Donna Rose

Believe Nothing....

Filed By Donna Rose | April 14, 2008 10:45 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Donna Rose, Houston, HRC, Human Rights Campaign, transgender

My father was a wise man. Of course, I never gave him credit for that when I was growing up (or while he was still alive so he could savor the satisfaction of "I told you so") - it's only now as I look back on his words and on life in general that I can truly appreciate his wisdom. Listening to his advice could have saved me various life bumps and bruises, but in my defense I'll offer that lessons learned the hard way are generally the most enduring ones.

One thing he told me: "Believe nothing of what you hear, and only half of what you see." It's easy to forget that advice, especially when we want to believe something badly. And, as unpopular as this might be I need to apply those words within the context of the recent Houston Human Rights Campaign Gala and Rodeo fiasco. There have already been too many words spent on this and part of me just wants to keep out of it, but I feel compelled to offer a different perspective.

There is no disputing that there were Houston police on horseback deployed in front of the hotel where the HRC gala was being held (although to be honest, in the photo I've seen one of them looks like he's napping). There is no disputing that HRC called the Houston Police in the middle of the week about the planned protest. What I'm still not ready to accept is that those police were there as a direct response to the protest. And even if they were, who's to "blame" for that?

One trusted friend attended the event and actually talked with the mounted officers, who said they were there to manage the crowd from the the baseball game. As it turns out, the Houston Astros were playing the Florida Marlins at Minute Maid Park on April 12 and a brief Mapquest analysis indicates that the stadium is a mere .62 miles from the hotel. The point is that there are other plausible explanations, and perhaps the reason they were there had nothing to do with HRC or the protesters so I'm very cautious about applying cause/effect to what went down.

Even if one accepts that HRC is responsible for the hoovery I find it hard to believe that they have the power (or the will) to have the Houston Police Department deploy horseback officers. It's a PR nightmare that part of me wants to let them manage by themselves, but another side of me can't help but to question. Deploying those officers is something that the HPD would have done on their own but, again, I'm skeptical.

My point here isn't to diminish the obvious still-widening rift between HRC and a community that it purports to represent as part of its mission (something that saddens me more than I can express, BTW). It's not to dispute the events of the evening provided by other people who were there, or the bad judgment of calling the HPD in the first place. It is, however, to question the rush to judgment of cause and effect of some potentially incendiary events because it's all to easy to see what you want to see and hear what you want to hear. The thing is, none of us can afford to make those kinds of assumptions. There's too much at stake to get this wrong.

When it comes to HRC I perceive myself as neither a hawk nor a dove. I do, however, hold them accountable for things they do (as well as things they should do but aren't, don't or won't). I like to think I keep a fairly level head and I even have moments of pragmatism despite the admittedly still strong emotion at play. It is In that mindset that I feel a need to urge cautious restraint. Stirring up anti-HRC hysteria in the trans community is not difficult these days. In this case, is it really worth it?

Some other wise advice, thanks to my dad: "In any conflict the side that abandons reason first will lose." That side can't be us.

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The problem, Donna, is that HRC has virtually no credibility left by now, and given their track record, assigning the blame for this incident to this organization is not at all surprising, and completely in keeping with the way HRC deals with transfolks in general these days. They don't get the benefit of the doubt from the vast majority of the community because they've proven over and over that not only are they are completely unworthy of such consideration, but they will use that kind of presumption of innocence until proven guilty to help advance their own agenda at the expense of anyone who doesn't fit into their exclusive little group.

Indeed, I have no trouble whatsoever believing that not only did HRC call the cops, but actively encouraged a significant police presence at the event. In addition, I'm quite certain that when doing so, the possibility of transpeople being beaten, arrested, and thrown in jail to face even more violence never factored in in even the slightest way for this organization as a possibly mitigating consideration.

Everything HRC has said and done over the last several months cannot help but lead any reasonable person to believe that HRC's first and only concern was that the event draw as many of the wealthy, famous, and politically connected as possible, and, of course, maximize, I mean donations.

If HRC is in fact being unfairly portrayed here, which I frankly doubt, they have absolutely no one to blame for it but themselves and their own selfish and elitist behavior.

Imagine if HRC called the police in to harass a group of Blacks who had a legal permit for a planned peaceful protest. We wouldn't find many Blacks trying to excuse HRC since, after all, maybe the police would have shown up anyway.

