Marti Abernathey

NCTE Lobby Days: Where's Waldo, HRC, or Barney Frank?

Filed By Marti Abernathey | April 18, 2008 12:24 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Barney Frank, HRC, NCTE lobby days

Last October Representative Barney Frank said:

It's partly because some of the people who are now lately to this fight weren't there helping us through the lobbying.

and then said:

I have been pleading with people in the gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender communities to lobby for us. Instead, they want to strategize, many of them. Some, no. Some have done a very good job. But many of them weren't there.

Hearing those words, I assumed that the lobby day events would get extra special attention (especially to gaining access).

But since the event I've heard from numerous lobbyists that their access was no different than in years past. If the education that has been done in the past (the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition has lobbied Congress since 1995, the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition since 1999, and the National Center for Transgender Equality since 2005) wasn't good enough for Representative Frank and he wants us to be in the bill after doing the right kind of education, a little help in the access department from his office might help. And I'd think the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) would be helping out Mara Keisling, since they're using her image on the transgender section of their website!

Transgender advocacy groups are doing the work that needs to be done. The words of those that oppose gender identity inclusion in ENDA ring hollow when they don't expend ANY political capital or influence to see that the the educational/lobbying work is effective.

(As a post-script to this post, I'd just like to say how frustrating it is to find people still arguing that gender identity protections in ENDA only protect transgender people. The definition in the language of the inclusive ENDA bill (HR 2015) is as follows:

GENDER IDENTITY- The term `gender identity' means the gender-related identity, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, with or without regard to the individual's designated sex at birth.

This definition would cover anyone who is gender variant.)

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Are you surprised? It is a political one way street. "You stratch my back and the hell with you." Where was Dana's influence in getting better access? She is, after all, helping us from the inside.

Wait, you mean you want Barney Frank to help you get access so you can lobby for the acceptance he wants you to have before passing the legislation? Well, now, why would that make sense? People rely on logic too damn much lately. Bush has shown us that Washington is more like Down the Rabbit Hole where up is down and reality is topsy-turvy.

Barney Frank and HRC have only proven their own irrelevance, when it comes to lobbying and education. All they are interested in are the rich white gays, everyone else need not apply. Gender varient and other queers just don't make it in their chummy little fraternity.

Yes - transgender lobby day which has been held since 1995 had 200 people attending.

Meanwhile - Joe Solmonese tells us that HRC's ENDA Lobby Day in March had.....200 people attending.

Can we put to rest the nonsense that transgender people haven't been doing the education required on this? I mean - HRC says it has 600,000 members and brings the same number of people to lobby - but Frank says our efforts are lacking? Not to mention the fact that HRC said it was Lobbying for an inclusive ENDA when it did its visits the last few years. (I know - we tend to discount their veracity on that with damn good reason.)

But - for the sake of argument - if their efforts were deemed good enough on ENDA & they were (as they say) lobbying for an inclusive ENDA - how could they education of Congress be insufficent for transgender issues but sufficent for sexual orientation? According to HRC they were the same visits.

I would be interested to see how Joe and Barney would respond with your information. There are suppose to be at least ten times more gay, lesbian and bisexual non-trans people then trans people in this country, and yet all they could muster is 200 people? We equaled their lobbying efforts with less people in the population. Frank better not spout off about us not educating in front of me.

A.G. Casebeer | April 19, 2008 3:33 PM

Kathy, I can't speak for any of NCTE's lobbying efforts, because I haven't attended one of theirs. But I think I'm safe in stating that honest attendance figures don't exist for most Lobby Days.

Back in 1997, 1998, and 1999, Riki Wilchins used to state that GPAC's lobby days attracted 100 lobbyists. If that was true, 60-70 of them were either ghosts or imaginary. 30-35 was more likely. There might have been 100 at the plenary, but the plenary was swelled a bit by students at the 99 event. I never saw any of the students in the halls on Capitol Hill - and I was all over the bloody Hill from House to Senate in those days.

NTAC has a policy of never inflating attendance figures. I wasn't involved in 2004 or 2005, but I know we had 37 in 2001, and 12 in 2007. Others who attended in 04 and 05 can fill me in - sorry, I was busy getting married at the time and was taking a political sabbatical.

