On Guest Blogger Tico Almeida's post 3 Ways to Improve ENDA Advocacy: Overcome Fear of Trans Americans, which recommends, among other things, addressing the trans-phobia among some staffers and members on Capitol Hill. Projector Jarrod Chlapowski's comment on this post is particularly noteworthy, as Jarrod is the co-founder of Servicemembers United, which had a leading role in the successful Congressional vote in favor of ending the anti-gay Don't Ask, Don't Tell military policy.
This is long, but I think very necessary.
It would be helpful to begin the discussion with a section on 'why' ENDA didn't pass.
I think many blame ENDA failing on DADT repeal taking all the communities energy, with the underlying presumption that DADT repeal had capital to spare to send ENDA's way, and therefore both bills were possible. Your opening hints at this perception with the argument that because we had enough votes on DADT repeal, we should have had enough votes for trans-inclusive ENDA.
However, your argument completely disregards the difficulty of getting tepid blue dogs to vote on two gay bills in Congress within months of each other in either the pre-election frenzy or post-election lame-duck, and that we barely passed DADT, biting our nails as we pushed to literally the last possible minute.
This is long, and so more of Jarrod's comment after the jump, wherein he answers the question of how we get over the trans hump.
You then focus the article on addressing trans-phobia in Congress through a mass media campaign and educating constituents and members. I absolutely agree, and have discussed in private and in detail how to go about such a campaign with a number of national field leaders who unfortunately have all their resources tied up in state-level marriage campaigns. However, because this sort of education work has not occurred before - at least to the level needed - ENDA simply was not as sexy to the media as DADT and was forgotten en masse by mainstream media.
Therefore, to say we need education work now conflicts with the idea that ENDA was passable in 2010 along with DADT. It was not.
The overall lesson the community needs to learn is that any sort of campaign for change is years in the making, with education work in not so friendly states being the first step of what could be a 5 to 10 year process. We need to do the education work you prescribe now. However, it cannot with the expectation that this will be done in x amount of time. Rather, it should be done as a means to push forward knowing that when the political winds outside of our control are blowing the right way, we are ready.
Jarrod says that ENDA was not passable (no pun intended, I'm sure, but gladly taken) because more education was needed, that it might take 5-10 years to get this work done, and that this poses a problem because a lot of LGBT advocacy orgs have all their resources tied up in the marriage issue.
Of course, the obvious counterargument, as laid out in the original post, is that the problem isn't a need for nationwide education, but a lack of education, leading to a mild form of transphobia among Congressional staffers, and, consequently, their bosses, who aren't going to vote for something their under-educated staffers tell them is political poison. If we got these staffers in a room, locked the doors and "educated" them, we would see a sea-change in attitudes towards ENDA.
I intended to do something just like this about a year ago, in conjunction with webinars that I was conducting with corporate, educational and political constituencies on transgender workplace issues generally. I planned to invite all Members of Congress and their staffs to a webinar, which would be available for viewing in recorded form as well. But I got calls from, guess who -- panicked staffers. They said that such an education effort would kill the bill, and that the key to success was to soft-pedal the transgender thing and hope it went unnoticed. I argued against this, but not wishing to alienate my few friends on Capitol Hill, and having no support from my friends at the advocacy organizations with whom I inquired, I dropped the project and hoped for the best. Silly me. Fool me twice, shame on me.
What say you, Projectors? Is the problem with ENDA primarily a lack of education generally among members of the public, or primarily lack of education and/or transphobia among Congressional staffers and their bosses?