HRC was out of line in calling in the dogs on the Houston T* community for having the courage to exercise their right to express their belief that we should be treated with the same respect as other people.


I'm a native Houstonian and one major advantage I have is knowing my hometown and the logistics involved. I find the alternate scenario highly unlikely.

The HPD Mounted Police patrol stables are in the Galleria area along the 610 Loop (aka the West Loop Freeway) They are approximately 8 miles from downtown Houston, which means the horses have to be trailered into downtown before they are deployed.

I've witnessed no more than two Mounted patrol officers downtown on a regular day, and while that may have changed since I moved in 2001, during the Astros games I attended at Minute Maid Park I rarely saw mounted officers doing crowd control.

In addition, Minute Maid Park is on the OPPOSITE or eastern end of Avenida de las Americas and the George R. Brown Convention Center from the Hilton Americas Hotel where the dinner took place.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 15, 2008 2:40 AM

Donna, you make a clear and logical series of arguments. If the transexual community does not feel represented by HRC that is fine too and I would recommend that they and like minded LGBQ support alternative organizations that they believe better represent them. No single organization will ever be perfect for all.

"Donna, you make a clear and logical series of arguments."

Have you been to the situs of this purported 'clear and logical'-ness? If those mounted cops were at the George Brown for anything related to the Astros' ballpark, then someone with HPD has issues serious enough to warrant an investigation in its own right.

I've been to Astros games at 'the juicebox' and my law school graduation ceremony was at the George Brown - and this after-the-fact explanation smells. Sorry Robert and Donna, but you've both sunk to new depths of sycophantic 'logic' acrobatics to curry favor with our illegitimate purple-and-yellow masters.

There is a 'plausible' scenario, but it is merely to the extent that the Scampaign does make this cop call everywhere it goes with at least a partial non-trans-specific intent - but this is not necessarily incompatible with a conscious desire to intimidate the opposition.

and unfortunately, the consensus of the entire community is that HRC is a lot less than perfect. the organization has potential for great good - under proper leadership and committed to equality for all.

"So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism."

-- MLK, Jr. Aug. 28, 1963, I Have a Dream speech

I find myself agreeing with Donna for similar reasons. I've protested in Houston and I've seen the mounted police. I've organized protests and I've always had the cops standing around and watching. I've organized events that have been protested and I've been the one to call the cops.

The reality is this: There are dangerous people in this world. While we'd all like to think that no one from our community would ever harm someone else, there's always that chance. HRC did the correct thing.

According to HRC's spokesperson, police were called for every protest from the trans community. It's standard operating procedures. They notify the hotel and the police. The hotel notifies the police as well. Can you imagine HRC's liability if they didn't and someone came in and shot up the hotel guests, HRC attendees or even protesters? (After all, it's not just the trans folks that might end up with a nut in their midst!)

When I protested in Houston, I was almost run over by a mounted policeman. The trick to dealing with mounted cops is to stand directly in front of the horse. They move you sideways and will always turn the horse so they can sidestep you out of the way. If you move with the horse's head, it won't go forward.

I honestly don't see the big deal. Yes, the trans community is angry with HRC for good reason. I've often defended a fully inclusive ENDA. But this is making a tempest in a teapot based solely on distrust.

Part of your assumption seems to be based on the fact that you are believing what someone from HRC said. If they told me the sky is blue and water has 2 hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, I would still need to verify their words.

There is a segment of the trans leadership who will try to talk others out of doing protests. They think they are not worth the effort. When a protest does occure, they then question the affect of it and the events that took place at the protest, as Donna has done.

This all gose back to an articel I wrote several months ago called "Enron Activism." (It may have even been published here.) Some activists not only think that their one approach to an issue is the only one and everyone else must follow that approach. I see that as bulls---. History has proven that attacking a civil rights problem from many angles is what gets the job done. You cannot break the wall down if you think the one brick you are chipping at is the one that will do the job.

I had a line in the article that sums this up. "For a community that prides itself on being able to think beyond binaries, it amazes me to see so many stuck with a singular viewpoint in activism."

I'm not arguing the effectiveness of a protest, Monica. Seriously. I led Indiana's only direct action organization for a good while. :)

I'm just saying that I think this one has a good chance of passing the test.

Do they have a history of being on the wrong side of trans issues? Yes. Does that mean they are guilty of everything else that comes along? No. Even liars tell the truth sometimes or you wouldn't believe them when they lie.

