Rebecca Juro

The Incrementalists Dirty Little "Secret"

Filed By Rebecca Juro | June 04, 2008 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Barney Frank, ENDA, gender, HRC, politics, transgender

The Human Rights Campaign hopes you're not paying attention. Barney Frank hopes you'll look the other way. John Aravosis is crossing his fingers that you won't draw the only logical conclusion.

These folks - and those who think about basic civil rights protections like they do - don't want you to know the truth, a truth that has been obvious for years now. It's been proven accurate in every state in this country that has enacted anti-discrimination protections for their LGBT citizens except for one...

Protecting the transgender and gender-variant from discrimination enjoys substantially more support among American voters nationwide than same-sex marriage does or probably ever will.

We saw that reality played out yet again this week in New York. The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), the bill that would protect transgender and gender-variant New Yorkers from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accomodations statewide, was passed by the New York State Assembly yesterday by an overwhelming vote of 103-33. Same sex-marriage was passed by this same legislative body last year by a vote of 85-61.

Doing the math, we discover that a little more than 56% of the 150-member Assembly voted in favor of the bill. Comparing the numbers on GENDA, however, we see that a whopping 68% of these same legislators chose to vote in favor of protecting transgender and gender-variant New Yorkers from discrimination - 12% higher than voted in favor of the marriage bill.

Many similar stories can be told as well. Here in my home state of New Jersey, for example, state legislators fell all over themselves to pass civil unions in order to comply with the state's high court ruling that gay and lesbian New Jerseyans must be guaranteed the same rights as heterosexuals while not actually granting the real equality the court intended to ensure for all state residents by legalizing same-sex marriage. Shortly thereafter, however, New Jersey's State Senate voted unanimously, 35-0, and the state Assembly voted by an almost equally overwhelming margin, 65-10, to add protections for transgender and gender-variant citizens to the state's existing anti-discrimination law.

Even back in 2002, over 60% polled in the conservative state of North Carolina supported protecting transgender people from employment discrimination, according to an HRC survey conducted that year. Support for these protections has only grown over that time - even as state after state passed laws and constitutional amendments preventing their states from recognizing same-sex unions. To my knowledge, while some states have chosen not to enact protections for transgender and gender-variant citizens when they were voted on, no state has ever voted to enact a law or amend their constitution to prevent such protections from being enacted in the future.

The conclusion here is inescapable to anyone really paying attention: There's far more support in this country for protecting transgender and gender-variant Americans from discrimination than there is or ever has been for legalizing same-sex marriage.

Yet, what we see and hear coming from HRC, Barney Frank, and so many others is the opposite of what has been conclusively proven over and over to be reality. It isn't true that rights for transgender and gender-variant Americans are somehow less palatable to the American public at large than the right of same-sex couples to be married.

I'm not trying to make value comparisons here. Both goals are supremely worthy; both deserve to become the law of the land as soon as humanly possible. My issue is with the hypocrisy of those like HRC (and especially Barney Frank) who continue pounding the drum for same-sex marriage while at the same time advocating for the exclusion of transgender and gender-variant Americans from basic civil rights legislation by claiming that there's not enough support for it to pass. Were they truly honest and consistant in their advocacy for LGBT equality they'd acknowledge that it is far more likely we'll be able to pass anti-discrimination laws in the near future which would protect all LGBT Americans than it is we'll see same-sex marriage become legalized at the federal level.

The numbers don't lie; only those who are willing to sacrifice the truth in the pursuit of personal and political gain are doing so here. It's time for us to focus on these realities, speak truth to power, and make sure everyone knows and understands what is true - what has always been true; more Americans support basic anti-discrimination protections for transgender and gender-variant Americans - the goal these people refuse to fight for fairly and honestly - than support same-sex marriage - the goal they continue to advocate for with every erg of effort, energy and political clout they can possibly muster.

