Guest Blogger

The Cause of Anger in the Transgender Community

Filed By Guest Blogger | August 08, 2008 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: ENDA, Monica Helms, TAVA, transgender

Editors' note: Frequent guest blogger and TAVA president Monica Helms tackles the subject of anger in the T part of LGBT.

Recently, there has been a heated discussion on The Bilerico Project about the emotion of anger. I have written articles on love and being in love and finding love, but I have never tackled the very misunderstood emotion of anger. I felt that this could be a challenge to spark my meager writing talents. Here goes.

I will be the first to admit I can get angry at times. I have no delusion about this one bit. I don't deny it like others try to do. It has been made apparent several times that I am one of the biggest mixer of feces on blogs, in articles and on Yahoo lists. Yep, I even bought a huge wooden spoon at Target to make the mixing easier. Sometime, it's real anger, while others is more like faux anger, or even "anger lite." Less filling.

I decided that I would approach the idea of discussing anger in the transgender community by looking at the causes. Regardless of how I approached this subject, I could end up angering some people with this article. Open discourse is highly welcomed. I will also not ignore the comments after this article, because I hope to provide more input as questions and comments come up.

Let's start with the definition of "anger:"

Noun - a strong feeling of displeasure and belligerence aroused by a wrong; wrath; ire.

Synonyms - Resentment, exasperation; choler, bile, spleen. Anger, fury, indignation, rage imply deep and strong feelings aroused by injury, injustice, wrong, etc. Anger is the general term for a sudden violent displeasure: a burst of anger. Indignation implies deep and justified anger: indignation at cruelty or against corruption. Rage is vehement anger: rage at being frustrated. Fury is rage so great that it resembles insanity: the fury of an outraged lover. Displease, vex, irritate, exasperate, infuriate, enrage, incense, madden.

How much of that describes the experiences and feelings of the majority of the transgender community? Quite a bit, if you ask me. Noticed the words, "Strong feelings aroused by injury, injustice, wrong, etc." Have transgender people ever been "injured"? Have they faced "injustice"? Have they been "wronged"? And people wonder why we're angry. Some transgender people of wealth and privilege also seem to wonder why the rest of us become angry so easily, because they have rarely ever faced any of the above mentioned experiences.

Now that we have shown the definition of the word "anger," let's explore how it specifically relates to the transgender community. "Why would any transgender person become angry?" Most of us are painfully aware that once we start our transition we could lose everything. I lost my parents, my family, my children and all of my friends. However, I am one of the lucky ones because I didn't lose my job. I have been working for the same company for eighteen and a half years, spending eleven of those years as Monica.

Over the years, I gained back my children and the rest of the family. I had to lose my father before my mother accepted me back. I still don't have any contact with my pre-Monica friends, but I have made more friends in the past eleven years then I ever made in the previous forty-six.

As I said, I am one of the lucky ones. Others are not so lucky. Job discrimination has spiraled out of control in this community. Being fired for being trans, then not getting hired after applying for hundreds of jobs can make a person angry. No wonder people become upset with a non-inclusive ENDA and the people who created it and supported it. For all practical purposes the supporters of that bill are saying to the unemployed trans person that their situation doesn't matter.

Trans people are getting the message that only the gender-conforming, queer people deserve their rights first, so they become angry because of that perception. This makes the unemployed transgender person feel even more isolated. Some LGB people who have the money and the time to fight for equal rights seem not want to help the transgender community. Their message is that those who cannot spend time or money to speak up for themselves don't deserve their attention. It does nothing but increase the anger.

What about "injustice?" The courts appeared to have been stacked against us for a very long time. Just a simple divorce proceeding can turn into the Spanish Inquisition, complete with rack. Every bit of the trans person's intimate secrets get plastered all over the court records, making him or her look like the worst human since Genghis Khan. All of his or her assets end up being given over to the spouse, as well as the custody of the children. The trans person becomes saddled with all the bills and child support. And, if he or she has a decent job, they still live paycheck to paycheck. This one form of injustice can make a person very angry and usually does.

Other court proceedings have had more devastating results. Just read over court cases of Christie Lee Littleton and J'Noel Gardiner and you'll get an idea of what I'm talking about. Michael Kantaras' custody case in Florida in 2002 was no picnic for him, even though he won the case. Peter Oiler lost his discrimination case against Winn Dixie in 2003 and I personally saw how angry he became from that. The job discrimination case against the Library of Congress involving Diane Schroer still awaits future results. Hopefully those results won't increase our anger. There have been many more court cases where transgender people went to court for discrimination reasons, custody battles and other rights, only to be shown the door for their troubles. Did they become angry? Sure they did. Oh yes, there have been some wins, but the percentage seems very low, making the anger very high.

Various forms of discrimination and injustice can make transgender people angry. Violence is another. In 1998, the Remembering Our Dead list came into existence with about 100 names. Today, the list contains over 400 names. You can find the updated list and all of the associated information with the International Transgender Day of Remembrance on this new site. Those are the most drastic examples of violence against transgender people.