Sharon L. Van Nest | April 15, 2008 11:11 AM

The HRC has had plenty of opportunity to quell the overall problem. They have tried to but their actions have, and likely always will, be in the opposite of their words. At this point in time there is no reason why any restraint be held in conjuntion with the HRC. I say this because they are indicative of a serious issue and that is transphobic attitudes amoung the GLBs. If they can get away with their infantile antics then other may see this as an "equal" opportunity to do the same. It is well known that the HRC has failed over and over in the equal rights side of things. If anything positive has come of this is a greater awareness of the problems and an even greater galvanizing of the trans-communiyt as a whole. We must all stand to trumpet and herald the problems and move forward. It is a saying of mine that; "There is only one motion, forward motion!" The HRC is in reverse!

I don't care whether it was HRC or HPD that decided that the mounted patrol should be deployed, barricades erected or whatever. The mere fact that HRC called the HPD to monitor a protest which they knew, based on having seen Phyllis Frye's Phyllabuster email describing the plans for the protest, would be nonviolent and not intended to interfere with the ability of people attending the dinner to enter the hotel, is enough to demonstrate that their intent was to intimidate, not limit their liability. (Bil, I'm an attorney and, although I suppose that HRC might face some liability if some "raging tranny" "came in and shot up the hotel guests, HRC attendees or even protesters," given the already sensitive relations between the trans community and HRC, that extremely limited risk doesn't justify their decision to call the police.) Furthermore, the fact that HRC has made the same poor decision to call the police on planned protests in other cities doesn't make repeating that mistake in this case any more justified. It just means that they continue to treat the trans community with suspicion, not as an equal, though challenging, member of the LGBT community working together to secure equal rights. Besides, if they were really concerned about the protest, why didn't they just contact Phyllis Frye and work with her to ensure that both the protest and dinner could take place without mishap? After all, it's not like she's hard to find!

This is a situation where the perception of one side is their reality. A prime example is my two sons at IFGE. One person said they noticed they reacted differently to my transition. Each had their own perception of my transition, creating their own reality.

When two rational groups or individuals are seeing the same event, but their perception of that event are different, then there are two different realities of that event. The key word is "rational." When one side is certifiably crazy, then their reality is called into question, with just cause.

HRC is no longer considered rational or sane, so we will always call their perception of reality into question. They may have some truth to their statements, but their irrational and insane actions toward our community will not allow us to believe their reality, until they cleanse their leadership of the cancer that has infected them. It is my perception of this reality.

So Monica - did you call the police on HRC yesterday in Atlanta? Maybee you were afraid of what they might do to a transperson if you tried to go into the Post Office.

They scare me - should I call the cops on them when they're in my town? I mean - It's much more reasonable for me to be afraid of them then they of me given our histories & power differential.

"Tomorrow, April 15th, is Tax Day and the final day of the "7 Days to a Better Financial You" campaign. Since it is the last day to file taxes, HRC will hold a demonstration at an Atlanta post office to raise awareness of the tax inequalities GLBT people face. To learn more about the protest and the entire "7 Days" campaign, visit the Back Story blog at"

I honestly don't see the big deal.

Look at the history of violence, harassment, and abuse -- sexual or otherwise -- that trans people have suffered from at the hands of the police and the criminal "justice" system, and then you'll understand why this is such a big deal.

Then you'll understand why it really doesn't fucking matter whether the police were there because HRC called them. The point is that HRC made the call in the first place. And that illustrates the lack of analysis that HRC has on trans issues and their lack of concern for the safety of trans people.

Calling the police in response to trans protesters is an act of violence.

This topic will be part of the discussion...tonight on Alternative Persepectives...tune if local in Atlanta 89.3

It is my hope that Marti will be calling feelings are posted at Marti's post...

Donna if you are available please call...this is a discussion that must be had...and it must be had within the T community first...if we are ever going to muster up the support needed to make the difference that is so urgently needed...

Equality for all, or none at all...that is my motto...

HRC must take accountability for there 'mistake'...because it was...they lied...they did...and I can testify to that...their promise was to represent all of the GLBT...not just some...and then all, when it might be benefical to them. They were explicit when they made the promise...there were no 'maybe' or 'buts'...'or if we can'...they promised to fight for all of us..and we trusted them to do that...and they broke their promise...there is no rationalizing that...and worst of all, they have not been able to come back to the community and take accountability...


