Michael Crawford

You Don't Know Barney Frank

Filed By Michael Crawford | January 08, 2009 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Politics
Tags: Barney Frank, gay rights, inclusive ENDA and Barney Frank, New Yorker

Jeffrey Toobin has an exhaustive profile of Rep. Barney Frank in the New Yorker. Frank is the dean of gay members of Congress and widely considered the funniest member of Congress for his quick and biting sense of humor. Thumbnail image for Barney Frank.jpg

While Frank has become the congressional go to gay and all issues LGBT, his status as one of three openly gay members of Congress has taken a back seat to the credibility and influence that he has built over the years specifically on financial and economic issues. As chair of the powerful House Financial Services Committee, Frank has had a key role in the federal responses to the banking and auto industry crises.

There's nothing like a gay with real political power.

In the article Frank talks about a wide range of issues including the prospects for passing pro-LGBT legislation:

Frank is uncharacteristically hopeful about the future, including gay rights. "We're going to do three things in Congress," he told me. "First, a hate-crimes bill--that shouldn't be too hard. Next, employment discrimination. We almost got that through before, but now we can win even if we add transgender protections, which we are going to do. And finally, after the troops get home from Iraq, gays in the military. The time has come."

Frank is controversial among some in the LGBT community for his past willingness to support a version of ENDA that did not include gender identity and expression and liberal pragmatism. Whatever your opinion of Frank, you cannot deny that he knows how the game is played and his message has been clear: if we are to win LGBT equal rights then we had better get off the sidelines and get on the field prepared to fight.

Regarding ENDA Frank says "we can win even if we add transgender protections, which we are going to do." We need to hold him and the Democrats to that.

And, we need to be prepared to do the work necessary to ensure that an inclusive bill reaches Obama's desk.

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When it comes to a fully-inclusive ENDA, you can consider me a citizen of Missouri. In other words, "Show Me."

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | January 8, 2009 3:18 PM


I don't think its about "show me." I think its about we do the work to make it happen.

As you have pointed out before, we have the opportunity to make real progressive change and we can't adopt a "show me" attitude if we are going to make the possibility reality.

Frankly, Michael, we've heard it all before multiple times, and we've been sorely disappointed as the rug was pulled out from under us at the last minute each time. Counting on Barney Frank to do the right thing just because it's the right thing to do has proven to be be utterly foolish in the past, just setting oneself up to be inevitably let down later.

I sincerely hope Barney's words become reality but after all of the history, not only of the legislation but of the man himself, like Monica I will believe when I see it and not one second before.

That said, I interviewed Diego Sanchez on my show last week and was impressed with what he had to say and his confidence that Frank is for real this time. As I said in a recent piece, I do have hope, but that's not the same as having trust.

After all the history here, we would have to be idiots to take anything from Frank or the Dems in regards to our issues at face value without more than just one statement in the media.

We need more, and I think we deserve more, before we can be reasonably expected to believe anything just because Barney Frank says it's so.

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | January 8, 2009 4:07 PM


I'm not saying we should believe anything simply because Barney says it is so. I'm saying that we have the best opportunity ever to pass an inclusive ENDA and we need to work like hell to make it happen.

Diego Sanchez is an amazing addition to Barney's staff. I am known Diego for a number of years and worked with him when I was on staff at HRC. He is truly committed and exceptionally smart.

Becky, myself and hundreds of others are going to continue to do what we have done in the past, and that is to work for the fully inclusive ENDA. We have done it more times then we can count and have been screwed, blued and tatooed every time.

Barney is the cause. Diego is fantastic, Obama wants a fully-inclusive bill, more Democrats have a positive attitude toward us. BUT! And, that's a big BUT. Through all our work, we know that one jackass can, as Becky said, "Pull the rug from under us," and it's all over but the crying. We will not believe in a fully inclusive ENDA until the ink drys on Obama's signature. After that, the world can end for all we care. (Just a joke for those who have no funny bone.)

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | January 8, 2009 5:17 PM


Let me say that as you, Becky and other transgender activists are doing the work necessary to get an inclusive ENDA that you will not be doing it alone. There will hundreds and hundreds of LGB and allied people who will be working along side you.

