Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Educating Congress

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | January 18, 2010 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Politics
Tags: employment discrimination, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, trans, transgender

IThumbnail image for backtoschool.jpg 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."


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Thank you for being so involved. I'm sure the level of lobbying you've been doing has been exhausting, as anything of this magnitude is.

The challenge is now up to the sponsors: if more votes are needed to pass ENDA in either house, it's time to put relevant folks forward to tell their stories (I'm sure you will find plenty willing), and relevant facts forward to counter the misinformation. There's no reason to sit back and say it's futile.

"Educating Congress," instead of educating constituents, is probably easier. The problem is it doesn't work.

We all applaud Jillian's efforts. But, at some point we have to come to terms with the lack of a "political solution" and the real work of creating equality.

I agree with you to the extent that this isn't a case of fluffy headed pols who just don't understand the issues. They do. The stalking horse being used as the spokesmodel for continuing discrimination against transgender people represents a district and a state that has outlawed such discrimination for quite a long time.

He's well aware that the public accommodation issues don't apply & have been addressed without incident in hundreds of locales.

Funny how this comes up just when people are floating the idea of separate showers and other accommodations for gay people if DADT gets repealed?

The suggestion that changing the minds of constituents should replace this legislative advocacy I think is misguided. It unlikely that after all of the education done on these issues in Congress, that this is about intellectually incurious Congressman needing a little help in understanding issues they were very well aware of in the 2007 ENDA disaster. Nor do I believe that bringing up issues like showers, which is completely unrelated to this bill is an innocent mistake. Particularly given some of those named represent districts where similar legislation has existed for a very long time.

People are either providing cover for someone who doesn't want their fingerprints on "the murder weapon" and/or scrambling for a fig leaf to cover their naked bigotry.

They should be challenged, not coddled. It only serves to reinforce their talking points and 2007 shows they don't respond to pretty please. Even with sugar on top.

Your suggestion of constituent advocacy fails on two points. Polls have shown for over a decade that over 70% or so of the population already support nondiscrimination legislation based upon both sexual orientation & gender identity - even when the issues are polled separately. And previous legislation on other categories didn't have to wait until all the bigots concerns were addressed prior to gaining civil rights. That's a standard which can never be met. This is why the legislation is needed. It’s an unachievable goal to require greater support than already exists and cedes power to the those who wish to see lgbt people remain 2nd 7 3rd class citizens.

It's also why the comments the pols are making are blatantly part of a strategy of bigotry tarted up in concern troll finery.

Yes – we must continue things like Lobby Day Training Events etc. But – people who live in George Miller’s District need to hold his feet to the fire and make him publicly speak to these issues. Here’s a guy who sent a representative from his office to the Transgender Day of Remembrance Event. He should know better.

And we should demand that those in Congress and the Admin live by the rules today that they’re discussing here. Reps. Frank, Baldwin & Polis should not be allowed to use the House Gym & must be required to use separate facilities. Dylan Orr & Diego Sanchez must be required to use the women’s room in Congressional & Federal Buildings at work. Amanda Simpson must likewise be required to use the men’s room.

That my friends – would be some very real education for Congressmembers.

Your analysis ignores the political reality of US Senators and their constituents. Polls in Alabama are much different than polls in Massachusetts. Those Senators pay attention to their constituents, not national polling data.

Until we refocus our dysfunctional movement on the "people," not the politicians, we will make very little progress.

There is little chance of getting anything past the US Senate (unless we hold Defense spending hostage again), but we spend all this time, energy and money trying to educate politicians who will NOT change their minds.

Polling is the only change you can believe in. To create our equality we must reach out to our fellow citizens and change the polls.

"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."
Uneducated or intentionally ignorant? This is the same out that the democratic party used to throw us away in the 2015 debacle. The longer I witness the way these spineless bureaucrats operate the more cynical I become.
"(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.)"
You do not see the catch 22 here? Frank must approve (in 97,98,99 we heard all over the House "what's Frank's take on this, he's the go to on gay stuff) and yet it's once again gonna be "you transgenders just didn't do the education"..

You are once again being set up with the exact same plan used then by Frank and HRC in the 90's. ENDA will be re-introduced sans any trans language once again, Frank just told you so while washing his hands.