And the $20,000 of our community's money they collected while making that promise at SCC makes this betrayal impossible to forget

Donna, I really appreciate that you are providing a "third path," so to speak. You've done this in the past on TBP.

I don't trust the HRC any further than I can throw them. But I trust the cops even less. I have no doubt that it was the HPD's decision to deploy the horseback officers. Cops are assholes and they have historically been very hostile towards our community, especially to trans people (Stonewall, anyone?), but I don't think that we should let HRC off the hook. If you call the cops on your own event, you have to deal with the PR fall out afterwards.

"Then you'll understand why it really doesn't fucking matter whether the police were there because HRC called them. The point is that HRC made the call in the first place. And that illustrates the lack of analysis that HRC has on trans issues and their lack of concern for the safety of trans people."

And it really speaks volumes about the expertise of all of HRC's trans employees, doesn't it?

Oh wait...

I forgot.

HRC doesn't have any, does it?

If you call the cops on your own event, you have to deal with the PR fall out afterwards.

No, you don't. It's standard procedure. I've been the protester that got the cops called on me. The venue is doing their job and protecting other customers. The police are doing their job by checking in. The event organizer is doing their job by alerting the necessary people - hotel, police, etc. The protester does their job and stays where appropriate, ACLU observer, no violence, etc.

This is part of a drama that has played out at every protest - whether LGBT or not - since the Oklahoma City Bombing. This isn't as if HRC just called the HPD and said in their evil Mr. Burns voice, "Yeeeeees. I want you to get rid of these minions or I'll call out the dogs." They've admitted that they made the call - because it's SOP.

Calling the police in response to trans protesters is an act of violence.

I disagree. No matter whether I've been protested or done the protesting, one thing has always remained the same: the police job has been to keep the peace.

It's as if everyone has gone myopic on this issue. While, yes, a trans person might go nuts and start shooting up the place, what's to say the more likely option - a right winger shooting at trans folks outside their hotel protesting or whatever - won't happen? If some nutjob starts firing shots at those protesters, is it okay to call the police, Nick? Or is still an act of violence? And what about calling them before the protest so they know to be on guard looking for suspicious people. What if the call had been made and this hypothetical shooter was caught and no trans folk got shot? Would it still have been an act of violence against the trans community?

There's too much gray being overlooked in this issue in an attempt to paint anything HRC does as anti-trans. Instead, it's black or white - pro-trans or anti-trans. That's not reality. You can be pro-trans and still recognize that notifying the force there to protect us that there will be an event where tempers could flare or nutjobs could target us is a good idea.

Monica, this is different from your sons. They had their own perceptions because it was their feelings. This isn't about feelings. This is about whether HRC called the cops to intimidate trans folks. I don't think they did. I think it was SOP as they said. 2+2=4 The evidence points in their favor.

Remember justice is part of equality. Justice doesn't take past grudges into account - only the current issue. Sometimes people are innocent or we wouldn't have a judiciary.

Sharon L. Van Nest | April 15, 2008 6:26 PM

If calling the police is SOP for every dinner and get together then why hasn't there been police in riot gear on horseback at every HRC event? That is not SOP~. What should we do when we who are transgneder/transsuxual have an event of our own? Should we call in a swat team in case the HRC shows up? That is how ludicrous the SOP idea is. I shoul start showing up at every pride event I can and call the local police and warn them about those horrible and dangerous HRC people. Hmmmm. Sorry folks I may be a natural blond but I am not that stupid!
They are scared of us plain and simple. They know that what they have done is wrong and now they are going to continue to be haunted by this. I intend not to ever let it go until the HRC is disolved or Joe Solomonese himself resigns because of this mess.

...the police job has been to keep the peace.
...the force there to protect us...

Bil, I think we have a fundamentally different view of the police.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | April 15, 2008 7:43 PM

The venue is doing their job and protecting other customers.

Bil, wouldn't that be true if the hotel or conference center called the police, rather than the HRC?

This incident cannot be understood without acknowledging the abuse trans folks have suffered for decades at the hands of the police.

I'm afraid I have to agree here that the HRC was incredibly out of line to call the cops. It feels like yet another serious betrayal.

Rather than go forward with your own organization, it appears it is much more fun, productive, and progressive for all of you to make careers of verbally beating the HRC to death in the after day...after day...after day...after a vain attempt at somehow bringing the organization to their knees (or senses).

And, you are failing miserably.

The months keep rolling on.

