Rebecca Juro

Mean Times

Filed By Rebecca Juro | November 08, 2008 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: LGBT unity, marriage equality, politics, transgender

So, the election is over and like so many in our community I'm still not sure whether to be happy, sad, both, or neither.

Not only did our guy win, but the Democrats took virtually complete control of Congress, reducing the Republican influence of the political agenda of our federal government to its smallest in decades. In New York, Democrats took control of their state Senate for the first time in forty years, clearing the way for transgender rights and probably same-sex marriage as well.

Barney Frank told us we'd need at least a 15 seat Democratic pickup to make an inclusive ENDA passable, and latest estimates indicate that gain was at least 20. More openly LGBT and pro-LGBT officials were elected all over the country than ever before in our history. All great news to be sure, all reasons to hope.

And then, there's the other stuff. Three more states have now banned same-sex marriage, including California, which not only wrote a ban into its state constitution but defied its own high court ruling that banning such marriages was not constitutionally permissible, thus taking away rights gay and lesbian Californians already enjoyed. I guess what gets me most about this is that two of the three states that voted to discriminate against gay and lesbians also voted for Barack Obama.

It's not a coincidence that mailers that went out to Californians in support of Prop 8 included pictures of Obama and his statement that he did not support same-sex marriage. While of course the lion's share of responsibility here lies at the feet of those who supported this hateful legislation, there's also one thing we must not forget, no matter how happy we are to have Barack Obama instead of John McCain as our incoming President: They couldn't have used it if he hadn't said it in the first place.

No matter where the blame is to be properly cast, however, there's one thing that's undeniable: Voting for Obama (and his inclusive agenda) but against treating gay and lesbian people equally under the law is hypocrisy of the first order. At the same time, not only is it hypocritical and wrong, it's just plain mean.

As anyone who lives in a state where either same-sex marriage or civil unions are or have been legal knows well, the legal status of committed homosexual relationships has zero impact on those who are not in committed homosexual relationships. Zero, nil, nada, none whatsoever. Californians know this because they had same-sex marriage for six months before the election. California did not break off and fall into the Pacific Ocean during this time, nor did an angry divine being smite the west coast (or New England, for that matter). Children didn't begin being indoctrinated into homosexuality (as if such a thing were possible) in California schools. Preachers were not jailed for speaking against homosexuality. No church was forced to perform any marriage ceremonies they didn't wish to. While I'm certainly willing to be corrected should I be wrong, I'm also not aware of a single heterosexual marriage or family unit disintegrating as a result of gay people having the ability to get married during this time.

So, if we logically assume that the ability of gays and lesbians to get married has no real impact on the lives and families of those not inclined to enter into such relationships and that Californians know this because they have experienced it for themselves, we must also therefore assume that the true motivations for voters to strip this right from gay and lesbian Californians isn't about concern for their own families but rather nothing more valid than expressing their personal distaste for gays and lesbians in general and a desire to punish them for being different from themselves. You'd think racial and ethnic minority groups like African-Americans and Latinos which voted for Prop 8 in significant majorities would know better, wouldn't you? Apparently they don't, or at the very least, they don't care to.

I feel like I should have the right to be happy about what happened on Tuesday. Looking at the results strictly from a transgender perspective, I'd have to say we did pretty well. The prospects for an inclusive ENDA appear to be significantly improved, hate crimes is even more of a slam dunk then it was before, and it's reasonable to expect New York's legislature will move to protect its transgender citizens in fairly short order. If that was all I cared about I wouldn't be able to help but see Tuesday as a massive win for our community and the clearest indication yet that our futures as Americans are brighter than ever.

I just can't do it, though. I can't cheer with a full heart for myself and those like myself while others are being persecuted and excluded from fair and equal treatment under the law for no good reason at the same time. I can't take joy in victory when in order to do so I'd have to ignore the very real plight of others who are no less entitled to the full rights and benefits of American citizenship than I am.

