Bil Browning

Guess Who: New contributors!

Filed By Bil Browning | April 14, 2010 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Site News
Tags: Andrew Belonsky, Cleve Jones, Marc Solomon

It's my great privilege this morning to announce that we've got three fantastic new contributors joining Bilerico Project today. These three men are real influences in the LGBT community and we're lucky they asked if they could make Bilerico home.

Andrew Belonsky is a New York-based journalist and a former Queerty editor. He currently writes for the New York Daily News, the LGBT blog AKAWilliam, the Huffington Post and has filled in as Gawker's night editor.

Cleve Jones was the organizer and public face of last year's National Equality March and the founder of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Cleve also co-founded the San Francisco AIDS Foundation in 1983, providing life-saving services at the height of the epidemic.

Marc Solomon is the marriage director for Equality California, where he is responsible for the organization's efforts to restore the right to marry in California. Prior to joining Equality California in April 2009, Marc served as executive director of MassEquality, the statewide organization that led the effort to protect equal marriage rights in Massachusetts.

Please join me in welcoming them to their new blog family!


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Has anyone told them about the secret handshake yet?

Forget the handshake. I want to be there when they do the New Contributor Interpretive Dance. Mine was lovely and will be difficult to surpass.

Welcome to all of you! I am really looking forward to reading your contributions.

Oh, I want to see the Interpretive Dance. I shall feel cheated otherwise... :)

Absolutely, looking forward to their contributions.

"MassEquality"? Wasn't that the org that fought for same-sex marriage in Mass. and then immediately disbanded once it was achieved, leaving Mass. transfolks twisting in the wind without basic civil rights?

Yes, quite the example they set.

MassEquality still exists. They're currently fighting for trans inclusion in the state's civil rights code.

Contributor Sara Whitman is the board chair, I believe. She's blogged before about how seriously she takes trans rights and how this is a huge priority for her.

I know there was a story on that, Bil. I remember reading it. It's possible I have the wrong org, but I don't think so.

Their website lists "Transgender Equality" as their first priority under the "Civil Rights" section:

Transgender Equality

Transgender people in our communities should be able to work and live without fear of discrimination or harm.

= Pass legislation, which would add gender identity and gender expression to existing non-discrimination laws affecting employment, housing, credit, public accommodations, public education and hate crimes.

Um, I am the chair of the C4 board of mass equality.

we take trans rights very seriously. don't get me started.

we did not disband. we have not left the trans community twisting in the wind. the majority of our resources right now are working towards the trans civil rights bill. to say otherwise blows my mind. it is our first and foremost priority.

period.

this is personal for me. very personal. I will blow a gasket if people start writing that we are no longer in existence or that we are disrespectful of the trans community because it simply is not true.

It wasn't an accusation Sara, I was going on the information I had, admittedly incomplete but also obviously not without some credibility.

I have to tell you though, having witnessed the '02 ESPA debacle in NY where gay-only rights were passed only to have transgender people continue to be denied basic civil rights to this day, as in Mass., I find it difficult to take comfort in the transinclusiveness of the activist leaders of the present as it always fails to balance out the damage done by a long history of exclusion and selfishness on the part of the orgs they represent.


what can my organization do? we are working with MTPC, we take all direction from them. they decide the agenda, not us.

Mass Equality did not start as an LGBT organization- it started as a coalition of marriage supporters. we have evolved. we have grown BECAUSE of the desire to do ALL issues and to use the political muscle developed to move all issues.

I am well aware of the history in the larger community but feel it is very unfair to paint Mass Equality as a group that kicked transgender folks to the curb.

I don't have the answer, Sara, but I can say that your org has rep it does among transfolks because of its history, just as ESPA and HRC do. Transfolks have long memories because we have to. It's when we forget the relevant history that we end up on the losing side of it.

It took a long time for MassEquality to earn the rep it has among our community, and it may take an equally long time to rehabilitate. If you're looking for someone to blame, I'd suggest looking to those who preceded you in the leadership of your organization.