In the recent survey done by the Transgender American Veterans Association, we asked, "Have you ever been a victim of violence?" Out of 821 transgender veterans who answered that question, 211 said "Yes." That comes to 25.7%. When asked, "Have you ever been raped?" 128 out of 813 said "Yes." We also asked, "Have you ever been physically assaulted at a VA facility?" and seven out of 313 said "Yes." That comes to 2.2%. All of this shows that one out of every four transgender people have faced some form of violence. Not only do these numbers anger the people who have faced the violence, but it also angers the entire community.

Others things seem to anger transgender people. I will name three things that have been the focus of many transgender people's anger for nearly a year now. HRC, ENDA and Barney Frank. Need I say more? Barney Frank began the process of splitting up the LGBT community, and even caused a rift within the transgender community when he substituted a fully inclusive ENDA with a non-inclusive one. Joe Solmonese promised that HRC would only support a fully inclusive ENDA and HRC went back on his word two weeks later.

After that, trans people who worked with HRC jumped ship and others, sensing a vacuum or a chance to "get ahead," filled their places. Just saying nice things about HRC or trying to quell the anger of others can get you hate mail. I lost a friend because of this anger. Of course, I cannot condense all of the events and all of the feelings of the last year into two paragraphs. Suffices to say, anger has played a huge part of the feelings by the transgender community when it comes to what some may characterize as our "Axis of Evil."

When I wrote articles of love and me finding love, I felt extreme joy and happiness. Writing this article about anger has not been a pleasant task. Several of the examples I used have caused me to become angry, both in the past and today. No one can quantify anger, or to really define it. I just hope that when people read this, they may have a little better understanding on why you see transgender people get angry. Just remember this. What you hear them say or write just might be the tip of their anger.

Many different things could cause a transgender person to become angry. Many things.

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Excellent article, Monica.

I have a deep and personal knowledge and understanding of anger, and I'd like to elaborate a bit on that as it may be germaine in some cases.

I was raised in an environment that flat out denied me the right to express myself as a child in the manner that I chose.

I once told my mother I was a girl. I was not only told no, I am not, but I had anything remotely resembling a *possible* feminine aspect removed from my life, and was placed n many situations after that for the purpose of masculinizing me.

I deeply resented that, and at some point around the age of 6 I ceased to speak to my sole parent for 6 months solid.

Not once did I utter a word or acknowledge their existence.

If you have ever been around a child of that age, consider *just how pissed off* I was at that age to do such a thing. How deeply that event changed the relationship I had with my mother.

That anger festered, and it became rage, and it stayed with me as I grew up doing my filial duties, being the good son, the first and eldest of several generations of my family on whom so much was dependent.

And I resented all of that, too. I resented my body rebelling against me, changing not to what it was supposed to change to, but to something else that was *horrible*.

that anger affected everything in my life. And these days, as Monica describes, that lifelong anger continues, and for the reasons she pointed out above.

Anger is the most difficult of emotions, as it cannot be bargained with, it cannot be reasoned with, it cannot be confronted with more anger. All of these things feed into it.

Anger is typically based in resentment and frustration, and until those root causes are addressed, it will remain.


Imagine waking up every single day of your life, when you've had a great night, well rested, and when you start to move you are reminded and you immediately get pissed off again.

Living a life of anger has taken me places that were very dark. I've had to take every sort of anger management course you can conceive of, every type of personal inventory that lies out there. I've had to learn to be all but enraged and still smile and act as if everything is perfectly fine, while feeling my insides slowly decay from the harm that anger does to one physically.

Anger can be righteous, and it can be unrighteous.

Transfolk don't have a lot of unrighteous anger when it comes to LGBT concerns.

Transfolk cannot simply be cut out from the LGBT community, either, nor can they work against LGBT causes, because *we are* LGBT.

There are gay men, lesbians, straight folk, bisexuals, and all manner of everything else within us.

We have been fighting for our rights and our recognition for thousands of years. Just like the rest of the LGBT community.

Just like the rest, we can trace the modern concepts to Hirschfield and his peers.

Just like LGBT folks, we can trace the current movement to Stonewall and Compton.

And we can trace the attempts to distance us from anyone else, the efforts to further marginalize us among the already marginalized, the whole time.

Yeah, good article, Monica.

Great article.

Anger is a gift, just as being trans is a gift.

Finding the positives in both can be the catalyst for individuals to rise up and focus their energies to removing the source of contempt.

Every human group has been oppressed at one time or another. Some have fought, some have gained, and some still continue to be denied their humanity.

It is rooted in the very essence of humanity itself, survival of the fittest so to speak.

Lest we learn sooner rather than later, we must take our seat at the table as no invitation shall be freely extended.

As a very wise man once said...

"The whole history of human liberty shows that all concessions, yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle; If there is no struggle, there is no progress

Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation; want rain without thunder and lightning; This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle.
Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will." - Frederick Douglass

We live on the precipice of new enlightenment, yet the question remains; will we use our righteous indignation to make our mark for our ancestors, selves, and posterity, or shall we continue to sit on the sidelines merely talking about said grievances letting the indignation continue in perpetuity?

If we fail to act in this most righteous of endeavors, mark my words we shall become extinct.

If we fail to assert our rights to exist as a valid beings within the sphere of humanity. The day will come when medical science will "eradicate" our "deviance" inutero, and it will happen without a discussion.