I won't even address the wisdom of "education" of legislators that flies in the face of the binary instead of just sticking to straight civil rights concerns.........

I see it. I'm glad you see it too. Frankly, if this effort at education gets blocked, and we get blamed for not doing enough education, and/or for non-passage of ENDA, I'm going to be doing some hard thinking about the whole LGBT enterprise.

All this IMHO of course, and I'm looking at this from half a world away... but...

I think we've missed the Golden Moment.

I thought we had till November and the mid-terms: but it seems not.

Whether Coakley scrapes over the line, or the "fillibuster-proof" majority evaporates, is immaterial now. There is no way that any Democrat up for re-election is going to do anything remotely controversial before November.

Forget the Senate: an exlusive ENDA may not even pass the House now. An inclusive one? It is to laugh. And after the expected November Massacre, the Dems might even lose their Senate majority altogether. Losing a majority in the House might even be possible, though I doubt it. A Fillibuster-proof majority? Fugedabadit.

OK, Plan B: do this through the courts - at least as far as TS people are concerned. Leverage the Schroer decision. Take it to SCOTUS. Use Title IX for Transgendered people too.

GLBs ... will have to go for an exclusive ENDA attached to a crisis employment bill in some political theatre about the looming unemployment catastrophe. If you think T's won't be traded away to aid passage, I have this wonderful Harbour Bridge to sell you.

Cash only, no cheques.

I'm there with you, Zoe.

Weiss, J.T. (2009). Transgender Identity, Textualism, and the Supreme Court: What Is the "Plain Meaning" of "Sex" in Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964? Temple Political and Civil Rights Law Review, 18, 573-649.

Abstract: The Supreme Court, if it is true to conservative "textualist" jurisprudence, will recognize that the prohibition of sex discrimination in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers discrimination against transgender persons.

You can forget a SCOTUS trans case ever being heard. The slight of hand during the Bush years was making sure the majority of the Justices were good, Pope fearin' Catholics and that fix is now in for women's reproductive rights, same sex marriage and anything trans.

In the past several years the out and out declaration of war by Ratzie on women has become totally in your face. That would include especially post corrected women as well. What is worse is we are not going to get a political swing to the left beyond what we already got last year and it was squandered. Neither the political left or the right is willing to admit the right is in the minority effectively leaving them still calling the shots.

Oh, and a bit of a history lesson on the Civil Rights Act of 64......sex was added at the last minute as a bargaining chip to surrender to the right only the right didn't demand it's removal. Yup, it's only by an accident that any coverage on sex was included at all which should not be surprising in a country that will not ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to this day.

Those polling numbers were from North Carolina, not Massachusetts. A decade ago. No - taking the pressure off of pols in the exactly wrong choice. The numbers are already there in the general populace to pass muster on support. The only reason to focus solely on the general populace is to delay the process.

They no longer poll on support for gay employment rights in MA - as they've had them for decades. The polling on trans employment rights there is - I think 76%.

Not very much more than nationally or North Carolina or Pennsylvania or Iowa.

Alabama may be an outlier, as you say. I know I won't visit family there often due to its bigotry. That's no reason to hold rights hostage until they change. We didn't for other communities when Alabama wasn't on board.

Waiting for Alabama - is like Waiting for Godot.

Who said anything about "waiting for Alabama?" I simply said putting all our time, money and energy in "politics" is a big mistake. There are better ways to use those resources.

You can "keep up the pressure" on the politicians. That's been going on for 40-50 years.

There is NO political solution to LGBT Equality.

You made the comparison to Alabama to support the approach of focusing on the general public & not pressuring pols, Andrew. You suggested that progress needed to be delayed until Alabama and places like there were brought on board and compared them to Massachusttts - implying that the numbers I quoted could only have come from somewhere like MA. Which was incorrect.

Let me ask you - what level of polling support do you think is needed to justify the strategy of pressuring politicians on the issue?

Gallop polls show support for workplace equality based upon SO at the very high 80's for years now nationally. I don't think we should demand less while waiting for that last 12%. I don't see what strategic or tactical advantage you find in taking pressure off while waiting for the last few bigots to have a conversion experience on the road to Damscas. So - yes - as always - work with people locally. But that's not sufficent.