Becky,

I don't think you're quite getting this. It's not that Sara's org has done anything - you're just factually wrong. There's no arguing with something that's not the truth.

MassEquality didn't disband. They didn't sell out trans folks. They didn't do any of that.

You're thinking of a different group entirely. The accusations you're making are baseless because they're about another group.

At this point, your best bet is to apologize for slurring the wrong group and stop making statements like "your org has rep it does among transfolks because of its history, just as ESPA and HRC do," when they don't have that reputation.

The most you have to even half-assed support your argument is an old article from 2007 about their internal re-organization. And what was the result of that conversation? They started championing trans rights.

Instead of attacking Sara, Marc and MassEquality, you'd be better served by simply admitting your mistake and congratulating the new contributors. Perhaps you might even consider saying something nice about MassEquality's focus on trans equality - something no other state group is doing, I might add.

No, I wasn't wrong, Bil, but I was operating on incomplete information, and I believe Osen is correct that I was confusing MassEqualty with LMAF as the org that actually did close once SSM had been won.

This didn't come out of nowhere, there's a long history here, a history Mr. Solomon is part of.

I have no doubt whatsoever that Sara and the people she works with today are sincerely fighting for transgender rights, just as I have no doubt whatsoever that that job was made much tougher by a long history of excluding those rights from their political goals.

Unfortunately, as in NY, it's now a thousand times tougher to get trans rights passed because most politicians don't see a political benefit in it for themselves or their party. That's the legacy the previous generation of activist leaders in Mass. and NY have left behind them.

and this article is from 2007- the org started as a coalition for marriage rights- meaning it was a group of groups working together.

after we won the super majority to protect marriage, we interviewed stakeholders, members, community folks, and found that there was support for MA Equality to be a stand alone group.

And so it is.

Pulling out this one article is ridiculous. it is 2010.

and trans rights is our number one priority.

Kathy Padilla | April 14, 2010 1:09 PM

I know I felt they took those rights extremely seriously when the prioritized the rights of out of state people to get married in MA over the rights of others who lived in MA to get employment and be covered in hate crimes laws. I don't remember a single issue that came up that they didin't prioritize higher than trans people being able to work. I lived in MA for about 14 years and was shocked how univiting it was organizationally there. Who anywhere else in the country expected Iowa, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Mexico and others would have better track records on TransEquality than liberal MA? Sometimes we asked - given how many national leaders came from there - how did that disparity effect national policy?

MassEquality really does have a long and well documented history on these issues - if they say that's changed - great. But - it doesn't mean that what happened didn't happen. And it doesn't mean I believe it just 'cause people say it. They were saying it then as well. And I still don't think they've ever had a trans person on their board or as an employee - unless that's changed?

Rebecca - you're thinking of Love Makes a Family in Connecticut. If you go to their website you'll see they say something like: "Having accomplished our core mission to win marriage equality for same-sex couples in CT... we closed our doors as of November 13, 2009."

As a trans resident of Massachusetts, I can attest to the fact that MassEquality takes trans rights VERY seriously. There has been a steep learning curve for many of their members, which is true of all the GLBT orgs I've seen, but the top-down messaging about the importance of trans equality right now is consistent and strong. While same-sex marriage was their signature issue for several years, they now are VERY clear and powerful supporters of trans rights. From what I can see, there's a variety of reasons our state's T-inclusive bill hasn't passed into law yet - and NONE of them have to do with MassEquality.

Kathy Padilla | April 14, 2010 4:14 PM

I'm glad you feel they've changed. But - none of them? Not very realistic. The org didn't even include in it's endorsment questionnaires a question on whether a candidate supported the statewide transgender rights bill until 2008.

That's not a small thing to exclude. And it speaks quite loudly regarding the orgs past practises. It's also something other orgs around the country had been doing for about a decade earlier - some longer.