And yet, despite it all, I cannot help but have hope. In just 74 days we'll have a Congress that can (hopefully) actually get something done on our issues and a President who will be a help instead of a hindrance in that effort. We can look forward to the appointment of US Supreme Court justices who will be more rather than less inclined to make decisions that help to guarantee equality and fairness for all Americans under our laws. We can also look forward to the issue of same-sex marriage eventually making it to the USSC (hopefully after Obama has had the chance to appoint at least one or two justices).

In the meantime, I know what I'm going to do. Like so many insisted on doing when gay rights used to be perceived as more politically palatable than transgender rights, I'm going to fight for what is possible, fully inclusive LGBT workplace protections and hate crimes laws, and prepare for the day when same-sex marriage is more politically palatable. I won't be a hypocrite and celebrate our victories in moving the cause of transgender rights forward when so many others have been forced to take a step backward, but I'm certainly not going to let the get in the way of getting what we can.

While I know it may sound to some like this rationale is something one would find in an HRC press release, there's one key difference: When an inclusive ENDA finally does pass, it will protect all of us. When the hate crimes bill becomes law, all LGBT Americans will be covered by it. When New York passes GENDA all LGBT New Yorkers will enjoy protection from discrimination. No one will be left behind. I can fight for these things with a full heart because I know it's fighting to protect all of us. Just as I and so many other transpeople demand inclusion for ourselves so too must we demand it for all of us or it isn't inclusion at all but rather the exclusion of those left behind.

Now is our time. We must take advantage of what is now possible because we don't know if we'll ever see such an opportunity again in our lifetimes. If there was ever a time for all of us to put aside our differences and work toward our common achievable goals, it's upon us now and we must rise to meet it, swiftly and enthusiastically.

There will be a day for same-sex marriage in America, a day when all loving and committed human relationships will be recognized as equal to those of heterosexuals across our nation. Sadly, we know, even if we are loathe to admit it, that day is still far in the future. Fully inclusive protections against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations, hate crimes protections, the repeals of DOMA and DADT, these are the things we now have a real chance of seeing become reality soon, but only if we band together and work in concert to make it happen. In doing so, not only do we serve our own immediate goals, but we also continue the work of creating a country where same-sex marriage will be a reality nationwide someday, a country where discrimination against LGBT people will be as looked down upon by American society as discrimination based upon race and ethnicity is now.

Perhaps for the first time ever, I find myself offering a quote from an unexpected source, but one that hits the nail right on the head:

"...But make no mistake: I do not think we have to audition for equality. Rather, I believe that each and every one of us who has been hurt by this hateful ballot measure, and each and every one of us who is still fighting to be equal, has to confront the neighbors who hurt us. We have to say to the man with the Yes on 8 sign--you disrespected my humanity, and I am not giving you a pass. I am not giving you a pass for explaining that you tolerate me, while at the same time denying that my family has a right to exist. I do not give you permission to say you have me as a "gay friend" when you cast a vote against my family, and my rights."

-HRC Executive Director Joe Solmonese on the passage of California's Proposition 8

That goes for all of us, Joe, in all of the ways we fight against hate and intolerance, in all of the ways we work toward a more fair and just America.

All of us, all the time, with no one ever left behind.

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Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | November 8, 2008 7:56 PM

Well said, Rebecca. I think you mix the reality of valid and passionately felt disappointment and resentment with a sense of hope, with a not insubstial pinch of political realism for the future of marriage equality thrown in for good measure.

It will be interesting to see how the increased Democratic representation in Congress affects the chances of passage of a trans-inclusive ENDA. Much I think may depend on the ultimate makeup of the Senate. Though things could change, my guess is that the number of Democrats (or those who would vote with the Democratic caucus...maybe including Joe Leiberman, maybe not at this point) will fall short of the 60 to head off a filibuster would undoubtedly would be mounted by rabidly anti-LGBT senators. So eyes will be on Senate moderates like those from Maine to invoke the end of debate.

