Rebecca Juro

Say It Ain't So, Joe!

Filed By Rebecca Juro | October 03, 2007 4:08 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics, The Movement, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: ENDA, gender, HRC, politics, task force, transgender, transsexual

Ok, so have we finally had enough NOW?

Once again, the Human Rights Campaign has sunk to the community's lowest expectations, and turned a willful blind eye to anti-transgender discrimination. Thing is, this is exactly what they promised us they wouldn't do when they voted in 2004 to only support trans-inclusive legislation. As recently as just a couple of weeks ago at the annual Southern Comfort Conference, HRC President Joe Solmonese promised the transgender community that the organization would oppose a non-inclusive version of the bill. Yet, rather than honor the spirit as well as the letter of their pledge in 2004, HRC has chosen to remain neutral on an exclusive "rights for gays who look and act like straights" ENDA, rather than opposing it as Solmonese promised they would.

Of course, this shouldn't surprise anyone. HRC has been becoming even less supportive of transgender and working class LGBT Americans and issues over the last few months, and doing so in a way that's so overt and so arrogant that anyone who hasn't gotten the message really just hasn't been paying attention. Here are just a few of the lowlights of HRC's transgender "advocacy":

In August 2004, after protests by the transgender activists and increasing community media coverage, HRC's Executive Board votes not to support or endorse civil rights legislation that does not include gender identity and expression protections. Despite that promise, HRC refuses to sign onto a letter in support of including transgender people as a protected category in the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

In 2006, HRC pledges not to support or endorse state or local legislation that doesn't include gender identity and expression protection. While this would likely have been lauded as positive progress by the LGBT community, HRC chose not to publicize this vote outside of its own leadership. This organization, which seems to issue a press release every time a gay or lesbian person stubs their toe, apparently doesn't feel this decision to be important enough to let the community know about it. Interestingly, while I originally found this information on Donna Rose's website in 2006, while writing this post I was unable to find even a single citation for this decision anywhere online.

And 2007...Goddess, where do I start?

In May, HRC had it's Presidential Forum event on LOGO. Originally to be conducted entirely by rock star Melissa Etheridge and HRC President Joe Solmonese, HRC responded to the community outcry over the lack of actual journalists on the panel by choosing to include CNN financial reporter Margaret Carlson and Washington Post reporter Jonathan Capehart, the author of a 2002 op-ed opposing transgender inclusion in ENDA (as well as another recent anti-transgender screed).

While the selection of Capehart to participate in the forum was certainly a blatant slap in the face to the transgender community, HRC didn't stop there. HRC compounded the insult by promising at least one transgender-relevant question per candidate, but then reneged on this pledge, only asking John Edwards if he'd fire a transitioning employee. This was especially instructive, as it was Solmonese asking not if Edwards would proactively support the rights of transgender citizens, but rather if he'd refrain for firing someone simply because of their transgender status. In this way, Solmonese defined the discussion of transgender Americans as one of whether or not we should be fired from our jobs simply as a matter of course just for being who we are, rather than a question of whether or not we should be proactively protected under the law against such discrimination, the way the issue of same-sex marriage was presented to each of the candidates.

It's also worth noting that HRC asked for and collected over 3000 questions from LGBT Americans, saying they'd select some to ask each of the candidates, but these questions were also all but completely ignored in favor of almost incessant badgering of the candidates about their personal positions on the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage. Since marriage laws are enacted at the state level, not the federal, the opinion of a US President on the issue is essentially irrelevant, just as even George Bush's strong public advocacy for a Constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage did not result in such an amendment being passed by a Republican-controlled Congress. Given all of the evidence, it's fair to say that the HRC/LOGO Presidential Forum was really nothing more than a disingenuous ninety minute commercial for same-sex marriage at the expense of the interests of the rest of the American LGBT community.

If you've been following the outrageous farce that has been HRC's "advocacy" of an inclusive ENDA in recent weeks, you already know the rest. If you need to catch up, I recommend starting here at the Project, where you'll find many good posts on the topic. When this history of lies and deceit is taken as a whole, HRC's real advocacy goals in regard to ENDA and their Executive Board's true attitude toward gender-variant and working class Americans reveals itself quite clearly.

