Karen Ocamb

Feinstein, Bond Star at HRC Gala; Solmonese on DOMA/ENDA

Filed By Karen Ocamb | March 17, 2009 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Antonio Villaraigosa, Bruce Cohen, Dianne Feinstein, Don't Ask Don't Tell, ENDA, Equality California, gay marriage, HRC, Human Rights Campaign, Joe Solmonese, John Duran, Julian Bond, marriage equality, Wanda Sykes

The Human Rights Campaign gala in Los Angeles was packed with heavy-hitters Saturday night at the Century Plaza Hotel including U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and NAACP board chair Julian Bond.

Afterward, I asked HRC executive director Joe Solmonese about timelines for major LGBT legislation. He cautioned that "we've got a little bit more work to do on ENDA."


IMG_2032.JPGBut first, the gala....

The event was well produced so the four-hours ran smoothly, punctuated by appearances by T.R. Knight, Jane Lynch, Peter Paige, Candis Cayne, and Michelle Clune introducing videos up for HRC's new E-Hero Award. "Milk" producer Bruce Cohen announced the winner - "And She's The California Constitution"

Wanda Sykes opened the show and she killed. She popped the glass studs off the stuffed shirts who usually only deign to endure a comedienne for the appearance of public propriety. Through her whole performance, I kept thinking - OMG - and she's hosting the White House Correspondent's Dinner? Let me put it this way: I watched Dianne Feinstein come pretty close to slapping the table and guffawing over some of the jokes.

IMG_2019.JPGFor instance, Sykes jokingly complained that Barack Obama "set the bar too high....You can't blame the man when you are the man!" She also encouraged him to forsake basketball and take up golf or tennis with the Williams sisters.

The house roared when she talked about the Republicans, especially radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

"Talk about evil people, they're just nasty! Rush saying, 'I want the president to fail!' What kind of bullshit is that? He thinks, 'screw everybody else. Screw everybody, I just want to win!' That's treason, right? I'm like, 'Let's not close Guantanamo [Bay]. No - let's send Rush Limbaugh's big ass over there! He's a terrorist!'"

(Blogger Greg Hernandez has more.)

IMG_2053.JPGJust re-elected LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa talked about presiding over same sex weddings - including that of Bruce Cohen and Gabriel Catone - and of never giving in "to an unjust status quo." Speaking of the Prop 8 challenge before the California Supreme Court, Villaraigosa noted that when it takes a two-thirds vote to pass the state budget, but only a simple majority to revoke fundamental rights of a minority, "we know our system remains fundamentally broken." He also said a favorable court ruling is "a long shot."

Villaraigosa is often mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2010. But it is also widely assumed that he - as well as expectant gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco - would be immediately out of contention should Dianne Feinstein decide to run.

IMG_2043.JPGAs Feinstein swept into the lobby to pose for pictures, accompanied by her husband, Richard Blum and her stalwart LA-based openly gay aide, Trevor Daley, politicos speculated whether she wanted to come home to California to be with her family and run for governor, or if it would be too hard to leave the U.S. Senate, where she is the powerful Chair of the Select Committee on Intelligence, as well as a member of the Judiciary and Appropriations committees.

Though Feinstein has surely experienced the attention afforded a Washington powerbroker, she seemed genuinely taken aback by the gushing admiration and gratitude heaped on her as she took the stage at the HRC gala. Even old timers who remembered a more conservative senator with whom they disagreed, jumped to their feet in recognition of Feinstein's strong public pronouncements in favor of marriage equality and against Prop 8.

Feinstein underscored the long road to equality in American history.

"Fifty years ago, it was still against the law for African Americans to eat at the same lunch counter as whites. Yet two weeks ago, I attended a White House dinner at the invitation of a President who is the product of a marriage that was still illegal in over a dozen states when he was born. And let me tell you - the President and First Lady are marvelous hosts. The ease and grace with which they moved about the room made it hard to believe that racial discrimination was once the law of this land."