Yeah, I know it can get tiring explaining over and over why you deserve the same legal protections that other Americans enjoy, but we have to keep the faith that the work will pay off.

Becky, have you thought about writing up summaries of your shows for bilerico? I think some interesting stuff happens on them, but not everyone has the time to listen to a two or three hour show.

Actually Alex, I'll let you and all the Projectors in on a little "secret". We've been having a little trouble getting podcast versions of the shows up.

That's really how I prefer to do it. After all, I can write up summaries and such but they'll always be my own interpretations of what was said and/or what it means. I think it's much better to post the pods, let people listen to the shows, hear guests say what they have to say in their own words, and let them make up their own minds as to what it means.

My producer Mike Scott swears that he'll have the Diego show available shortly (I don't make or edit the recordings, he does...I haven't even heard the recording of that show myself yet). As soon as it's available, I'll let people know. Diego was an awesome guest and I think people will find his perspective on Barney Frank and HRC especially interesting.

For example, when I asked Diego if he thought the trans community was being fair to HRC and Joe Solmonese, he surprised me by saying that he did. To be honest, I expected Diego to defend HRC and Joe but he didn't, not at all. I was quite impressed, even if not in full agreement, with his attitude and his take on our issues.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | January 8, 2009 3:49 PM

the credibility and influence that he has built over the years specifically on financial and economic issues.

Michael, I don't know how you (or Jeffrey Toobin, for that matter) can write such words without irony, given the current catastrophic state of our economy after 8 years of Bush/Reagon-onomics and a total lack of congressional oversight. Sure, the Dems have had a majority in Congress for only two of the 8 years, but they have been complicit in every Bush policy, from the multi-trillion-dollar Iraq war, ridiculous tax cuts for the wealthy, and free reign to the likes of Maddoff.

And have you heard? Obama now wants to leave Bush's tax cuts in place.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | January 9, 2009 5:18 PM

I don't think you're being fair here, Bryan, and I think Toobin is the more accurate. Yes, Barney's very DLC in this, too, but he's not as an extreme panderer to the Rubin dereg crowd as are, say, the Clintons.

In fact, the banking -- particularly credit -- reform measures that he and Ed Perlmutter have been championing were moving along at what, for Congress, might be considered a good pace. It's only that the policies of the past -- policies that Barney had been opposing all along but didn't have the votes or administrative support to stop -- came to a crisis head before they had reasonable time to get the changes in place.

After all, they had three decades of nightmare economic policy to overcome and that just isn't fixed in a couple of years with only one house to work with.

Michael and Monica,
I, too, count as "believe it when I see it." I've watched Barney for years, find him an interesting study, and trust him about as far as I could punt him. No T person has a reason yet to unequivocably put their trust in 'ol Barn, the words are encouraging but are not enough to make me, or any of us, believe.

The point that work is needed is true. Every T person should have their congressman's and Senators' offices in their Rolodexes, and should meet them at home, and in DC if they can travel - if not, use the phone. My congressman knows me by name, and is on board with a T inclusive ENDA. If Barney actually files it inclusively, I'll work for it, within the limits of what a crippled individual with limited time off work can do. I expect other T people will as well.

However, the minute T is left out, it's over, and probably worse than in 2007. We have long memories in this community, and not a large reservoir of trust or respect to draw from. And, straight up, we know nobody's coming back for us, if we're left out and ENDA passes. New York and Massachusetts are proof of that. That means many more jobless and dead T people. That's the straight truth. Blood will be on hands.

To the T community, ENDA matters to a factor of 10X more than marriage. It is life and death, and many of the names on the DOR list are there because they were homeless and working the streets, due to workplace discrimination. It's not the total panacea, we have much PR work to do to gain public approval, but it's necessary.

Now, since life, liberty, and property are never safe when the state legislature's in session, it's back to wearing a path to and from Frankfort to try for the next 30 days to keep the Kentucky Legislature from screwing us without lube......

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | January 8, 2009 4:12 PM

You are exactly right every transperson should have meet with the congressional representatives. I would take that further and say that anyone no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity who cares about full equality should meet with their elected representatives.