The University of Vienna has just discovered what they are calling a "transsexual Gene", Google news the aforementioned terms for the article.

We must secure our seat at the table in order to guarantee that at a minimum a discussion does indeed take place.

Alli and dyssonance,
Thank you for your beautifully written comments. What you wrote greatly enhanced the article. I hope others can add their comments as well. Talking about our anger is also a way to work through it. But, I think that we will fully be free of that anger only after we are gone. It is, after all, one of the crosses we have to bare. And as Alli pointed out, we have to see our anger as a gift. It's the gift that keeps on giving. Thank you both.

Gerri Ladene | August 9, 2008 3:52 PM

Monica, I thoroughly enjoyed your explanation of anger and its need!

I think Mercedes Allen pointed out several reasons in “Transbigotry” for our anger in the very division of the T community.

Of course I have an admitted anger of my own toward the root of what causes us to suffer discrimination. We all deal with it in ways that we can! After all, what we have is a defensive anger, just the opposite of the offensive anger aimed against us.

I guess you could say my anger has become offensive since I aim it at countering discrimination in blogs on the internet mainly, but I also support the LGB+T community at home! This may be considered by some a small contribution but I do what I can with the time that I have.

The fact of the matter is we need our anger! Since it is pointless to keep waiting for the world to change, it’s our responsibility to create that change and anger, though unwanted, gives us the means to confront the opposition!

One day we will have no need of anger and the will of civilized rational people will overcome the menace of ignorance at all levels of society. Until that day comes we must “Shine like the Sun” from now on and after!

Brianna Harris | August 10, 2008 1:02 AM

As several folks have mentioned, alot of the anger within the Trans community these days is bound in frustration. We, constantly, are marginalized by everyone including those who are supposed to be our allies. I spent 42 years trying to figure out how best to express the woman inside me thus living honestly and authentically. Need I say that this has been no easy task, pushing me to the brink of suicide on more than one occasion. That path led me through Gender Reassignment Surgery, electrolysis, therapy etc etc. I was fortunate to have the funds available to borrow against my 401K since, as the powers that be tell me "you're nuts(as stated in the DSM IV)but you're not nuts enough for your insurance to cover your treatment. (Personally I don't feel I'm anymore deranged than anybody else) but still that pisses me off! So...I take a huge loan against my 401K (which I'll be paying off indefinitely) to cover the expense of my surgery. Naturally, I deduct this uncovered medical expense from my taxes and... SURPRISE! The IRS in their infinite medical wisdom tells me "Nope, not a legitimate medical expense...this is cosmetic, unnecessary surgery".Believe me, if this surgery was not absolutely and totally necessary for my well-being you can bet that I would have avoided it like the plague!!! So now I face an audit because the IRS, along with everyone else, is telling me that this condition with which I have grappled for 40 of my 47 years on this Earth, is not "legitimate"....just a figment of my imagination. THAT pisses me off!!! Know what I say to that......... BULLSHIT, try being me for a day and see if your opinion changes.

MonicaHelms | August 10, 2008 9:28 AM

Make sure you have the recent AMA resolution and the recent WPATH announcement that both give you ammunition to counter the "cosmetic" BS that has now been proven nothing more than institutionalized discrimination. Fight them SOBs.

Yes, this is another thing that makes me angry.

Brianna Harris | August 10, 2008 12:14 PM

Yes, thanks Monica. I responded to the IRS "inquiry" in June and was told that it could be 6 months or more before they even look at what I sent them. Included in the material I responded with was some of the info you mentioned along with letters from therapists etc stating that GRS, for me, was absolutely necessary. I've also spoken with a couple of folks at GLAAD wrt my case and Rhiannons' which is still in judicial limbo a year later. We'll see if the judge in Rhiannons' case does the right thing.... if not, I'll be the next one in line. Of course, it is extremely frustrating to have to justify myself and my medical condition to some dolt at the IRS who thinks he knows better than me and my therapists. Would they deny someone a deduction or make them justify surgery for breast cancer...I think not. Again....this really pisses me off. Is my anger unjustified? Again, I think not.

Anger is our friend. Anger helps keep us targeted at the true source of the problems we face, which is the stupidity and narrow-mindedness of the world at large--as opposed to internalizing the bile thrown at us, & coming to believe that what *we* are is the problem. Righteous rage is a VERY healthy response to unwarranted assault IMO. Own it, use it, revel in it!

An observation: I have seen depression defined as rage turned inward. Many of us over the years had to live with deep and profound depression, and just getting up in the morning was a struggle, and our days went down from there.

I would submit that when our anger has no outlet, that it is turned inward, and even when we experience love and joy, these emotions are tainted by depression and they are diminished.

Someone important to me has helped me realize this and move beyond the depression that was a constant companion to me. Emotions I have now are truly genuine, and that even includes anger.

But I am afraid that we in the trans community all too often mistake anger for action. We all have seen vitriolic comments in some of these blogs lashing out at various organizations, groups and persons, but to what effect? Making these vicious remarks may help us vent and by doing so we feel better, but what has been accomplished? Yes, it gets us attention, but does it bring us any closer to the day when discrimination and transbigotry will end?