As to the prospects for Congressional/federal legislation concerning marriage equality, I have my doubts as to whether or not any part of DOMA will be repealed outright. I would think, however, that here and there such things as including same-sex couples in federal employee retirement benefits, the trick perhaps being as to whether or not to define their relationship in terms of only those states recognizing same-sex marriage or civil unions, or to attempt some kind of federal registry of domestic partners.

"Politics is the art of the possible", a song from "Evita" proclaims. Our righteous idealism cannot be dimmed, but we kid ourselves if we totally dismiss some pragmatic realities.

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | November 8, 2008 8:02 PM

I, like so many other trans people, was extremely disappointed with HRC and a large portion of the GLB community over the ENDA debacle. But I donated to No on 8 and spent countless hours on message boards trying to convince people to vote in our favor.

I say "our" because, as I often feel I need to remind other trans people, not all transsexuals or transgender people are straight. I'm a gay transman. Once I am legally recognized as male, I will be unable to marry whomever I may fall in love with. Thus, I am affected by same-sex marriage laws. There are many other gay and lesbian trans people out there. Some straight trans people have also been affected by marriage laws. What this boils down to is that the state has no business scrutinizing people's sex or gender and marriage should be a gender-neutral affair.

Furthermore, it's time to unite the GLBT/Queer community and we can't do that by holding grudges. We can call HRC out on their hypocrisy and fight for same-sex marriage (in addition to our other issues) at the same time.

Anyway, just know that when you diss supposedly gay-only issues, you're dissing some of your trans brothers and sisters. Sadly, this isn't the first time I've felt marginalized within the trans community.

Wolfgang E. B. Wolfgang E. B. | November 9, 2008 3:00 PM

Sorry for the above post, Rebecca. I completely misread your article, and I shouldn't post when I'm tired and angry.

Unfortunately, I think we're going to find that the losses in FL,AZ,CA and AR are going to tilt the table against us in all the fights for queer rights, including inclusive ENDA at the federal level and gay marriage and trans rights in New York. Not only are the theofascists re-energized and refocused (on us as surprisingly easy targets in the culture wars), but our claim to have the momentum has been refuted. A lot of legislators who were on the fence but persuadable are now going to worry a lot more about hopping off on or side. And it's going to take more than sign-waving in front of a few Mormon temples to undo Tuesday's damage.

The Obama campaign made history by doing things a little bit differently this time. Maybe we should take a page from their playbook. We should go to the country on ENDA.

Hold off on introducing ENDA. Instead, stage a people's campaign. We get the traditional lobbying organizations to lobby the public instead of Congress. They get their memberships and mailing lists to write to individual Congresspersons and Senators. The letters don't go through the normal letter mill. They are individually written. They are personal letters mailed by the USPS to Representatives and Senators.

The letters don't ask for a vote on ENDA by name. They describe discrimination or an appeal to basic fairness. They say we have to protect the liberty of Americans, we have to protect their ability to earn a living and support their families.

If we get HRC, NGLTF, PFLAG, ACLU, the unions, supportive religious groups, Stonewall Democrats, Log Cabin Republicans, and as many others as we can think of on our side, we should be able to create a groundswell of support for a bill that we can all be proud of. The letters make our case for us.

I'm waiting to see if there is a transgender backlash from the defeat of same-sex marriage.

It used to be much easier to get your paperwork changed over to your new gender. A word to the right person got the gender marker on your drivers' license changed, or some would just show up with a common-law gender-appropriate name and the matching gender presentation, and the 'mistake' was 'corrected'.

Social Security was a bit harder, but a discrete call from one's doctor to a supervisor usually got the job done.

Now, it's a lot more difficult. 9/11 can be invoked as part of the reason. But some of the biggest regressions in access and/or raising of the bar to changing ones' paperwork came after previous defeats of pushes to legalize same-sex marriage.

Just a coincidence?