As much difference in membership numbers as there is, HRC should have had 1000 people on the Hill, compared to any group we could field.

Let's be clear about this issue of "education" and lobbying. A.G. is correct -- our numbers have not been great over the years, but they are getting better. More important would be for trans persons to visit their Congressperson in their home office.

When Barney talks about "education" he's not talking about the classroom or the media, he's talking about educating his colleagues. He's not the best advocate on trans issues, as we all know, because he's simply not that familiar with all of us. He should make the effort, but, you know, he's Chair of the Financial Services Committee and we've something of a financial crisis going on in this country . . .
A better advocate is Tammy Baldwin, who personally lobbied 100 of her colleagues on inclusion. That was critically important, and she did a fine job. But, again, there is only so much she can do, however well she does it. She, too, has told me that we need to get actual trans persons to THEIR Congressperson, whether at home or in DC. That is what is meant by education.

I know this by experience and by the work I do in my day job and as a politician myself. I think we all really know this, but we dance around it because it can be so hard to get people to "come out," if only to lobby their representative. When I think of those tens of thousands of trans persons living stealth lives I can become very exasperated. Yet, I understand that most of us transitioned not to become professional trans persons, or even trans persons, but just the women and men we always were, thank you very much and now leave me to my life.

It's a conundrum, and the going will be slow because it is such a conundrum.

A.G, Casebeer | April 20, 2008 1:58 AM

Quite correct, Dana. Right now, it's vital that every transperson who can, gets to know their Congressman, or their opponent if they're hopeless, on a first-name basis. Work for their campaign, watch their schedule and be at the same civic gatherings where they appear, and make appointments to speak to them in their local offices. It's much easier to speak to your Congressman at home than it is in DC. In DC, you will be filtered through an aide.

The Congressional Black Caucus needs a lot of work. If your Congressman is a CBC member, please get an appointment and speak to them. This is doubly important if you are a T person of color. One thing we've always heard in CBC offices is "we never see T people of color" and "we heard that all of you are prostitutes", because that's the High-Impact Coalition's party line. Probably half of the missing votes for T inclusion are CBC offices.

Remember, we are not that far off. Barney's claiming 40-50. I don't believe it's that much, it's my belief that, had Barney and HRC pushed the issue and threatened their HRC ratings for nonsupport of an inclusive ENDA, 2015 would have passed. But we are close, regardless. It can be done next year. But you have to get in to see your Congressman!

"She, too, has told me that we need to get actual trans persons to THEIR Congressperson, whether at home or in DC. That is what is meant by education."

I think there's more of that being done then is obvious to Rep. Frank & others. My Congreesman (Rep.Fattah) sent a dear collegue letter to the PA delegation asking they support the inclusive version of enda back in the fall after our group of lgbt advocates requested his support. Great letter.

It's hard to get to your legislatorts when HRC- trained or HRC sympathetic staffers are blocking access to those same congressmembers.


Nobody's blocking access, certainly not at the home office.

And AG is correct about the numbers -- there's always wiggle room, and remember that those are the numbers of the Dems who fear a motion to recommit, not the initial vote for passage. There IS a difference. The number of 40-60 has been vetted through a number of channels.

And I expect that by 2009 we will have more progressive Dems and fewer Republicans as well as conservative Dems.

"This definition would cover anyone who is gender variant."

And lets not forget, it protects the non-gender variant from potential discrimination by the gender variant.

"HRC says it has 600,000 members..."

It says a lot of things.

HRC got to that number the same way that LBJ got to the Senate in 1948 - with the help of a lot of dead people.

A.G. Casebeer | April 21, 2008 3:33 AM

Anyone who signs up to receive emails from HRC is considered a "member", for purposes of their count.

I was talking about DC congressional offices Dana, not the district offices.

Many of the opportunities tht I've gotten to actually talk to congresscritters in DC, it was because I either saw them in the halls of office buildings, ran into them in elevators, or just happened to catch them as they were coming into or outr of their offices despite the best efforts of their HRC trained LA's to keep that access from happening.


That's the way it often is, for all of us. As a matter of fact, you would do best to position yourself between the office and the cafeteria to get in some real quality time in most cases.