If these people truly believe in the kind of incrementalism they claim is the only way to advocate these issues, let's see them bow to the reality we all know to be true because the numbers prove it to be. Let's see them get in line and patiently wait their turn to attain their goals as they'd have us do. If they really do believe their own rhetoric that incrementalism is the only way to achieve these goals, let's see Barney Frank, HRC, and all the rest of the same-sex marriage advocates adhere to the political logic they try to impose upon us and willingly accept their proper place in the incrementalism line - behind us.

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"None so deaf as those that will not hear.
None so blind as those that will not see."
- Mathew Henry -

here f**cking here! (although i am also a staunch supporter for full marriage equality)

I and also a supporter of full marriage equality, but this is looking a lot like HRC and Barney have flunked math and are taking their lack of a grasp on reality from Clinton, or visa versa. If the numbers don't add up, then you can't use fuzzy math to make your point.

Anyone have any 5th grade math books we can send Barney and Joe? I guess we can say that in this case, they aren't smarter than a 5th grader.

Jenny Caden | June 4, 2008 4:43 PM

Data here in Ohio backs up as well; 52% of Ohioans polled support civil unions but 66% support equal rights for LGBT people in employment and housing. That's why HRC isn't getting any of my money for a long while; why support someone that doesn't support ME?

Good point, Becky. If we're actually concerned with everything going in order of ease, then....

I live in California. I intend to support the fight to defeat the referendum to write same-sex marriage discrimination into the state constitution, even though it does not at the moment directly affect me.

I'm doing it because I'm an unabashed progressive, and believe it's just the right thing to do.

Yet I also see the need to defeat the referendum on a more personal level.

I believe that there will be a backlash against transgenders should the referendum pass, and that backlash will be exponentially greater than the backlash against gays and lesbians. It will likely undo the numerically more positive attitude Becky wrote about, and I expect there may be a spate of legislation that attempts and in some cases succeeds in undoing the laws and rules allowing transgender to change ID and gender markers in states that now allow it, and make it even more difficult to bring about those changes in those states that don't yet allow changing gender markers or birth certificates.

I also expect there to be a backlash coming from the John Aravosis/Chris Crain/Barney Frank axis of the G/L community, as a desperate attempt to salvage personal self esteem for the dashing of their dreams of joining with the cisgendered, heterosexed majority in equality-in-marriage.

While I'm being glum and melodramatic, let me add that I have a feeling that the aforementioned axis, along with the HRC, may somehow feel that they are owed the grunt labor of the trans community in the coming battle to defeat the referendum. After all, according to Barney, the trans community did a terrible job of educating...

Okay, the rant is done. I do intend to fight for Marriage Equality in California. I will put my good where it will do the most.

Karen Savage

A few years ago, Svend Robinson and egaleCanada (Canada's HRC) fought for and won protections against hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation. (Discrimination in employment, housing etc. are not explicitly covered for either sexual orientation or gender identity, but have been implicitly covered as a result of court rulings... but still remain subject to the opinion of the courts). Same sex marriage was won, retroactive spousal benefits were obtained (which one local GLBT paper called the "last great battle").

Today, membership in GLBT organizations has dwindled, even the gay bars have lost much of their clientele, and people aren't that concerned with rights issues or community. Hate crimes against people based on gender identity are still not proscribed, and discrimination is still not written into legislation because of the apathetic view that it's "covered," while the courts and human rights tribunals still occasionally fail to read that in WRT transfolk.

In 2007, MP Bill Siksay tabled private members bills to attempt to correct both failings. As private members bills, they fail to have the demonstrated support of his own party, egale and other GLB organizations have shown little interest, and they will likely not even reach a reading.

This is how the GLB community has "come back" for Canadian transgender people. And they wonder why so many have taken a strong "trans-or-bust" stance on ENDA (and to be fair, that "so many" includes many GLB folk in the US who recognize past mistakes and wish to not repeat them).