And then Feinstein turned to Prop 8:

"My heart sank when I learned that Proposition 8 had carried a majority of voters in California last November. This, despite the fact that our state had simultaneously and overwhelmingly voted for change, and recent polls had indicated that a majority of Californians supported equal marriage rights, was very surprising.

But a great deal of money had been spent to distort marriage equality and cast these equal rights as something dangerous to children and to all marriages.

Without a doubt, this is a setback. But the final verdict has not been rendered. The struggle will go on. And I believe it will be victorious.

I can't tell you when or how. It may take another year, or five. It may take another ballot initiative. But I firmly believe that equal marriage rights will one day be the law in the State of California. I hope that day comes soon, and I believe it will."

Feinstein said her optimism over marriage equality was rooted in her own personal evolution.

"Over the course of 40 years I have seen this community grow and come into its own. I have seen, with my own eyes, the happiness, the joy and the stability that marriage has brought....

As Californians come to know the 18,000 couples married since June of last year, more will see these as loving, stable marriages between two people, willing to make a lifelong commitment to share the good, and the bad, in life."

Anticipating the court's ruling on Prop 8, Feinstein urged the community to keep fight:

"Until this question is settled, it's up to you to continue to press the case, united, as you march forward in dignity. We cannot simply put our faith in a positive outcome. We must hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

I know from experience that it is tough to lose. But time doesn't stop, and I believe it is on your side....

You have come a long way, but the journey is not finished. We must persevere until the day when acceptance triumphs over prejudice. I will support you in this quest. And it will happen."

IMG_2012.JPGThe elegant longtime civil rights hero Julian Bond followed with a keynote that was inspirational, funny, and a sharp elbow to right wing Christians. (See Variety's Ted Johnson's take - here.)

While the national NAACP has not taken a stand on marriage equality, they did oppose Prop 8 because it singled out one group of people for "discrimination."

Bond repeated some of the remarks he delivered at the 2008 Creating Change Conference, including: "When I'm asked are gay rights civil rights, my answer is always - of course they are."

But before this audience in this city and state - after the upheaval over the Prop 8 vote in the African American community, the dastardly racist reaction by some protesters, and the loud complaints about the failure of the No on Prop 8 campaign to reach out to minority communities - Bond's speech was riveting.

He talked about his friend Coretta Scott King - the wife of legendary civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. - before she died and how King said "homophobia seeks to dehumanize a group of people" and therefore she became an ardent advocate for LGBT rights.

Bond said:

"All forms of discrimination should be opposed by all people everywhere....Black people, of all people, should not oppose equality - and that's what gay marriage is...People of color ought to be flattered that our movement has provided" inspiration for others."

The audience of about 800 chuckled when Bond gave Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele faint praise after the new GOP leader played verbal dodge ball with the party's social conservatives by saying abortion was a choice, but sexuality was not.

But Bond evoked uproarious laughter when he cited chapter and verse of passages from the Bible and pointed out their absurdity. The he got serious: "The Black Church has much to answer for," said Bond, when it comes to espousing homophobia that causes the spread of HIV/AIDS and justifies opposition to the Matthew Shepard Act.

Bond said:

"Rampant homophobia is not just wrong. It's a danger to our national security...Good things can come to not just those who wait, but those who agitate."

IMG_2050.JPGRecently re-elected West Hollywood City Councilmember and former Equality California board president John Duran - HRC's Community Hero - was the final speaker. While Feinstein and Bond evoked gratitude and inspiration for their support as allies, Duran touched people's hearts with a reminder of what kind of people these trials of injustice have made of us.

An openly gay person living with HIV/AIDS, Duran put the struggle for equality into a larger historical perspective - from Harry Hay to Gay Liberation to MECLA to AIDS and ACT UP to the fight for marriage equality.

"It occurred to me - the issue is not any particular time span or era. The issue is injustice....

