Sara Whitman

If not you

Filed By Sara Whitman | April 02, 2008 10:20 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Cameron McWilliams, Employment Non-Discrimination Act, ENDA, gender identity, Lawrence King, Ted Kennedy, transgender

Dear Senator Kennedy:

I understand you are going to support a non-gender identity inclusive ENDA. As a constituent, as a lesbian but mostly, as a mother, I am asking you to reconsider.

It's a bad choice, Senator Kennedy. And one that sends the wrong message.

Remember the shooting that took place a while ago in California that the mainstream media ignored? Lawrence King was shot in the back of the head during first period English class. He was 15 years old. He identified as gay.

And he did not conform to gender roles. He wore make up and high heels to school. That made him a target. The other boys were quoted as saying it "freaked them out."

It is an unwritten rule. One that can have devastating ramifications. Cameron McWilliams hung himself after telling his mother he wanted to be a girl. He had been teased for wearing his sister's underwear and had asked to wear make up. He was ten years old.

When you leave out the gender identity piece of ENDA, you don't just leave out the 40 year old man transitioning to become a woman, you leave out Lawrence King. You leave out Cameron McWilliams.

What will you say to kids like them? When you grow up, we'll protect the part of you that's gay, but the gender stuff... whoa. Forget about that. Too risky. We don't want to offend anyone.

I know Senator, that you have been a long time supporter of LGBT rights. I know you are one of only five Senators who have publicly stated support of same sex marriage. It is a huge stance to take. You have always stood by my community.

You are the second longest serving member of the Senate. Your support is essential for progressive legislation. Without you, a gender identity inclusive ENDA will fail.

With your leadership, though, people will not, as Barney Frank suggests, "picture men and woman in showers together and ... vote it down." With your leadership we will instead have the opportunity to create dialog and understanding. We will be able to stand up for those who are so quickly dismissed and give voice to very real pain and struggle. We will be able to set a standard of behavior that intolerance will never justify discrimination.

Ironically, it's a standard most companies are already willing to embrace. "More than 300 U.S. companies have nondiscrimination policies that include provisions for gender identity, in addition to the more common policy for lesbian, gay and bisexual employees." Businesses make these kinds of changes long before the government does.

With your leadership, Senator Kennedy, we can show it has nothing to do with showers and everything to do with dignity.

If you won't stand up for a kids like Lawrence King and Cameron McWilliams... then who will?

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Thank you, Sara, for standing up for all of us and for recognizing the connection between sexual orientation and gender identity that Barney Frank refused to acknowledge. Goddess, how many more Larry King's have to die before people start to care?

I am so sad and so angry at the heartlessness of so many people.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 3, 2008 4:56 AM

One would think that with all that Kennedy has to atone for JUST FOR HIS FATHER he would be more understanding. Teddy was never ridiculed for his father.

Not everyone has a parent who was a bootlegger, before becoming an adulterous lover to Gloria Swanson, leading to a career in the stock market before participating in the CAUSE of the crash of 1929. Then Joseph Patrick Kennedy had the courage to buy respectability by working for FDR first overseeing the beginnings of the Security & Exchange Commission (talk about fox guarding the hen house) and then to the ambassadorship to Great Britain BEFORE becoming an apologist for Hitler.

By the way, as a young bugger Teddy was a hit in Britain. Made many a newsreel.

Joseph Patrick then stage managed JFK's rise to the White House with the help of the Chicago Mob who knew him well from his bootlegging days in the 1920's. Yes, they did steal votes. All this BEFORE Teddy's Chappiquidick! I think you MIGHT be appealing to the wrong man as Teddy never had to deal with this issue unless he ran into J. Edgar Hoover in Drag (unlikely). Are you praying to the wrong senator? I think so.

Congressman Barney Frank may be imperfect, but he is right about one thing. If you get one good bill passed (in spite of rampant ignorance) that is less than perfect, it can lead to the next bill. I KNOW trans gendered persons think of themselves as being forced to sit on the back of the bus and they have every right to feel as they do. Violence in schools against Straight, Gay and Trans students is equally disgusting and should be treated equally. People I know in education assure me that they do their own imperfect best to see that it is. And life itself is not perfect, not fair, and frequently frustrating. And still, we go on. Unfair, frustrating, God grant me patience, AND I WANT IT RIGHT NOW!

Here we go with the BS 'incremental rights' argument again.

Incremental rights for straight acting gays will lead to EXPONENTIAL increases in discrimination and violence against transpeople and gender variant gays and lesbians.

Isn't it interesting how pretty much all of the major political proponents of a non-inclusive ENDA are well-known Hillary supporters except for Teddy?

I'm still waiting to hear from either of the candidates if they will stand up to the bigotry and cowardice of the Kennedy-Frank variety or if they'll just go with the flow, not make any waves, and sign a crippled, non-inclusive ENDA into law and consign gender-variant Americans to another generation of workplace bigotry.