I would say no. In fact all the ranting and raving we do sometimes impedes our making any progress on the vital issues we have in our day to day lives.

I would suggest that a better course of action would be to simply take a step back, take a deep breath, and ask ourselves what we can do about the situation? The quotation, "It's better to light one candle than to curse the darkness," may apply here. If all of us took a moment to light a candle, maybe the world would see the light and it would be a better place for all of us.

Transgender people, like Helms, do nothing to help their cause by pouring their fury into attacks on HRC. It generates no additional votes for an inclusive ENDA, and it alienates moderate gays who are sympathetic to trans causes but realistic about the difficult of trying to pass an inclusive ENDA.

It also does nothing to further dialogue to continue to misrepresent history. While Monica complains about "the people who created [a non-inclusive ENDA," as though that happened last year, she (once again) conveniently erases three decades of work - beginning in 1974 - on federal legislation to ban anti-gay discrimination in employment. The pretenses that ENDA did not exist until last year, that its first-ever incarnation was T-inclusive, and that the Frank bill was some kind of never-before-seen perversion are all propaganda that insult the intelligence of everyone who knows the three-decade-long history of the struggle over this bill.

Lastly, Monica's column, though sympathetic, doesn't convey any information that people don't already know. As insulting as the propaganda is the assumption by people like Monica that anyone who questions her political strategy must just be ignorant of trans issues. Plenty of us are not ignorant of trans issues and, in fact, support trans equality. But while Monica is assuming we all need to be educated about trans issues, she and others who take her position never, ever address the real issue. They never, ever explain (1) how they plan to secure the additional votes necessary to pass the inclusive ENDA, including how they plan to get the votes of conservative Southern Democrats or at-risk Democrats in Republican-leaning districts, or (2) how long they believe the community should hold hostage the rights of gay workers in Utah, Texas, Michigan, Florida, and elsewhere in an attempt to pass only a T-inclusive ENDA.

Until Monica and others forthrightly address these crucial issues, their advocacy will remain utterly ineffective because they fail to recognize that ignorance about trans issues isn't the problem. The problem is the complete absence of any realistic strategy for passing a T-inclusive bill in the near future and any justification for telling gay workers, who are suffering just as badly as T workers in plenty of instances, to suffer for another decade even though we might be able to enact some initial legislation to help them now.

So Monica and others can continue to assume that the problem is the ignorance of others and can continue to "educate" people who already are educated. The result will be no change whatsoever in the dynamics on this issue. If they want to persuade some of us, then give us the specifics on how they plan to get the votes of conservative Democrats.

Until then, I've heard all the whining about HRC I care to hear.

It seems you have taken a simple premis and turned it into a political statement. I didn't write this to bitch at HRC again. I just pointed out the things that anger trans people. Seems pretty simple to me, and to all the trans people who read it.

It seems you read nothing of the article except on the stuff about HRC. There is no political agenda about me pointing out things like all the court cases that have gone sour for trans people, all the job discrimination we are facing, all the deaths on the Remembering Our Dead list, and all the violence trans people have faced. Where's all of that in your long comment?

In the context of this article, I can care less about the number of votes needed to pass ENDA, HRC's actions or Barney Frank's transphobia. That is for a different article and maybe by a different person. You can easily cut and paste this comment on one of those articles. It's not going anywhere.

And yes, LGB and straight people DO need educated on why trans people get angry. Apparently, you are still one of them.


What misrepresentation of ENDA are you speaking of? The history overall of the general effort, or this particular most recent Bill?

What is the history to you -- what, specifically, do you feel is being misrepresented?

What propaganda are you referring to, specifically? Why is that propaganda insulting?

As for Votes, how many do you think were needed to pass the inclusive Bill? How many did the non-inclusive one pass by? To what do you attribute the differences? How many votes did the non-inclusive bill already have going into committee? How many sponsors? How many sponsors for the non-inclusive one?

I can directly answer number 2, now, for myself: Until the 10+ years in most cases for just the T protections is reduced to parity. Transfolks have been held hostage that long on average everywhere else.

Which segues rather nicely into the next point you make about LGB folks still suffering. The majority of the population in the United states is covered by SO laws. The majority of the Population is not covered by GI/GE laws. Transfolk require money and employment *simply to be who they are*. LGB folks do not. It does not cost money to come out of the closet for any of us, but LGB folks aren't required to spend money for treatments in order to be who they are. I find that, alone, to be a significantly distressing point that increases the importance when combined with the other factor to make it *worthwhile* towards the combined effort of gaining those protections elsewhere for the T first, to reach parity, and then finishing, in tandem, the last part.

And I do not live where there are such protections.

I once felt that the LGB already knew enough about T issues because here, there's tremendous support on the surface. But when you dig deeper, ask questions f the "rank and file" LGB person, they know even less than the average "straight" person.

You may be educated on the issues (but simply not see things the same way for various reasons), but it has been my experience that unless they have had close contact with a t person, most folks, regardless of SO, haven't a clue beyond the most vague stereotypes -- and those are almost always white, late transitioner ones.

So I will await the answers tot he questions I posed earlier to you, and see what comes down the road.