And upon the fields of multiple skirmishes - a revelation was declared - within the domain of religion itself - where the historical hatred and intolerance had been conceived - to defy the high priests of bias and bigotry with the same time-tested definition of the Almighty which knew no barrier or epoch - that God is and always has been Love. And as the sands of time slip past, and as we soldier on for love and life - from church and temple, to Governor's Mansion to Parliament, from battalion to city hall - as we strike at injustice wherever it arises...We draw together. For we have withstood the scrutiny of time and as a unified people we have seen the glory of the possible. We have touched the hem of equality. We have heard the clarion of dignity assembling us again. The battle is for justice. The price to pay is eternal vigilance. The profit is character and grace. And character. Character. Character."

(HRC is posting some video and transcripts at their blog.)

IMG_2061.JPGThough moving and inspirational, the evening provided no real blueprint for where we - especially those of us in California - should go next. So I asked Joe Solmonese what was next on the federal horizon.

We started off talking about the
New York Times story
March 13 about two federal appeals court judges in California who said that employees of their court were entitled to health benefits for their same-sex partners as those received by heterosexual federal employees. However, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) cited the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in refusing to comply with the judges' orders. Meanwhile, Obama - who supports civil unions - recently appointed openly gay John Berry to head OPM.

Solmonese said:

"There's a little bit of a moment here because there is a case that has been brought and so do they defend the position of the federal government?

You've got a similar situation with DOMA. Obama is committed to overturning DOMA - certainly Article 3 of DOMA - and yet we've got a lawsuit so the official governmental position today is in support of DOMA.

It's going to be a fair amount of time before we overturn DOMA - but I absolutely believe Obama is committed to extending domestic partnership benefits to federal employees....

It's a question of timing - what comes first. I think the case and the administration's need to react to it, quite frankly, makes me think they might move on trying to extend domestic partnership benefits to federal employees sooner rather than later.

DOMA is a different situation...because you have two different bills before Congress. There's a [Sen. Chuck] Schumer bill that says we ought to overturn Article 3 of DOMA and extend federal benefits to any state that recognizes any measure of same sex recognition.

Then there's a [Rep Gerry] Nadler bill - which says you can go to any state - Massachusetts or Connecticut - get married, go back to your state and then carry the federal benefits - [though perhaps not state benefits]. It's an interesting approach....

I think this Schumer bill is interesting. I think we need to think about this. The up side of this - look at California - you're right in the middle of it. The upside of the Schumer bill is ...either way - you would get federal benefits in California.

Now the thing you've got to consider is - if you're fighting for marriage in California - does the Schumer bill do anything to impact the fight for marriage in California? And I think it's a tough call. And I think you could walk out on the street here and ask 10 people and get 10 different answers.

If you win marriage - what's the next step for you here in California? It's to get federal benefits, probably. So the Schumer bill would be the natural extension of that. If you lose the court case - so now you have a long journey to marriage in California. The Schumer bill passes and it says, now you've got domestic partnership benefits in California, you get social security survivor benefits, you get all the federal benefits. What does it do to sort of the will of the marriage fight here?

And as the court said, a separate but equal institution is a bad thing. Now you've got to take the long view and ask yourself - does it take the wind out of the sails for the fight for full marriage equality? Or nationally - does it bring more states like a Georgia to pass a civil unions bill to get the federal benefits and then in the long view of marriage - does it bring down the resistance and does it - it's a question of semantics...

It's a tough call. You talk to an elderly lesbian couple out here at this party tonight and they say, 'I need social security survivor benefits tomorrow. So the Schumer bill does that. But you say - well in Alabama, they don't get them [because there are no state protections for same sex relationships]. Well, they don't get them anyways in Alabama."

I asked Solmonese if he had thought about asking Dianne Feinstein to be the senate sponsor of the bill to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell because LGBT people are allowed to be open in the California National Guard but have to go into the closet if they are called up and deployed. He said, "I think it's a very good idea and I think you bring up a good point and I think she would be an absolutely appropriate person to do it."

On the repeal of DADT, Solmonese said that he thinks Obama will deal with extraction from Iraq first - and then he can call for a bill to overturn DADT.

"I think we have to be prepared for a 16-18 month timeline because he is going to go through this period....[And then] Obama can simply say in 18 months - I want to see legislation on my desk that overturns the ban on gays in the military. It's a simple as that."