Sadly, the silence is deafening from both sides in the Democratic Party. Of course, McCain's backers certainly know what he'll do if such a law passes Congress. It's just a pity we can't have that kind of confidence in Democrats that they will follow the will of the people who elect them to office.

I don't think Robert is advocating incrementalism, Monica. I think he's addressing the realities of the situation. I think we all want trans inclusion, but we also want protections now. It's that double-edged sword that everyone is attempting to balance on.

So do I and every other transgender person, Bil. We all want and need protections. Transpeople need them more than anyone else because we're the ones dying because of the LACK of protections.

ENDA WITHOUT gender identity or perceived gender language is a FLAWED bill.

Without that 'gender or perceived gender' clause in it, only 10% of the gay community is covered.

What about lesbian women who look masculine or effeminate gay men? They aren't covered by Barney and Ted's transgder free ENDA.

Think I'm kidding? Ask Khadijah Farmer about getting yanked out of the women's bathroom after a gay pride parade in NY last year.

Monica and the rest, I agree that a trans-excluded ENDA is not an optimum situation. However, with the current regime, we should take what we can get. To be modified in a little more than a year....

Matt, what you can with the current regime is nothing, el zippo, nada. GWB will never sign ENDA no matter what form it's in, so this is really just partisan political gamesmanship by Ted Kennedy at the expense of gender-variant American lives.

Also, you really need to stop drinking the HRC Koolaid. If by some miracle ENDA passed into law this year, there would be no modification, not now, not in ten years, and probably not in twenty. Simply put, gender-variant Americans just aren't wealthy enough or represent enough votes for most Democrats to care about, so passing a non-inclusive ENDA now means likely condemning gender-variant Americans to at least another generation or more of rampant, perfectly legal workplace discrimination.

Just so you know exactly what you are advocating here...

so while we argue among ourselves about incremental vs. real coverage (my bias, my piece) we need to remember that businesses ARE ALREADY DOING THIS.

because it makes sense. it keeps them from being sued. not about brilliant social analysis.

and I posted this same piece on Huffington about a half hour ago and the first three comments remind me how much education we MUST do around trans issues.

HRC is wrong about this. so, let's go do the work without them.

and put our energy into education because right now the picture of the trans community is the pregnant man, not Larry King or Cameron McWilliams.

To Robert:
Most of the violence against LGBT's is directed at gender variant LGBT's
For every Matthew Shepard, there are 6-8 trans-people laying dead.

How many LGB's lose their jobs and end up hooking despite possession of doctoral level credentials?
That has happened to a number of transsexuals in transition.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | April 3, 2008 9:17 PM

Dear Maura,

I am six feet tall and wide as a tree stump. I worked on a railroad track crew to put myself through college and I had to fight for every day as an out gay man in the 1970,s as a founding member of the GLF at Purdue University. I have been recipient of more disappointments in life than I have teeth including discrimination. Even I have had to defend myself with a baseball bat when required. I have stared hate crimes directly in the eye and I agree that quality of life for all of us is dependent upon geography (urban vs rural, wealth vs poverty)

I also possess a master's degree in an area (Radio-TV broadcasting)in which I could not work due to a sudden ruling by the FCC that radio and television stations had to "reflect the ethnic balance of their community" so I have some experience with feeling excluded from the table, while being subject to discrimination, while not being part of the "right" minority.

I have always been inclusive in my beliefs and sincere in the knowledge that we are all equal. Still, if it had not been for my disappointments I could never have known my successes.

I did not mention Mat Shepard, but I have been in his shoes. Keeping in mind that all violence against LGBTQ persons is disgusting and America is a very violent society I would remind you that like child abuse, spousal abuse etc. it is still largely under or unreported. I am not ignorant of abuse, but I would certainly like you to cite your sources for the blanket statements you have made. Thank you Bil for "getting it."

I always wonder about the term "incrementalism" being used to describe cutting gender ID language from this bill. If you put yourself in the position of a trans person, this isn't an increment. It's a nothing. (Less than a nothing, since they were once in there.)

I don't even know why we're having a discussion about whether or not to include trans protections when most Americans support them anyway.

Just the most recent sampling of LBGT dead:
total for two months: 8
Number of gender variants: 6

Ok, lower than I quoted.
But still horrifying.

And I respect your struggle.
But when a Fulbright scholar can end up on the Chelsea Piers hooking in the 1990's because she is blackballed in her field, when a top medical professional can end up an escort in the 21st century for many months for the same reason to keep paying children's tuitions after she was blackballed, you have to admit that the trans-experience is uniquely terrible in this era.

Thanks Sara. Well said.

It's not just trans people who would be protected by including gender identity/expression -- it's any one who's not "straight acting," regardless of their sexual orientation.