Nor do I think people have pressured pols - they've asked very, very politely. Unlike our adversaries.

This is what I actually said K:

Your analysis ignores the political reality of US Senators and their constituents. Polls in Alabama are much different than polls in Massachusetts. Those Senators pay attention to their constituents, not national polling data.

My point IS that we can't get anything LGBT passed in the US Senate. That would change if the polling data on LGBT issues in a Senator's State changed.

We DO NOT have State-by-State polling data for LGBT issues. But, we do have anti-gay polling data that corresponds directly with the "religious intensity" of a State's population. From this data we learn that the more religious a State is the more their elected official is against us. That dynamic about a Senator's constituents is the most important information about their position on LGBT issues.

This is important because we NEED the US Senate. Currently, the US Senate is almost 50/50 regarding LGBT issues. Separating ENDA from DADT and DOMA might make sense to us, but a politician is either pro or anti LGBT - based on the religious intensity of voters in their State.

Your reference of "national polling data" about non-discrimination of LGBT persons doesn't persuade a Senator from an Anti-LGBT State.

Finally, there is NO evidence that "pressuring" a politician does anything to change their mind or vote. The only thing that will change their minds are relevant polls. If you need evidence, Harold Ford is a good example. When Ford was in Tennessee (78% "religious") he was anti-LGBT. Now that Ford is in New York (48% "religious") he is pro-LGBT. He didn't change his mind - the New York Polls did.

Politicians think of their own survival first. Because of that we must show them polling data that shows support for our community. We've never done that. Instead, we waste all our resources (time, money and energy) on the false hope of a "political solution" and the LIE of the effectiveness of lobbying (pressuring).

HRC has been around for 28 years. They have consumed $550 million in LGBT resources. During that time (and all that lobbying) only 7 Members of Congress have ever changed their minds about LGBT issues and there is no direct link to HRC.

I bet you could think of many more effective ways to spend $550 million.

Angela Brightfeather | January 20, 2010 1:30 PM

Andrew, the only thing we have to do in educating people about ENDA is to let them know that we are not protected, because most of them think we already are. There is no convincing necessary there, of anything that has not alteady been achieved. K is correct. Those figures came from an Equality NC poll that was 50% funded by HRC 10 years ago and that was about the last you heard of them after they were buried on the back shelf and never recognized by HRC when they scuttled our chances the last time in ENDA. Of course, Frank never even mentioned them and probably to this day would not admit that he has ever seen them.

Education is and has always been the "straw man argument" offered by HRC, Frank and everyone else to divert our attention of what is becoming a reality to many of us, that we may have to start dying before we get what we need. The only educating that we may have to do is that some of us already have died in the process of not being able to educate those who do not want or refuse to be educated.

That leaves only one alternative left and in initiating that alternative we lose at least 50% of the small number of activists that we have working out there. That aternative is to take it to the streets, as I have noted before and done many times. We need to go back to HRC dinners and picket harder. We need to go to every congressional opponents home office and teach them that our needs are important enough that they can't put them of with bathroom issues. In that process we lose a lot of our own people because they are to lazy, to scared, don't care, don't want to be on CNN or Fox news, don't believe in "in your face" activism, think that one on one activism is the only way that we will get what we need, and about 1,000 other lame reasons for staying at home and hoping that they will never be discovered and lose their jobs. While thousands more of us will go to their Saturday evening support group meetings every week and console each other and the new faces that appear every month, about the fact that things will never change and applaud the Trans person who doesn't get kicked out of their own home or family and how lucky they are to have tolerant people in their lives.

Life and death matters sometimes require life and death solutions! If the mountain doesn't come to you, you had better figure on going to the mountain. That means hard lobbying, protests and boycotting businesses that fire Trans people, being on the evening news and showing that you are pissed of at how you are being treated and a bunch of other things that you may not like to go down in history as being a part of. Hoping that Obama is going to consider someone that is post-op is equal to Michelle Obama as a woman is never going to happen. But getting him to admit that she is equal to everyone as an American citizen who has the right not to expect to get fired because of who she is, is a moral necessaity that he has to confess to, as does Frank and every other member of Congress. That may cost more lives than we have to give, but it has to start being layed on the line some time.