First, though, there will be a "plan" coming out of a Blue Ribbon Commission.

Solmonese's hoped-for timeline is a hate crimes bill by Memorial Day and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the Fall.

In the meantime, he says they are talking to the administration about closing "the economic disparity that exists in the absence of marriage. So can you issue an Executive Order to re-interpret Family and Medical Leave to cover same sex couples? In a state like Virginia where there is no second parent adoption - that really matters."

I asked why there wasn't more of a push to pass ENDA - especially consider the hard economic times.

Solmonese said,

"I think we've got a little bit more work to do on ENDA. As I have always said - taking the vote in the House when the vote moved out of committee to the floor - you know it was our view that we ought to take that vote - that would have been an instructive vote - it had no chance of passing into law when we took it - you always take the vote when there's no chance of passing it into law because it gives you the roadmap. It gave us the 48 seats we needed to target. Now in the interim when members said, 'Go be active in the elections. You could really help here.' So you elect 20 something pro- LGBT people - that closes that gap pretty significantly. But we've got a little bit of work to do.

You've got 26 new members - how the Hate Crime vote goes - is it a clean vote? We do what we need to do. The last time around when those members from the Southern District, like Georgia and south Carolina [talk about] these ministers - are we there with the dollars and the people and the campaign to tamp it down? Yes, we will be. That, I think, is what is really going to matter when we go back to them in the Fall and say, 'So about ENDA....'"

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I noticed that they only thing they cared about at this dinner was same-sex marriage, with little talk on the other important issues. I also noticed the complete lack of trans presence and a complete lack of trans inclusion. Ask me if I'm suprised. We keep losing our jobs and HRC keeps hob-nobbing with politicians, while not doing a damn things for the gays and lesbians who support them.

I am smiling about one thing, though. Only 800 people showed up in second largest city in the country. Maybe they made just enough to buy toilet paper for a week for their office building in DC.

Good morning.

Please note that because of my interview with Joe, I did not include his remarks to the audience - which are now up on http://www.hrcbackstory.org/ - in which he talks about in inclusive hate crimes bill (about 5:50 in) and an inclusive ENDA (about 6:40 in).

Also - BTW - John Duran talked about the late Connie Norman - the beloved trans AIDS Diva who was one of the leaders of ACT UP/LA.

I did not see, however, a trans presence - though it was a sizable crowd and I could have missed someone.

I think the primary focus was on marriage because of Prop 8 and the pending court decision here - so that's the big issue in front of us now. That said, I agree that more could have been said about how to protect LGBT people in this economy.


"he talks about in inclusive hate crimes bill (about 5:50 in) and an inclusive ENDA (about 6:40 in)."

Did his nose grow long?

meghan stabler | March 17, 2009 11:16 AM


Jessica Bair, is Co-Chair of HRC LA. She is trans, as are a number of the local membership and attendees at the event. I was going to go myself, but had overlapped with my commitment as a Board member for AIDS Foundation Houston to walk in the 5k AIDSWalk in Houston. With Prop8 such a hot topic in California right now, it was correct to focus some of the time on the issue. Joe did talk about an inclusive ENDA in his speech - watch it here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3raXwQWKto

HRC, just like some of the other pro-LGBT organizations, continues to work hard on the hill to get a number of the much needed legislation and protections in place. HRC focuses locally in supporting Equality organizations. In California 3.5m was used to try and defeat Prop 8, HRC had people on the ground working with local LGBT organizations. For me defeating Prop 8 is personal so that my girlfriend and I can marry. HRC continues to invest in many trans related programs using many trans people across the country, one even has a Religion and Faith project regarding Transgender and Religion. Personally I've been to the hill a number of times this year, and just two weeks ago participated in a briefing with the Congressional LGBT Caucus. It was arranged by HRC Legislative staff and we spent an hour on inclusive ENDA. I don't get paid to do this, I am not staff, I use my vacation from work.