That said, I believe that transfolk very strongly need same-sex marriage, in order to be certain that their marriages (no matter what the pairing) can't be contested from one direction or another. And, ironically, our situations perhaps provide some of the most effective arguments to get past the religious right's defenses. Ironic, then that Aravosis/Crain/Barney Frank/HRC have so little interest in an alliance. :(

Yeah, but you are comparing apples to oranges. Non-discrimination against transgendered vs. gay/lesbian marriage.

Why can't we have both? I don't disagree with your inference that legislative resources are scarce, but I'm not convinced of your implicit argument that pursuing trans non-discrimination laws at the expense of gay/lesbian marriage laws is a wise course to take. Is that what you are saying?

In a recent conversation with my Congresswoman, I was told that HR3685, the inclusive ENDA had the votes in the House to pass last year, but Nancy Pelosi insisted that it be introduced and immediately withdrawn, which is what Tammy Baldwin did.
I don't think this is news to most of the folks who followed this closely.

Ethan Pleshe | June 5, 2008 3:54 AM

Not surprising that those are the numbers. However, it is sad that we have been lied to. I too would like marriage equality as well as the other basic rights. However inclusive employment non-discrimination and a hate crimes bill are most important to me as a transperson.

I'm not resorting to statistics. I'm just going to refer to what real Religious Reichers say: we're all freaks, no matter what letter of the alphabet we attribute to ourselves.

That's right. Freaks.

I don't know what kinds of weed Barney smokes when he's home, but I know that, in Kentucky, we have some of the finest weed in the country, and we also have a united GLBT community. Why? Because we all are subject to attack, and we all know it. The fundies hate us all equally, all GLB and T of us. From the pulpit, we all look the same to them. From their moral perches, we're all less than citizens.

I think Frank's problem is that he's from Mass. He gets off easy there. He needs to have to live in someplace like, say, Somerset, Kentucky; Nitro, West Virginia; Clarksville, Tenn; Paoli, Indiana; Bastrop, Texas; or maybe even Gadsden, Alabama, for a year. If he survives, he'll discover that he, as a gay man, is publicly regarded as the lowest type of person, right down with transpeople, in places like that. Right now, the man thinks he's better than us, and he isn't. Yeah, he's a US Congressman - but so is Marilyn Musgrave. US Congressmen can be scumsucking slime, too, you know.

Karen Savage wrote:

I'm doing it because I'm an unabashed progressive, and believe it's just the right thing to do.
I'm an unabashed neocon, and I too support same-sex marriage in California because it is the right thing to do.

And I'm not alone. Every day there's more like me.

Progressives alone can't do it, and a substantial minority of them are homophobes anyway. We need to reach out to those we have political differences with, and show them it's not a matter of Left and Right, but Right and Wrong.

I alas agree with Karen's take on the rest too. It's been the pattern in the past. And so has the pattern elucidated by Mercedes. But that last is a pattern GLBs have the power to change.

Ooooh - Paoli. You fight dirty, Polar. You could have at least chosen North Vernon (there is no South Vernon or even a Vernon!). At least when you roll into North Vernon they play Dueling Banjos for you... Paoli only gives you the theme from Deliverance.

I think this is one of Becky's best posts yet. It really gives you something to think about. I'm not sure if I agree with the "either-or" mentality, but I'm not sure that's what she's truly advocating so much as juxtaposing against the incrementalist strategy pursued by HRC, Frank, etc.

"Why can't we have both?"

Ask the Aravosisists. They'll give you plenty of reasons why marrige is possible but our economic equality is not.

I also don't see this as "either/or." The article points to the hyprocracy of Barney and HRC's logic when it comes to inclusion. The whole reason they don't want trans people in ENDA is that there is not enough support. I guess they are looking for 75 to 80% majority rather than a measly 66% majority. But, they are willing to support same sex-marriage, regardless of how bad the percentages look. They cannot face the reality of the numbers.

Siouxsie, we can have both, that's the point. Just as we can easily have both sexual orientation non-discrimination and gender identity non-discrimination -- in fact it's easier and takes less resources to get both at the same time.