It begins within our own communities and in the support group meetings where activists have to start to take over the agendas for the good of the participants. We have to understand that all of us are a legion of change and that we need to start planning an offensive that cannot be sidetracked by bathroom fixtures or showers.

Why is this not part of our agenda? Why aren't we questioning why it is not? Why, after all these years and efforts to educate people don't we realize that in the end we have to stop trying to work inside groups like HRC and instead start forcing them to lead and create the opportunites for change instead of waiting for us to trip over them due to helpful little warnings from Frank's office predicting changes we can't live with? Why have we NEVER picketed a congressperson who threatened or said they would not to vote for ENDA? Why have our own national groups not organized marches or pickets or boycotts that would bring our issues to the attention of others?

There has been lots of WHY's over the last 20 years and very few answers to them except to be nice and patient.

ENDA is a matter of life and death for some who simply cannot wait. why do we keep on forgetting this in liieu of legal arguments and wordsmithing?

I understand your frustration and anger. But, protest and demanding hasn't worked since the 60s and 70s and it has NEVER worked for our community. The world has changed, we should, too.

I asked K (above) to please provide some evidence that "pressuring" politicians works. We should explore every possible idea to ignite a real, sustainable LGBT Movement, but we should also seek some evidence to support each idea.

We DO have evidence that we can enroll fellow citizens and gain their support, but we have never used that idea to create a winning strategy.

Let me start by saying, I am a pessimist. So I think that the statement regarding common areas where people might not have clothes on is a signal that the Gender Expression may well be considered a bargaining chip to be dropped as part of a final deal to pass an "ENDA" if it even gets to that point of course. I hate to feel we in the Trans community are a bargaining chip but I strongly feel we are just that. All the talk about inclusive and educating is needless in my opinion as most of those in Congress already know how they will vote already. If it even comes up for a vote that is which is even questionable in my opinion. The people who back elected officials tell them how to vote and if they are not comfortable with "guys in dresses" we are not going to see that Gender Expression make it through the Congress. Particularly if they can get a non-inclusive version passed and use it for more or less the same mileage politically. I doubt that many LGB persons will scream too loudly against a non-inclusive version passage. Some perhaps but I fear far fewer than it will take to make that Gender Expression provision remain there. Just look at the deals made in an attempt to pass health care. I hope I am wrong but I doubt it.

First off we have the extreme right telling people the Transgenders are nothing more than nut jobs who do not know what clothes are proper for us to wear. That we should be thrown in jail for going into the "wrong" restrooms to discourage us or worse. Many are still screaming about the Hate Crimes Bill passage. After all we are being labeled as pedophiles by many of these people and they are saying if an ENDA amendment were passed we would have big nasty men in dresses assaulting innocent pre-teen girls in women's rooms all over the country on an hourly basis. Or so they would have the American people believe. Given a look at this tactic when used in my home state of Michigan it seems the odds are pretty even that the sales pitch by those on the extreme right finds "traction" with the voters. Local votes on ordinances to provide protection in employment or housing or public access have been split as far as passage. Michigan as a has no job protection or housing protection any LGBT person on a state wide basis thanks to a great extent on the right who controls the committees needed to get it to the floor for a vote. Only executive orders for State employees and local ordinances provide any protection here.

Secondly, business owners are afraid of the gender expression or "T" in this bill. It is seen by many of them as a problem and they do not want the government adding more problems to them than they already have. Again not all companies or businesses but I fear enough to be heard. Those who do support Diversity already are not likely to pressure anyone in government to pass a law to enforce it. After all there might be costs in altering restroom access or other issues they just do not wish to deal with. They sure do not want to end up being sued by someone who falls under the Gender Expression issue for someone else who works for them causing a problem. Simply put that "T" is a pain in their posterior they would rather not have pushed upon them.

Third, we have the religious views that are mixed on it. Being Transgender plays more or less OK in a few churches but certainly not all and not everyone in those churches which does accept it. I would dare say far more of the church going public attend denominations that view those who fall under the description of being Transgender or Gender Expression, as at best sick perverts, and at worst possessed by the demons. Of course if there is a positive spin on this, it is that many of those churches and people also include those in the LGB provision of ENDA into much the same category.