Until then, I don't see anything that she needs to apologize for.

jayinchicago | August 22, 2008 3:13 PM

and any justification for telling gay workers, who are suffering just as badly as T workers in plenty of instances

How could that be possibly true? Do gay people regularly have their sexual orientation outted by no match letters from the social security administration? do gay people have to worry about former names making them look like a security risk? do employers have to worry about bathroom issues for gay people?

I have been unemployed for nearly 2 years at this point. Do you know what it is like to try to get a job when one can't afford (and insurance refuses to cover) the very surgeries the state deems necessarily to change social security gender? Can you imagine if one's sexual orientation was available to anyone who wanted to pay for an employment background check?

How can I be assured that getting a non-inclusive ENDA passed will pave the way for a gender inclusive one? How can I be sure that the very people who are willing to throw me under the bus now will come back for me "later"?

Not one word in my post demonstrated any lack of understanding of trans issues, and I resent Monica's reckless slander. As one who has actively supported trans measures at the state, local, and workplace levels, I demand an apology.

Monica does not get to serve up misleading spin about ENDA and then demand that no one challenge her on it because her post wasn't "about ENDA."

Nothing in Monica's post addressed either her own misstatements about the history of ENDA or the crucial questions of strategy. Nor did anything easily locatable in the link she provided.

Give me a realistic strategy for passing the T-inclusive bill next year, and I'm willing to support it because the need is great. So far, however, I see no realistic strategy for passage. All I see is a lot of distortion, denial, invective, and slander. If that's all there is, I'm content to continue supporting the traditional version of ENDA that doesn't piggyback trans issues onto gay issues and try to address both simultaneously.

So, I take it that you must be trans if you feel that you know more about our issues then we do?

By the way, I will not apologize. You are demonstrating exactly why I wrote the article.

No, Monica, I am not trans, I do not know more about being trans than transfolk do, nor did I ever claim to. If you can't respond to what's actually in my comment, please keep your snarky retorts to yourself.

While I do not know more about being trans than you, I was already well familiar with everything you described in your post. The fact that I disagree with your ENDA position does not mean I don't know anything about trans issues, contrary to your faulty and self-serving assumption that allows you to dodge substantive discussion of ENDA by attacking people as ignorant bigots. In addition to the things you did mention, you might also have mentioned restroom controversies in the workplace - including a bad Minnesota court decision on the subject - federal efforts since 9/11 to effectively override state control of sex designation, the failure of jails and prisons to effectively accommodate transgender people, anti-trans biblical interpretations that are even more strained than anti-gay ones, the refusal of insurance companies to cover sex correction surgery, and any number of issues that - shockingly! - I happen to already be aware of even though I'm not trans. Of course, you also failed to mention something that undermines your ENDA position: recent federal court victories for trans workers under existing laws.

One thing I'm not aware of, though, is any realistic political strategy for passing a T-inclusive ENDA in the near future. Without that, I won't support killing a good bill that has been pending for decades (the traditional ENDA) merely because it isn't perfect (i.e. doesn't include gender identity language). And your continuing evasion shows that you don't have a good answer to the crucial strategy questions, which in turn makes your self-righteous indigance about ENDA completely unjustified.

But by all means, please persist in slandering someone who is usually your ally and go ahead pretending that no one could ever disagree with your ENDA position for any reason other than ignorance or bigotry. You'll really win over House and Senate majorities with that tactic.

I'll give you an analogy to make my point. I'm not an African American, but I have been involved in several events in supporting their issues. But, I wouldn't have the nads to think I could tell African Americans they don't know anything about their issues, that they are wrong on their anger and that they have no reason to have any anger. You think they won't get angry with me for telling them that. You bet they would.

Just because we are lowly trannies, you feel you have the right to tell us what we can be angry about or that we are wrong on being angry? Don't be surprise if we get angry with you for your arrogant remarks.

No remark in any of my comments remotely tells any trans person what to think or feel.

Nothing in any of my comments told anyone what to think or feel. And the question whether gay workers have their bill postponed for a decade is not a trans issue. Stop posturing, Monica.

Few points:

1 - Still waiting on answers to my earlier questions.

2 - Not that many insurance companies refuse to cover srs. They simply do not always present that option to the employers and many employers refuse that.

3 - What would *you* consider a realistic strategy?

1 - Monica wrote about people "becom[ing] upset with a non-inclusive ENDA and the people who created it and supported it. For all practical purposes the supporters of that bill are saying to the unemployed trans person that their situation doesn't matter."

The second sentence is an example of what I now see is Monica's unbecoming tactic of just pretending to have been victimized by anyone who disagrees with her. Saying that support doesn't seem to exist right now to pass a trans bill is not remotely the same as saying anti-trans discrimination doesn't matter.

The first sentence distorts the history by deliberately erasing everything before the fall of 2007. The traditional ENDA bill developed over decades, beginning in 1974, and never had any trans language until 2007. It was thoroughly revised in the early 1990s to strip out previous things, like housing rights, that were thought to impede its passage. The philosophy was to have a simple workplace bill that avoided anything controversial and to enact it as quickly as possible. Later, it was fine-tuned further in response to criticisms from specific members of Congress in an attempt to ensure it could gain the necessary votes of some moderate Republicans.