I'm am sorry that you still feel jaded, based on history you have the right to do. No doubt many will turn on me for my post, but progress continues, in and outside of HRC. I see it daily and am involved in it everyday. As a transwoman myself I totally understand history, but we have moved on and are moving forward, and we will all win our equality.

Thank you for the clarification.

I also want to note that in my focus on the political side, I did not note in my previous comment that the beautiful Candis Cayne was there as a presenter. She also walked (and worked) the rope line for the press and papperazzi.

I love you dearly, but HRC STILL HAS NOT COME OUT IN FULL support of trans people. They can hire as many trans people they want and throw us all the crumbs from their table, but it still doesn't change 2007 Southern Comfort and their lack of written statement that they WILL SUPPORT ONLY a fully enclusive ENDA. Just remember that when companies start hiring again, many of your brothers and sisters will still be out in the cold. Please, I'm not in any mood for the colored, sweeten drink with a smiling pitcher on the front.

Everyday Transperson | March 17, 2009 2:05 PM

Ms. Helms,

For once on this blog, I agree with your comments 100% concerning this article and HRC and I applaud you for addressing them. (at least you get responses when you post, I get nothing but silence from the HRC people when I make similar observations and expose the truth.............)

Sure Ms. Stabler, its easy for you to claim that you see "progress" at HRC, because you are on the INSIDE there, and many know how WONDERFUL you all at HRC are in moving up the ladder of sucess in both political and corporate America....... But I'd like to see you look another transperson straight in the eye, someone who has either been fired, denied promotion or forced out of their jobs and tell them how you all at HRC have "more work to do" depending on when Joe and his political and corporate cronies decide THEY want to address this issue............

It's clear that the main theme of the article was about gay marriage and I'm sure that Joe only answered your question about ENDA, Ms. Ocamb, because it was the "politically correct" thing to do. The fact is, most of those celebrity elitists are only going to support issues which directly affect THEM, plain and simple. Well the last time I checked, most of them had jobs, received promotions and had incomes to give them the opportunity to attend "gala" events so that they can strut their "echelon" peacock feathers and show everyone how much THEY have progressed...........how nauseating !!!

Yes Ms. Helms, I agree that GLBT organizations such as HRC can recruit trans directors till the cows come home so that they can say that they are "inclusive", but that won't change their agenda if their goals are only geared towards issues that will predominantly affect them......... Otherwise it just becomes another prime example of tokenism and exploitation of trans folks to solely meet the needs of other's agendas....

Get with the program at HRC Ms. Stabler rather than continuing to sell your organization as to how much "progress" you all are making. And this article clearly shows that trans folks must continue to wait at the back of the line for that "progress" to happen.

Thank you for your time.

A Religion and Faith programme, Ms Stabler? Touching, and not risky at all.

Ms Helms is not jaded, she is experienced. The late Chief Justice Rhenquist once opined that "past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour" and made that the legal standard by which future dangerousness is judged by.

Using that standard, the HRC is not only a self-satisfied and neo-mattachinistic organisation, it is also dangerous.
Dangerous to the Butch, Boi, Leather and otherwise norm or gender transgressing Lesbians whom you jettisoned from the umbrella of protection. You didn't jettison everyone, of course, you covered the straight acting sort of well off stockbroaker in suits gays who can afford to be on your boards. Yours is an organisation of power purcheased with cash. Is it any wonder that the poor and blue collar Lesbians and Trans-people are left as flotsam in your wake?

I will not comment beyond what you have done to Lesbians, for I do not feel that it is right for me to discuss the tragic impact of the message of the HRC that the Trans-people are disposable, or can wait, or are merely bargaining chips" had to the larger American population. You made them fair game, Ms Stabler. You told America that they were not worthy of protection.

I'll let Ms Helms, Ms Juro and others explain to about the blood that followed the abandoning of their brothers and sisters.

The HRC fears grass roots activism, it fears the honesty of angry queers, it fears confronatational militancy. But, my dear Ms Stabler, that is what it is going to take to roll back the tide of fundamentalist conservative wins on social issues. I think that Ms Helms and Ms Juro understand that. But then, they live in a world where 1,000/plate fundraiser dinners are by and large beyond their reach and they cannot round up the 50,000 dollars in contrubitions to truly be heard at the HRC.