That is the kind of political force that is going to be needed to pass into law a fully inclusive bill.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | January 9, 2009 5:25 PM

I echo that, Michael, going so far as to say that, for non-trans queers not to work for an inclusive ENDA is unethical and, on the practical side of things, self-defeating. It is not up to trans people alone to secure an inclusive ENDA, it is up to all of us, including everything we usually do to gain support from our allies as well.

The last time through transpeople were used as human shields for the ENDA bill. Make no mistake, it would have faced just as much hate, vitriol, and opposition without us except it would have been directed at gay men recruiting children instead of transwomen using the ladies room.

If we are included in the filed legislation, we cannot go through another round of hateful public transbashing only to be tossed away as a symbolic sacrifice in the name of compromise.

I was disappointed to see Barney Frank rollover for the Paulson/Bernanke $700 billion dollar bailout of Wall Street crooks and criminals.

Many of the recipients are friends and even family members of George W. Bush.

As the Chairman of House Financial Services Committee, I would've liked to see Frank tell Paulson, "Wait a minute. Not so fast. How did you guys arrive at the $700 billion dollar figure? What about oversight?"

Franks owed the American taxpayer at least this much and he dropped the ball. He and Pelosi were more like Mutt and Jeff during the bailout hearings and I expected more.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 10, 2009 2:09 AM

It could be that Frank was distracted by the near riot of trans persons who invaded his office and had a sit-in at the height of the economic collapse who had to be removed by security. Talk about our poor timing, we are like trying to herd cats ourselves.

So we're adding transfolk to the list of people to blame for the financial crisis? Why not, we always need a scapegoat.

Hey, you've got a typo up there. You say Frank is the go-to guy for LGBT issues. You must have meant "LGB" unless the "T" is meant to stand for "Tacked on thoughtlessly when actually he's no friend of trans people."

Might want to fix that.

Barney Frank was one of the cnetral figuers in bring about the hearings on the status of T people. I would suggest that he has gotten much friendlier...

I am suprised at you. You are a highly intellegent woman, but you fell for the oldest trick in the political book, "Throwing crumbs to people to make them think you care."

Barney is a politician extrodinair. He knows all the right things to say and all the right things to do to get people to donate to his campaign, or to vote a certian way. You cannot take one thing he does or says as the definative example of how he is thinking. Trusting him is like trusting a rattle snake in its home enviornment. A fully inclusive ENDA is not a sure thing until Obama signs it. Period.

Well Monica;
You might be right, but I see Representative Frank as a sort of "gay populist" as as a majority of the LGBT community want trans inclusion, I see him as wanting to ride the wave. Could be wrong though. We will know when the bill hits the floor.

If he does betray the trans people and butch Lesbians, though, I swear that I will personally organise the campaign of a fiscally conservative socially Liberal Lesbian from P-town to tun against him.

I'd be with you if I could afford to go.

This is a little off topic, but what the hell...

When I think Barney Frank I think of three things: gay, drunk, and ass-grabber. Every time I've seen him privately, he's been drunk. When I was in my early 20's, he grabbed my ass (while drunk) at a reception in his honor. He's also "ass-handled" a couple of other contributors who've met him - while he was drunk - at other receptions/events.

My episode was the first time I'd met him. He was openly gay and, therefore, an idol of mine. I left the reception feeling more disgust and pity than idol worship.

Barney showed his BIGOTRY last year with his dropping of Trans people from ENDA saying we'd abuse bathroom privileges. He never appologized for that and never will, because Barney is never wrong. Last years ENDA would never get past the Bush administration inclusive or not and Barney knew that as well as anybody. He is only using us as a bargaining chip this year. Gays can be Bigots to and Barney is among the worst.
Peace and love,
Tammi Dee Voytek

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | January 10, 2009 2:03 AM

To all who hate him in the LGBT community he would say..."So What?"

Did you vote for him? Most likely not and you can't because you do not live in his district. He has amassed his power through seniority by being voted in by his district for a long time. His first job is to serve that district. He can be on our side as far as he can go, but he is absolutely right to tell us that we have to work as well to make our goals.