Come one!

Come all!

Step right up for your free HRC security pacifier!

Some Winslet | April 15, 2008 9:32 PM

How timely,Susan.

"God himself couldn't sink this ship!"

RMS Titanic
Sank after hitting an iceberg on April 15, 1912

"Rather than go forward with your own organization, it appears it is much more fun, productive, and progressive for all of you to make careers of verbally beating the HRC to death in the after day...after day...after day...after a vain attempt at somehow bringing the organization to their knees (or senses)."


Some of us just make some time in our day to tell some truth.

And when that notion meets up with the reality of the Scampaign, it results in a lot of what seems like negativity.

But in reality, its just truth-telling.

Nothing more, nothing less.

susan, we are still working and we are making progress - without HRC.

what did HRC really accomplish last year besides destroying their own credibility and dividing the LGBT community? was there any national legislation that was actually signed into law? we all know the answer....very sorrowfully, no. you are right about one thing. we need to go forward. the time to act is now. if you are depending on HRC to perform, you will be sorely disappointed....all you are going to get is more broken commitments. the only chance that HRC has to regain any credibility is to replace their philosophy and their leadership. they actually have to believe in human rights for everyone, as the name implies ... is that somehow a pacifier? i really don't understand your position or your point... perhaps i am just dim witted... please educate me...

No, I'm not depending on HRC. And, no, I won't be disappointed.

Surprisingly, I agree with much of what Donna says. The only bone of contention I have is how everything went down. I'm trying to get those answers right now.

Look, it IS SOP on both sides to alert the police to the protest. I even said that in my previous post about the protest. What I've NEVER experienced is such an overwhelming show of force for such a small protest.

And it's my understanding that NATIONAL HRC called the Houston police, and that ISN'T SOP.

That being said, if anyone should want to cast HRC into the lake of fire, it should be Donna. The fact that she's keeping a level, pragmatic head about things is why I respect her so much.

My point is, after the better part of seven months of daily slams to the HRC, I think anyone who can read has gotten the point. Conversely, the HRC has made it clear they could care less...and from what the historians write, have always had that position. Still, the advocates hold on to the HRC like it is a lifeforce, instead of striking out on their own.

Guess that is what one gets when one depends on a gay organization to represent gender issues. From what I read, when the lady at the IFGE convention suggested that transsexuals break from the crossdressers and start their own organization she garnered a less than enthusiastice reception...I have never been to a convention of any kind, but that would tell me there were a lot of CDs in the crowd.

Vaporize transgender. Disavow the GLBT. The vast majority of transsexuals want nothing to do with it...or pride parades either for that matter. Let the gays lobby for their own rights...the crossdressers theirs...and transsexuals for their own. Straight TSs don't want to be represented by a GLB organization and think transgender is stupid. That seems to be difficult to understand.

Will that happen? Probably not. Undoubtedly not. And the tens of thousands of post op TS sit on the sidelines...and will continue to do so as long as the status quo is the status quo.

So, what happens? The advocates and posters whine day in and day out about the HRC, too insecure in the strength of their numbers to do anything about it other than in...and day out. They underestimate the number of transsexuals who would join ranks in support if there was atranssexual rights organization not associated with either the GLB or the crossdressers.

In the meantime, the HRC is like a wet security blanket for the transgender advocates...they don't like it, but won't give it up either.

They underestimate the number of transsexuals who would join ranks in support if there was a transsexual rights organization not associated with either the GLB or the crossdressers.

Really? I think you should apply your earlier statement to this:

Rather than go forward with your own organization, it appears it is much more fun, productive, and progressive for all of you to make careers of verbally beating the HRC to death in the after day...after day...after day...after a vain attempt at somehow bringing the organization to their knees (or senses).

Anyhow, I'm with Monica Roberts here when it comes to activism. There isn't a single solution and direct action such as protesting HRC dinners is just as effective (I would actually argue more effective) as getting involved with any of the variety of non-profits out there.

Perspective can be altered by time and distance.
From a height above the clouds the human drama of a person facing down a tank would be would be lost.
From my humble ground view the mounted horseman scared and intimidated me. My anger and rage boiled up and I new in my heart of hearts if they did charge I would be left broken and dieing. High Drama, Donna? I lived next to Kent State. You remember the dead.
Were has your connection with our struggle gone?
If you have a desire to belittle a downplay the betrodden would you consider a different sect of society to act this out on?