The Human Rights Campaign has now conclusively proven that they are an organization so completely obsessed with their own selfish goals that they will happily sell out the interests of anyone and everyone who they believe might impede them in even the smallest way. They've now demonstrated, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that when it really matters they are ready, willing, and even eager to trade away the equal rights and treatment of the gender-variant and the working class members of our community in order to further the interests of the ultra-wealthy white gay male elitists who make up the majority of their Executive Board membership.

Proven liars, proven sellouts, proven panderers to the unreasonable fears of cowardly politicians, the Human Rights Campaign can no longer be credibly considered community leaders by anyone in our community who truly believes that we are, in fact, one community, and that this community defines political success as succeeding together, leaving no one behind.

Have we finally had enough? I don't know about you, but I certainly have. If you feel as I do, it's time to take action. Pledging never to be responsible for HRC seeing another dime of your money ever again is only part of the equation. Refusing to financially support this money-bloated organization must be coupled with active support of truly inclusive national LGBT advocacy organizations like the Task Force and Pride At Work. In addition, we must contact our Congressional representatives and let them know, in no uncertain terms, that HRC doesn't speak for us, these other organizations do. The key here is not only to hurt HRC, but to make sure Congress clearly understands that the interests of the vast majority of LGBT voters do not coincide with those of the Human Rights Campaign and that we, who make up the bulk of its numbers and voting power, do not consider this organization to be a credible advocate on our behalf.

The only way we are going to succeed as a community here is if we work together, as a community, to dethrone and disempower HRC. We must make sure the politicians and the rest of the country understand that in reality HRC is actually nothing more than a special interest group serving the interests of a tiny cabal of ultra-wealthy gays and does not represent the voice or the interests of the vast majority of the American LGBT community.

At the same time, we must wholeheartedly throw our support behind the Task Force and like-minded national LGBT organizations, funding and supporting their efforts to the point where they are able to show a level of financing and membership that will force the politicians to stop and take notice. Those politicians who continue to work with HRC as if they represent all of us must be publicly protested and held responsible at the ballot box until they get the message. It's not enough to simply stop giving HRC money, we must also make them political pariahs, to the point where no elected official with half a brain will even talk to them for fear of the inevitable backlash their own careers will suffer as a result. In short, it is we ourselves who must become the gatekeepers, even if we must rip the key to that gate out of HRC's hands by force. It's the only way the true LGBT community agenda will ever become a reality in our lifetimes, and we must not shy away from the long, hard road ahead we will have to travel in order to make it happen.

It's not all bad news, though. Despite the setbacks we may suffer with ENDA now, our community, the true American LGBT community, has come together in support and solidarity over this issue with an intensity and a passion that I expect is absolutely unprecedented in our collective history. We must capitalize on this and go forward together as one community, raising our voices together in love, support, unity as we reject the politics of divisiveness and disloyalty espoused by Human Rights Campaign and those who support them.

We've tried to play nice with these people, we've given them every opportunity prove themselves. Even so, for all of our trust and faith that they'd come around and were finally ready to work with the rest of the community for the good of all of us, when it really mattered most, when we most needed HRC to stand up for all of us and honor their promises, they spit in our faces and turned their backs on us. We can no longer hide behind hopeful platitudes and misplaced faith. After all this, there just can't be any other reasonable conclusion anymore: The Human Rights Campaign is not only not a friend or supporter of gender-variant and working class LGBT Americans, but they are, in fact, the enemy, representing and exemplifying exactly that which we have united to fight against.

The time to act is now.

We know what we must do.

Let's take it to 'em.

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The Human Rights Campaign is not only not a friend or supporter of gender-variant and working class LGBT Americans, but they are, in fact, the enemy, representing and exemplifying exactly that which we have united to fight against.


Thank you Rebecca. You've said it all. As someone who gave up on HRC years ago, 1999 I can only say its about time people see them for what they are. That old rich, white, gay and lesbian community who only really care about themselves. I said years ago if my sisters and brothers who are trans can not be granted their full rights then please, I don't want mine. As a working class queer I will continue to fight for liberation.

That's a bit harsh.

ENDA could work incrementally:

First, we protect older, white, straight-looking straight-acting US representatives from Massachusetts...