I can.

But I won't

Because the moment that I do, I betray my sisters left behind.

Thank you Meghan for showing up in an unpopular but meaningful way. HRC IS the biggest game in town and for that reason alone, I want to help them be as trans-inclusive and trans-supportive as possible. I respect and personally feel many of the same criticisms toward HRC. However, I do not understand the criticism of the substantial amount of money that flows in and out of their dinners. There is no hidden agenda re: the dinners, they are meant to be fund raisers. The more money we see demonstrates a job well done. Since the decisions around ENDA a year and a half ago, I have seen tremendous movement and dedication from HRC toward and for the trans community. Many folks have spoken to the buffering of elitist circles from the true struggles of trans folks. Does this mean if you have some stability and security you are ignorant or cannot understand politics? Up until a year ago, when I had to move to FL to take care of my grandmother, I worked three jobs and still couldn’t afford much better than Ramen Noodles. I couldn’t afford the membership, but wanted to talk to HRC to learn why they made the choices they did and ask what kind of ‘bridge building’ they were doing with the trans community. They welcomed my difficult questions at their ‘meet-ups’. They invited me to their local steering committee mtgs, annual planning mtgs, and flew me to DC on several occasions. They provided me an opportunity to lobby for a fully inclusive ENDA and brought me out to their leadership conference to speak on how local groups could be more trans-inclusive and how they could better support their local trans communities. I learned a lot about HRC in my local community and nationally. Last week my advocacy partners spoke to a diversity council for a county school board to create safe school programming. The diversity council did not know what LGBT meant ! When they realized we were representing 'gay' interests, we were told they did not have time for us, they had all they could handle "with the race thing". This is real life too, and it is scary. HRC is often the first point of exposure beyond heterosexist privilege like this. They pave the way for us to have meaningful conversations with these same people. HRC keeps inviting us to their planning meetings, if we decline the RSVP; I think we lose credibility to our criticisms. If we take our intelligence and perspective to these meetings, we can offer them the tools to best represent all of us. I wonder how much better things could be today if more of us showed up then. I am thankful that Meghan and others are willing to be unpopular to be a trans voice within. I will not give up the belief that we can help each other get what we want and that we will be able to take advantage of the most progressive administration of our time.

Diego Sanchez | March 18, 2009 6:22 AM

Karen, my friend. If there were 2 transgender or transsexual people, you might not have noticed. Remember that we often have to DISCLOSE to be known or seen. While I think I know what you mean, you have to know that reading 'trans presence' from you makes me smile.

Diego - well, hello!

I usually try to take note of any audience make up - especially people of color. And you're right - I would not know if someone was trans or not unless they disclosed - but I usually watch and listen for that. Often Ashley Love or someone will introduce me to transsexuals I have not yet met.

This night I was particularly focused on Feinstein and didn't do my usual walk-around to meet people - hence I was less observant.

BTW - I don't know if you caught my wrist-slapping of Tavis Smiley - but it jumped off the fact that he inexplicably failed to discuss HIV/AIDS during his 10th annual State of the Black Union. The piece provoked quite a bit of anger here - and I think Jeffrey King of In the Meantime Men is working on a response to him.

Anyway - I hope you're well.

Everyday Transperson | March 18, 2009 3:07 PM

Come now Mr. Sanchez, non-disclosure is not a very good example of "Best Practices" now is it ???

After all, isn't that the new thing in corporate and political America now, to follow to the letter the "Best Practices" dictated by our powerful non-profits to be considered a corporate and political "team player" (aka GLBT sellout), otherwise they are out ???

Many trans folks are discriminated against and criticized in their workplaces by their very own Gay and Lesbian corporate folks for choosing non-disclosure since that appears to go against the status quo thinking of being "Out and Proud". Yet you all in Washington choose to do it and you are hand picked by legislators................Hmmmm, strange disparity here, borderline HYPOCRISY.

