors of ENDA to do their own educating. It will not do to come back later and say that the problem was that Congressmembers weren't educated.
It's time for the Representatives and Senators who support ENDA to step up and start doing some educating and getting some education. If you, Representatives and Senators, are concerned that your colleagues need more education, then you need to start doing some educating too. We, your transgender constituents and allies, can't do that much except call and leave a message to support ENDA, or try for a meeting with aides. As I found to my chagrin last summer, trying to schedule meetings between local activists and Congressional offices around the country, it was an experience in frustration. I sent an average of fifteen communications to each office by telephone, fax, and email. In many instances, I was barely able to get one or two return phone calls, and out of 140 people around the country who wanted to meet with their officials, I was able to arrange 12 meetings. Trust me, it was not an enjoyable summer.
I am committed, and I know many of you are as well, that we will get this education done - by telephone calls, by meetings, by lobbying, by webinars, by whatever means necessary. No is going to say this time around "the transgender community didn't step forward and that's why the effort failed."