At the Real ID town hall, three or four speakers made the plea (for the record) that the gender marker on Real ID be based on one's original birth certificate ONLY, no changes should be allowed, ever. What this had to do with defending us from terrorism was beyond me. And these people were serious about Real ID needing to have the original, un-altered-for-any-reason birth gender marker.

Now, this doesn't have anything to do with legal-same-sex marriage. But those who voted against same-sex marriage conflate trans with gays and lesbians. We're in the same stew-pot, whether we like it or not. And sanctions against gays and lesbians can and often do fall harder on transgenders.

And same-sex marriage doesn't affect me if my orientation matches up with my gender presentation, i.e., I'm a trans-woman who prefers guys, so therefore I'm straight, right? Not so fast! Some who voted against same-sex marriage say that since I transitioned I should marry men and marrying women is wrong, Some say that because I was born with a penis, even tho it's been after-market reconfigured, I can only marry women, and some say that I don't 'deserve' to marry anybody.


So let's move on to getting an inclusive hate crimes bill into law, followed by getting an inclusive ENDA passed, signed and implemented.

Remember what Barney Frank, Chris Crain, John Aravosis and others said about civil rights legislation -- baby steps, baby steps.

We now know we can't jump the marriage equality chasm in two leaps.


Rebecca, thank you. Your article captures my bittersweet feelings exactly. I also agree with your prioritization of hate crime, and inclusive ENDA first.

I do, however, tend to agree with the posters above who believe that Tuesday's election results makes Hate crimes and ENDA harder to pass or at the very best a much lower legislative priority. We used to argue that no one ever lost an election support trans and/or gay laws. That still may be true but is a much harder argument to make.
Laura Hart

Rebecca, You are right on target with your post! I wonder if our Gay Friends feel like we did when we were dropped from ENDA and the HRC went along with that? Maybe we in the LBGT community can get together and work together to eliminate blatant discrimination toward us? Regina

The Time for Waiting is Over!
The Time for Action is NOW!

(Oklahoma City) A recent joint press release from Equality California, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center , and the San Diego Gay and Lesbian Center is counseling that ""We achieve nothing if we isolate the people who did not stand with us in this fight. We only further divide our state if we attempt to blame people of faith, African American voters, rural communities and others for this loss."

I disagree completely. No longer, no longer, no longer must religion be used as the cudgel to separate any person from their legal rights of fair treatment and protection under the law.

I walked by a religious proselytizer today in downtown Oklahoma City. I had seen him yesterday when he made a speech for Gee-sus on the bus I was riding. Today, though, he was on the sidewalk and said to me, "Did you know God loves you?"

I looked him in the eye for a few seconds and replied, "F*** off!", and walked away.

I've never acted that way to a stranger before and depending on the perceived physical danger to me, it won't be the last time I respond to an uninvited encounter with a proselytizer.

Religion has and continues to be the major block to the implementation of rights for gay/lesbian citizens because of what we do in private and who we love in public.

Religion was the chain around the necks of slaves, it's been the chastity belt forced on women's reproductive choice, and it's been the closed book preventing the age-appropriate teaching of responsible sexual information to children.

Religion instructs the empty-headed to fear our differentness, to treat us with disrespect--and with barely concealed contempt--to encourage violence against our property and bodies.

We gays/lesbians are far too complacent, accepting, and willing in our own disenfranchisement from our birth right as citizens.

I welcome the peaceful protests in California and elsewhere that are demanding the protection and benefits of the laws that are applied to others but not to us.

Our self-appointed equality leaders who counsel shyness and acceptance of a later time should act like leaders or get out of our way. The time is long past for coyness and politeness.

Dr. M. L. King said it best in his "Letter from Birmingham Jail", April 16, 1963 with this paragraph:

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant 'Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied." ( )

With the immorally presented kangaroo-court vote that passed Prop 8 in California and with other anti-gay measures in Arizona, Florida, and Arkansas, I think we gays/lesbians have waited long enough. Let the marches continue!

And as we march, let's take our chant from the newly-elected President Obama's campaign--Yes, we can!