If we everyday trans people should be forced to disclose in our workplaces according to some "Best Practices" model, then I don't see any reason why you all on the hill should be exempt........

After all, we are a "community" here aren't we ???

Yes, Monica --- I'll bet dollars to donuts that, effectively, they raised more money for the prestigious Century Plaza Hotel than they did for promoting GLBT rights --- and that has become standard HRC style.

This is the non-profit industrial complex at its most disgusting and most revealing. I've never seen such a bloated, self-congratulatory bunch in my life.

It's a fucking crime.

I feel compelled to add my voice to this.

Megan, I truly feel you are really doing a wonderful job at HRC. Please keep up the good work!

However, I have to agree with Monica. I absolutely love the Workplace Project folks at HRC and I will support them any way I can. The problem is I cannot support HRC because I do not believe HRC truly supports me and my transgender brothers and sisters.

As Donna Rose recently said, “…Gay Marriage is to gays and lesbians as ENDA is to trans-people." I still have no reason to believe the political leadership at HRC understands that.

I am a transwoman and I have been unemployed for over a year. If any organization, not just LGBT ones, want some of what little money I have, I need to feel they are truly working for me in return and not just giving lip service.

Why aren't we pushing on ENDA? Because "we've still got a lot of work to do"? That's horrible double-speak. Of course there's still work to do, that's why we need a big push on the issue. Also,

As I have always said - taking the vote in the House when the vote moved out of committee to the floor - you know it was our view that we ought to take that vote - that would have been an instructive vote - it had no chance of passing into law when we took it - you always take the vote when there's no chance of passing it into law because it gives you the roadmap.

Sigh, that's the exact opposite of what he was saying in 2007. Many of us were saying how important it was to get a vote on a trans inclusive ENDA because we needed to know if the votes were there or not -- and there was good reason to think they were. We also needed to know who to target. He makes it sound as if his critics were asking for there not to be a vote instead of asking for the vote to be on an inclusive bill.

After gender was pulled from the bill, Joe now know's who to target to get them on board with a broken ENDA, but he still doesn't know who it is that is scared off by gender inclusion. Hearing him speak so positively about having a roadmap without mentioning that it only shows a blank area and says "Here be monsters" when it comes to an inclusive bill is certainly worrisome.

I'm trying to be cautiously optomistic -- there's a lot to be hopeful for -- but hearing historical revisions like this make that much harder. And I can't help but think, In spring of 07 when they introduced an inclusive ENDA, I was cautiously optomistic, too. And look how that turned out. For me, it's no longer a question of if the HRC will be on our side, but if forces for equality are strong enough and the HRC has been disempowered enough that they won't have the opportunity to even consider resisting this tide of change.

Seems that too many trans people don't understand this saying by George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember past are doomed to repeat it." It's not just words, but reality. And, no place does this saying ring any truer then with HRC and the trans community.

So many trans people think the past actions of HRC will not apply to them, or that somehow, they are endowed with the magical powers to "change HRC." But, time and time again, HRC has proven them wrong. Fifteen years ago, there was one group of trans people who worked with HRC. Another ten years ago, and another 5 years ago, and still another today.

Donna Rose believed she was the "chosen one," but was thrown on the garbage heap by HRC without so much as a "Thank you for your time and work." She didn't deserve that kind of treatment.

The only thing going for the current crop of trans-supoporters of HRC is that Obama's desire to sign a fully inclusive will force HRC to support one, and the trans people in HRC will think they did it. Dream on. If McCain was President, you would be seeing the door like all the others in the past. Enjoy your faux victories, because HRC won't be responsible for getting them for us.

Simply put, HRC is just not credible as an advocate for anyone other than rich white gays, especially on ENDA. This reality is directly the result of the choice of their leadership to renounce their previous promises of inclusion when the going got rough. This lack of credibility is further compounded by the fact that they threw transpeople under the bus not even two weeks after promising exactly the opposite.