The thing is that we're being told by certain powerful members of the LGb(t) movement that gender identity non-discrimination is "too hard" and we should table it for now and focus our resources on sexual orientation non-discrimination. It's an approach which is being called "incrementalism," and you've just pointed out how it's a crock.

The point Rebecca is making is that if gender identity is "too hard" and must be de-prioritized, then same-sex marriage is even moreso. It's pointing out the hipocrisy of the "incrementalists" who say we can't fight for gender identity because it doesn't have enough public support, and then throw their all into an endeavor that has even less support.

If they actually following the "incrementalist" philosophy, then they would take all their resources out of marriage and put it into non-discrimination -- not that that would be any smarter a strategic decision than taking all their support out from gender identity non-discrimination and putting it only into sexual orientation non-discrimination.

For argument's sake, let's extend the concept of incrementalism to gay marriage. Let's support marriage of lesbians. At some time in the future, it would then be okay for gays to marry. In the distant future, even transgender folks could get married.

This is what would happen if incrementalism were applied to the gay marriage issue. Why are the rights of some more important than the rights of others?

They aren't.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

Yes, Bil, I can fight dirty. Comes with living in this territory. Paoli's definitely bad, I think that comes from an inferiority complex - they just can't compare to Orleans, West Baden, or French Lick.

I should have made it Corydon, actually, whose main distinction is the fact that the KKK was formed there.

As for Becky's post, it's square-on. But I don't need numbers. The "incrementals" in Congress and elsewhere are out of touch with the country. Those ordinary citizens who are in favor of ENDA and gay marriage, for the most part, see it as a all of us or nobody situation. Those who are opposed won't be any less opposed if T's removed. Aravosis and his ilk don't live in my world, don't live in the Bible Belt, don't have a clue what the Religious Reichers think.

What Tobi said.

The real issue here is the blatant hypocrisy of the incrementalists. I'm not really suggesting that we stop funding the fight for same-sex marriage, simply that if the incrementalists really believed in and followed the political theory they seek to impose on us, then they should focusing all their efforts on more supportable inclusive anti-discrimination laws and putting off the fight for same-sex marriage until that's done.

When you boil it all down, it's really just yet another case of these people saying to us "Do as we say, not as we do.".

You're so on point here, Rebecca.

Vic Basile ran from me in Louisville before I could call his butt out on an incorrect line in his speech at a fundraiser I and others protested by turning our backs to him.

In it he tried to say in defense of incrementalism and the tremendous heat HRC was taking at the time of the ENDA screwing that it took African-Americans 100 years to get the Civil Rights Acts passed.


The incrementalists will NEVER tell you about the Civil Rights Act of 1875.

It stated that all persons, regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude were entitled to full and equal employment, of accommodation in "inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement." Violators of this law faced fines from $500-$1000 and jail time that ranged from 30 days to 1 year.

That bill was introduced in 1870, FIVE years after emancipation and passed in 1875.

Imagine that- a civil rights bill with teeth protecting a despised minority class.

So I don't want to hear any more lies and excuses from the Franks, Solmoneses and Crains of the world or any 'wait you turn BS'

My people have waited long enough.

Mylo Egipciaco | June 8, 2008 5:00 PM

I feel TRIPLED PLEASED after reading your article Today!!

After offering to support HRC during LA Pride, I retracted my services after speaking to Margot Rosen & LA rep Christine on three issues that need urgent attention by an lgbt human rights organization, and doing relatively NOTHING to CHANGE the internal dynamics.

1. Not providing the handout resources in the Spanish language in a city that is 53% spanish versed and including as well multi language brochures according to the diverse population representation in the city, such as Farsi, Korean, Russian, etc.


2. Keeping at center stage of their campaign and apologizing for the ENDA exclusion of Transgender folk.




I hope our concerns are seriously handled by HRC in keeping with the principled mission they ought to provide to ALL INDIVIDUALS involve in the plights of LGBTI Human Rights!!