Then there is the political reality of it all. Most politicians are there because they are good at courting the support of groups to keep them believing they are "in their corner". Giving them just enough or skirting around the issues to keep the majority of those who they have to court believing in them. This being the voters or more important those who's checks are needed for campaigning for their next election.

So I think we are rather low on the list of priorities for the Democrats. They are pretty much worried about saving their own skins. Why include that pesky "gender expression" provision when they are talking about such a small percentage of people? Even by the most liberal estimates we present something like one in two hundred-fifty? That is less than half of one percent by my calculation. This assuming of course that every person who is considered as being "gender variant" is willing to come forward, and many do not or will not. Squeaky wheels get grease and I doubt we make enough noise even on our best days.


Let me start by saying, I am a pessimist. So I think that the statement regarding common areas where people might not have clothes on is a signal that the Gender Expression may well be considered a bargaining chip to be dropped as part of a final deal to pass an "ENDA" if it even gets to that point of course. I hate to feel we in the Trans community are a bargaining chip but I strongly feel we are just that. All the talk about inclusive and educating is needless in my opinion as most of those in Congress already know how they will vote already. If it even comes up for a vote that is which is even questionable in my opinion. The people who back elected officials tell them how to vote and if they are not comfortable with "guys in dresses" we are not going to see that Gender Expression make it through the Congress. Particularly if they can get a non-inclusive version passed and use it for more or less the same mileage politically. I doubt that many LGB persons will scream too loudly against a non-inclusive version passage. Some perhaps but I fear far fewer than it will take to make that Gender Expression provision remain there. Just look at the deals made in an attempt to pass health care. I hope I am wrong but I doubt it.

First off we have the extreme right telling people the Transgenders are nothing more than nut jobs who do not know what clothes are proper for us to wear. That we should be thrown in jail for going into the "wrong" restrooms to discourage us or worse. Many are still screaming about the Hate Crimes Bill passage. After all we are being labeled as pedophiles by many of these people and they are saying if an ENDA amendment were passed we would have big nasty men in dresses assaulting innocent pre-teen girls in women's rooms all over the country on an hourly basis. Or so they would have the American people believe. Given a look at this tactic when used in my home state of Michigan it seems the odds are pretty even that the sales pitch by those on the extreme right finds "traction" with the voters. Local votes on ordinances to provide protection in employment or housing or public access have been split as far as passage. Michigan as a has no job protection or housing protection any LGBT person on a state wide basis thanks to a great extent on the right who controls the committees needed to get it to the floor for a vote. Only executive orders for State employees and local ordinances provide any protection here.

Secondly, business owners are afraid of the gender expression or "T" in this bill. It is seen by many of them as a problem and they do not want the government adding more problems to them than they already have. Again not all companies or businesses but I fear enough to be heard. Those who do support Diversity already are not likely to pressure anyone in government to pass a law to enforce it. After all there might be costs in altering restroom access or other issues they just do not wish to deal with. They sure do not want to end up being sued by someone who falls under the Gender Expression issue for someone else who works for them causing a problem. Simply put that "T" is a pain in their posterior they would rather not have pushed upon them.

Third, we have the religious views that are mixed on it. Being Transgender plays more or less OK in a few churches but certainly not all and not everyone in those churches which does accept it. I would dare say far more of the church going public attend denominations that view those who fall under the description of being Transgender or Gender Expression, as at best sick perverts, and at worst possessed by the demons. Of course if there is a positive spin on this, it is that many of those churches and people also include those in the LGB provision of ENDA into much the same category.

Then there is the political reality of it all. Most politicians are there because they are good at courting the support of groups to keep them believing they are "in their corner". Giving them just enough or skirting around the issues to keep the majority of those who they have to court believing in them. This being the voters or more important those who's checks are needed for campaigning for their next election.

So I think we are rather low on the list of priorities for the Democrats. They are pretty much worried about saving their own skins. Why include that pesky "gender expression" provision when they are talking about such a small percentage of people? Even by the most liberal estimates we present something like one in two hundred-fifty? That is less than half of one percent by my calculation. This assuming of course that every person who is considered as being "gender variant" is willing to come forward, and many do not or will not. Squeaky wheels get grease and I doubt we make enough noise even on our best days.