The trans language was then plopped into the bill in 2007 with none of that extended development or attention to enactability. It was done so, moreover, despite the clear indications from not just Barney Frank but Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, and other leading Democrats that the bill couldn't be passed if that new language were added. But the Frank bill of 2007 was nothing but another version of the same traditional ENDA that had been developed over the preceding decades. No one suddenly "created" a non-trans ENDA in 2007. Claiming that trans people were suddenly removed in 2007 is a bit of propaganda that has been repeatedly used in discussions of ENDA.

3 - I doubt that there is a realistic strategy for passing a trans workplace bill now, just as there was no realistic strategy for passing a gay workplace bill in the 1980s and 1990s. You can't wave a wand and make it pass simply because it's good legislation that addresses a compelling problem.

One possibility might be to simply include some very low-profile gender identity language in the definition of "sexual orientation," and pass it that way. That's how a number of state and local laws cover trans workers. It isn't ideal, but it minimizes attention and controversy and gets some protection passed quickly. It can be improved later.

Otherwise, I would pass the traditional ENDA quickly, assuming that becomes possible next year, since quick passage was what it was designed for. And since it has been stripped down for quick passage, I would come back several years from now and expand it to include not only trans protection but housing rights and other things that have been stripped from the current bill. The federal laws prohibiting race, sex, age, and disability discrimination have been repeatedly amended since they were first enacted, and ENDA will be no different.

I'm willing to hear other ideas if there is some realistic strategy for passing a trans-inclusive ENDA now. But I haven't heard one, and I haven't heard anyone even trying to articulate one.

What I reject, though, is the vindictive indifference that says we should just make a lesbian who is suffering harassment in her Alabama factory job wait as much as 10 or 15 years simply to make sure that no lesbian or gay man ever gets any measure of federal workplace protection before any trans person does. Funny, when courts in some places have ruled that sex discrimination laws protect trans workers, I've been delighted, even though the same laws don't protect gay workers. It's progress that protects at least somebody!

The idea that that Alabama lesbian can just painless and costlessly come out is so preposterous, by the way, as to merit no reply.

I still haven't seen you answering any of dyssonance's questions. Too difficult?

The Alabama analogy is a smoke screen that doesn't fly with another Southerner, like myself. The gay people here in the South have rejected HRC's transphobic attitude. (Atlanta Pride Committee, is an example.) We all had to come up together in the South at a much later date than those GL people in the West, Midwest and Northeast areas. When we did that, trans people were included right off the bat and haven't been left out since. So, your fictitious gay and lesbian factor workers in Alabama would be more trans supportive then you seem to be.

Again, the article had nothing to do with ENDA or HRC. Why are so fixated on them? And, you didn't read the article I posted a link to. However, YOU have provided a very good example on why trans people are so angry. Thank you for making the article so very relevant. I couldn't have done it without you.

This post is about to fade into the Archives. I won't read any of the comments after that, so the rest of you can argue with Steve all you want. Until my next Guest Post. Bye.

Well, Steve, although you answered only a couple of my several questions, and avoided the most important ones, I'll give ya a bit longer to answer, and keep going.

First off, you are incorrect. ENDA has had GI/GE in it several times previously, it simply has never been *introduced as a bill* with it until 2007. Indeed, several times over the last several years, ENDA has included transfolks in the development and drafting of the bill, only to have it removed. The most recent example being just a few years ago, where, again, the HRC was directly involved in admitted activity which had as its purpose the goal of simply getting the bill to the floor. They jettisoned trans stuff then, as well.

And that the reason it was so important for the HRC to back it this time was the events of that last one.

So, if you want to talk about misrepresenting the bill, be aware that you will be held to the same standard.

Something you would be aware of if you truly were up on trans issues instead of merely voicing some sort of a grudge against Monica and the trans community.

Nor is she pretending. My own job hunt last year, spanning May through December and over 1200 applications, would have been directly and personally affected by such a bill -- and I *needed* a job -- any job, didn't matter what, and I wasn't being picky or anything, I'd have taken less than minimum wage.

Now, *why* do you think a job is, literally, the equivalent of life to a transperson. That's not a exaggeration, either, and is a fair question.

You said that it wasn't worth replying to: so why isn't it? What is it about that comparative you find so beneath notice and comment?

I mean, I was able to "come out" as a transsexual and spend no money. But to live as a woman, I have medical costs that even if I could get srs covered would not be treated as equivalent. Hormones, therapy, electrolysis, clothing, basic self care products, and more all cost money. Thousands. No, tens of thousands.

To live as one's self is not free for a transsexual. And since there are no social services and no agencies that cover these things, and no one to do them for free, a transperson *must* do something.

Would you prefer they continue to be forced into survival sex work?

Got news for ya: more than a few have seen these hurdles to be overcome without family, without friends, without support, and said a bullet is a better solution.

far more than a few.

So, again, what is it that was said that was so incorrect that you dismiss it as an invalid guilt trip, and then say that its no different?

There *is* a realistic strategy. It is to Remember that the T includes *everyone else*. So when you leave the T behind, you leave gay men, lesbian women, straight men and women, bisexual men and women, and everyone and everything else that isn't reasonably conforming behind.