If you don't think that the most powerful lgbt lobbying group in the state - one that is heavily involved in the election process & funding candidates - telling candidiates is that unimportant to them has no bearing on whether a bill passes - I beg to differ.

ok, I'm going to stay calm.

until 2007, MA equality was a coalition of groups supporting marriage and marriage alone.

then, it became a stand alone organization. marriage had already been assured. first step as new org?

trans rights.

now, a rep or senator MUST support the trans rights bill to garner our endorsement. it is on the list. a long ago vote for marriage equality is nice- but without a vote for the trans rights bill? no go.

please... come to MA and meet with me, the staff, the political director. I am happy to take you on a tour, show you what we are doing.

but end the false statements.

Kathy Padilla | April 14, 2010 10:43 PM

That's exactly the point - the org refused to work on any other issue - and most certainly was asked to. It also controlled the agenda in the state and advised legislators what to work on first. And what not to work on in the interim.

That's history - and the effects of those decisions were real. The rights of people from other states to come to MA and marry were put before the rights of some who lived in that state to employment and hate crimes protections. That was the policy of the org. I'm glad if that's changed - but - it would be a change.

Kathy Padilla | April 14, 2010 12:38 PM

That guy in the middle sounds great!!!

And I very much look forward to the other two maintaining the respectful standards when addressing trans issues embodied by the their former organizational associations.

I really hate when a conclusion is jumped to and the person does not even bother checking their facts on the internet. Wouldn't that be pretty easy to do? So many tend to do this, it is part of what casues more strife.

I look forward to the new contributors.

Why would we be excited to see Solomon who is part of EQCA being a contributor. EQCA did a shitty shitty job in Prop 8. What could this guy possibly contribute?

What the hell? Is this Bizarro Unfounded Allegations World suddenly?

The Prop 8 fight was ended on Election Day 2008. Marc Solomon joined EqCa in April of 2009. They hired him so they'd do a better job since he has a history of winning these fights. (See: Massachusetts battles)

He wasn't even in the state of California for Prop 8, Renn.

Please check your facts before spouting off untrue snotty remarks, people.

This is the most AWKWARD WELCOME EVER! LOL

I agree, Rem, you are again jumping to unfounded conclusions.

Rann (not Renn)

Just wanted to say WELCOME and congrats to the new bloggers! You are all fabulous additions to Bilerico and I look forward to reading you.

big hugs,
Gloria

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | April 14, 2010 1:54 PM

Welcome all. I hope y'all have fun here.

Welcome- looking forward to the conversations!

Jezzuz... the three men haven't even written a word yet here and they are already in trouble?

Welcome Andrew, Cleve and poor Mark. Good luck!

They're getting a nice taste of what its like here at Bilerico! WELCOME TO THE THUNDER DOME!

Welcome all. Getting slammed before they even write a word. Now that is something. Maybe it prepares you for the response you get after you post....

marc is a big boy.

literally.

he'll be fine and I'll have his back. and you all know what a nightmare I can be...

THIS is the way to welcome our contributors! No pretense here. This is what you can expect in Bilerico-world!

We need to screen capture this comment thread and send it out to anyone who wants to come write here. "yep. This is pretty typical. If you can stomach this, you got what it takes to be a Bilerico contributor!"

BWAHAHAHA! Quite a WELCOME!

Andrew, Cleve and Marc--you three are extremely accomplished, extremely capable individuals. I look forward to your contributions!

And as you can see, our commenters are quite... spirited! You can expect some wild mudslinging while you're here--but that's the beauty of Bilerico. We represent the full spectrum of ideas in the movement. You should feel proud that you haven't written a word and you've already garnered so much attention!

Totally, Phil! I'd also throw in if none of us were as passionate as we are about these issues here at TBP, this conversation would never have started (ok, yeah I started it, but it would have died quickly if I were the only one).

I'd suggest to Mr. Solomon that there's a great first post in all of this attention. Personally, I'd love to hear his take on the history of MassEquality and similar orgs on their support (and lack thereof) for transgender people and rights, lessons learned, and his thoughts on where we are now. I bet that would instigate a great discussion.