Because the T includes gay men, and lesbian women, and bisexual men and women, and straight men and women. All of whom cannot be covered solely by Sexual Orientation.

And all of whom have done the waiting already of 10+ years for GI/GE to be added in your little "we'll come back when its easier". Bad news -- you don't. You don't want to wait 10+ years for everyone, while we've been waiting 10+ years for you to come back in places you've already won it.

And you think we should *keep* waiting when you don't have the patience we've had thus far?

So your realistic strategy is *do this for all of us right the f now*, or don't even bother. Not a pleasant thought, and its not *easy*, but, as was always said when I grew up: taking the easy way always gets you there last.

You see I reject the vindictive indifference that says I and other T's can wait *another* 10 or 15 years simply to make sure that only *some LGB people* ever gets a measure of federal workplace protection before I do. I've waited that 10 or 15 years already. Because that alabama factory job isn't even *open* to me.

Yeah, courts have ruled in some places that we are covered under title 9. Funny, courts have ruled in other places, and with stronger and more widely used precedent, that we aren't. Expressly. Until a case hits and is accepted by SCOTUS, its a crap shoot, and there's no telling which way it will go.

Oh, yeah, and the overwhelming majority of transfolk don't even have access to that option simply because they can't get a job to even pay for their own ability to become themselves.

Not to come out. COming out is free. But to live as yourself when you are a transsexual? Uh uh. Money, honey.

Wow. Now, you are a sharp guy, so tell me, hon: what sort of progress is it?

Monica said I could do as I will with ya, but I suspect you won't be around to answer questions or go forward with this.


One thing I'm not aware of, though, is any realistic political strategy for passing a T-inclusive ENDA in the near future.
I can think of one - refusing to accept a non-inclusive bill. Otherwise a T-inclusive bill will languish for many decades. Look at the situation in Mass. or Wisconsin. To me "near future" means "within 12 years". I don't see McCain signing it in the next 8.

I appreciate Zoe's candor.

But Mass. and Wis. are not persuasive examples, even though trans activists cling to them in these debates. In Mass., it is already illegal to discriminate against trans employees under either a sex or disability discrimination theory. No new legislation has been necessary. As for Wis., it has, sadly, become far more right wing since it passed a gay-rights law. The same gay-rights law probably couldn't even pass there today.

On the other hand, several states and a significant number of municipalities that originally enacted gay-only laws have gone back in recent years and added trans protections. Incrementalism is not the dead end that you suggest.

As for McCain, it's not clear at all what he'd do if hate crimes or ENDA were sent to him attached to some other bill that he didn't want to veto. He's not particularly beholden to the religious right. Of course, if Obama wins, he'd obviously sign whatever ENDA Congress could pass.

I don't agree with you willingness to delay a bill that otherwise could probably pass. The four-decade wait from 1974 to 2010 has been far too long already. If McCain is more adamantly anti-gay than he seems and gets two terms, fine. Maybe a T-inclusive bill can pass after that. But I hope he isn't elected.

This is incorrect, steve.

Massachusetts is not covered by rulings, as those rulings only apply in federal cases -- locally, the law is without value, and the discrimination is untouched as a result.

As for disability claims, sorry, no. The ADA specifically excludes us.

And you *still* haven't answered the questions I asked of you -- originally or in the last round.

I do understand your point, rather well, but there is no value for anyone in what you seek.

So you can learn:

191 co-sponsors for the inclusive bill.
9 co-sponsors for the non-inclusive one.

216 Votes to pass it.

They had in excess of that number.

Even assuming the 10% drop in sponsors, the inclusive bill would have passed, had it come to a vote.

Barney Frank, et al Lied.

And you are passing it on.

Steve, I am a transgender woman. My partner is a gay man. I'd like us both to be protected by ENDA. Now, if the only way to pass ENDA was without trans protections, then I'd be disappointed - but something is better than nothing and I want to see my partner's rights protected and sure, I'd take an imperfect bill over nothing. (My gay boyfriend, on the other hand, has said he'd be very upset if they passed a bill that didn't include transgender protections.) ** However ** what angers me about what happened last year is that the bill wasn't going to become law anyway, because George Bush was going to veto it, regardless of whether it was inclusive of trans folks or not. So it's really a symbolic bill. And if you're going to push for a symbolic bill, you might as well get it right and include everyone in it.

As far as strategies for passing an inclusive bill, this is where HRC needs to step up to the plate. They have the resources to fight back against some of the stereotyping and hate-mongering being pushed from the religious right, and they have at least *some* access to Congress, and they can have conversations with members of Congress about how transgender protections are important and are a key part of HRC's legislative agenda.

Unfortunate as it is, members of Congress are more likely to listen to gay lobbyists than trans lobbyists, because gay lobbyists are considered more mainstream. So - IMO, what needs to happen to pass an inclusive ENDA is for the HRC to have a change of heart and make it a priority to have conversations with wavering members of Congress about trans protections. They know how to lobby, that's what they do; they have only lobbied about trans rights peripherally -- when they make trans rights front and center, then we can start gaining votes for an inclusive ENDA.

And once we see the HRC pushing HARD for trans rights, I think you'll see a lot of the transgender community come around and start supporting them. And politics is about compromise, and I think many trans people will be willing to compromise and work with HRC for incremental changes once we know they are working hard for us and that they have our backs. But we need to see them working hard for our rights first. So far HRC hasn't done that. We need to see it to believe it.

vivian, I agree with just about everything in your comment.

The only thing I'd add, however, is that, as you undoubtedly know, HRC is being villified by some trans advocates because it won't vow to kill any bill that does not include trans language no matter what the political circumstances. I doubt that those advocates would accept your concession that politics might ever involve compromise.

For what it's worth, I'm no less pragmatic and incrementalist when it comes to gay issues. I adamantly oppose Lambda Legal's marriage-or-nothing litigation strategy, which has been a predictable disaster everywhere but California. In my view, civil unions or domestic partnerships are an acceptable interim reform that can be upgraded to marriage later.

I do have one more comment.

Since Steve couldn't provide the figures that dyssonance asked for, I figured I would provide some from the TAVA Survey. Keep in mind that not everyone who took the survey answered every question.

-- Have you ever been fired from a job for being a transgender or an intersex person? “Yes” – 126 out of 823 = 15.3%

-- Have you been fired more than once for being a transgender or an intersex person? "Yes” – 56 out of 820 = 6.8%

-- Have you ever been told you are being fired or not hired for being a transgender or an intersex person? “Yes” – 77 out of 815 = 9.4%

-- Have you ever worked as a sex worker because you could not find a job? “Yes” – 40 out of 819 = 4.9%

-- Have you ever resorted to illegal activities to have an income? “Yes” – 85 out of 813 = 10.5%

-- Have you ever faced any forms of discrimination on the job? “Yes” – 256 out of 814 = 31.4%

-- Have you ever faced any forms of discrimination other than job-related? “Yes” – 250 out of 801 = 31.2%

Keep in mind that these were transgender veterans. It is just as common in the rest of the community, and maybe even worse. Who say we want to wait for a fully inclusive ENDA? Not me and not those who took our survey.

Here's a strategy for you.

*An inclusive ENDA with the words 'gender or perceived gender' in the text of the bill language.

*No deals to cut that language.

*HRC and Barney browbeating and twisting arms to pass the inclusive bill the same way they did on the non-inclusive bill last fall while we do our part to flood Congress with phone calls urging passage of the bill.

*Barney/HRC or both handing over to the transgender community the list of Congresscritters they claim need to be educated on ENDA so they can be lobbied..

Since ENDA, I have encountered many incrementalists, often at the same time I encounter those for whom anonymity allows them free reign to express their sentiments.

I happen to be an incrementalist, myself. But I am also aware that when you leave a fallen soldier to die on a battle filed for incremental gains, you leave a part of why you were seeking that gain.

Steve, you seem to have realized that we know far more about this than you do. You avoid questions, you dance around points, and you insist on things that have been put out as true that simply are not.

You haven't realized yet why it is that in this *one* area, Transfolk are not only not going to back down, but they are more uniform on this one subject than anything else.

I've already described why, previously.

We fight for the rights of LGBT people, not merely Trans, because we can do nothing but fight for all since that T contains all the rest.

We are tired of living in fear and despair.

We will not do it any longer.

No, dyssonance, I stopped responding because (a) I'm not your student researcher here to answer every rhetorical question you dream up as a propagandizing tactic, (b) your mind is completely closed so that dialogue with you is pointless, and (c) you are a generally unpleasant human being on whom I won't waste any more time. I trust that clears up any lingering confusion you might have. Good luck preaching to your choir.


I do not ask rhetorical questions.


If I ask a question, it is because I want to hear the answer. I do ask *hard* questions, though -- always have, and always will.

My mind is anything but closed -- but I am not an easy sell, and I do my own homework and due diligence. If you want to make a point with me it needs to have an underlying basis that proves itself, and you need to be able to support your position.

Unpleasant, well, I can't fault you for holding an opinion that many who've come across me have held. I do not stop, and I do not back down, and I do not give up.

The funny thing is, I hear the exact same thing from people all the time. They are usually the sort that are involved in insulting me, personally, and they typically seem to forget that its not about *me* but about the discussion.

As Monica can attest, I do this to pretty much anyone, so there is no choir here for me. I'm not looking for the pay answers or the simple thoughts or the easy ways.

I'm after something deeper and of greater import and lasting value, and that means, often, asking questions in order to understand another person's position and statements better.

I asked fair questions. Yes, I structure them carefully -- don't you? Isn't that necessary to achieve communication?

You made statements, I asked, and yeah, I knew the answers already. Like I said, I'd done my due diligence. Not because I just felt like making you look bad, but because you know what, if you've got different numbers, I'd like to see them.

Am I adversarial? Oh, hell yeah. Call it leftover male privilege or the result of decades of learning about being a partial member of race and having to justify my claiming of my cultures.

Either way, its not evidence that I'm close minded, just as your unwillingness to answer the questions does not show you as being closeminded.

SO no confusion on this end. Just sadness.


My appreciation for your insightful essay is only surpassed by my own embarrassment in seeing the date you penned it (over a year ago?), but please consider this a "better late than never" thank you for once again speaking out on a very common "inconvenient truth" of trans-reality.

Well done, sis.