Add to that the fact that HRC has still not come out publicly and stated definitively that they will only support an inclusive ENDA, and the fact that despite repeated invitations to do so, they've still refused to enter into a public discussion with trans-relevant media on the issue, and you know that the only thing that's really changed here is that HRC now publicly avoids real strategy and policy discussions about ENDA entirely instead of making promises which they clearly have no intention of keeping anyway.

Average politically-conscious working class LGBT's have figured this out and moved on. While politicians may be inclined to forgive and forget when seeking pander to the wealthy Queer elites, the rest of us have not.

As the 2010 election approaches, I'd urge everyone to keep informed on which Democrats choose to ignore HRC's history and attend their events and which ones will stand on principle and refuse to do so. It's a great way of helping to figure out what's really important to those Democratic candidates, which can be trusted to fight for equality for all Americans, and which believe that basic American civil rights are negotiable and are ok with throwing poorer, less politically influential minorities under the bus to please the wealthy elites.

If we all agree that we need to elect Democrats who will fight for all of us, it'll be useful for us to remember which candidates support and align with an organization which clearly does not uphold that ideal as a key, non-negotiable part of their political agenda.

Gerri Ladene | March 17, 2009 10:23 PM

I would venture to say that members of HRC read TBP. So, I would like to extend a St. Patty's Day wish to them, "Póg mo thóin! (:

Joe's comments about "a lot of work to do" is accurate. Please put your obvious bias against HRC aside and go back and look at legislative history. Yes, that takes actual thought and research to understand that some of the civil rights laws took TIME to get done. There are still millions of people who don't know they know a trans person or even a gay person. I lobbied with Equality Texas AND HRC and had in my hands PRINTED WORDS showing both support a FULLY INCLUSIVE ENDA. Yes, HRC made unpopular decision when forced by Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi about a non-inclusive bill. It's apparent they have learned from their mistakes. Would Diego have gone to work for Barney if he didn't believe everyone was on board for a fully inclusive ENDA? I'm sure you are equally critical of all the Democrats who voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (including Al Gore's father). Do you think African-Americans hold that agains the Democrats now? Hardly. I'm amazed that a group so focused on the PAST should expect any other organization to support them, yet HRC has made significant strides and continues to PUBLISH their total support for a FULLY INCLUSIVE ENDA. What other politically powerful organization can take your message "to the halls of Congress" and if that exists focus on supporting them rather than tearing down another organization. Living in the PAST is so 90s. Lobbying takes money, lots of it and we're fortunate that people go to these dinners and companies are willing to be local and national sponsors.

Rebecca, please get your facts straight (no pun intended) and quit being so untruthful about HRC's positions. Anyone can visit their website and see their positions. I've personally heard Joe speak in person over six times and each conversation talked about their total support for an fully inclusive ENDA and how the political process works. With a family member who use to lobby Congress, and told me stories for the last 25 years, I know it just takes time to bring people living in DC up to speed on life outside the beltway...

I wish you all much luck and hope you turn your efforts to your own lobbying efforts. HRC continues to support you (whether you believe it or not), but why should they if you tear them down no matter what they say or do?? If you are not part of the solution, YOU are part of the problem.

I am not being untruthful. HRC has thus far refused to state unequivocally that they will only support an inclusive ENDA (that is, after the last time when they reneged on that promise). That's fact.

They've also refused to discuss ENDA publicly in any substantive way with trans-relevant media since Solmonese's Southern Comfort statement. I've personally invited Joe on my radio show to do so twice and was refused both times. That's fact.

If we could truly count on them they'd make sure we knew it by putting it out there publicly as they have so many times before. They haven't and have thus far refused all invitations to do so. That's fact.

You suggest that we should just trust that HRC will do the right thing when all of the available evidence tells us to expect exactly the opposite. That doesn't make any sense.

The reality, which HRC created itself by its own leadership's choices and actions, is that nothing they say will be believed without real action behind it because the last time they made a public promise to us they not only reneged on it but also used misleading information and offered proven bogus statistics to back up their actions after the fact.

If a politician did this (think GOP) to their constituents chances are they wouldn't be reelected. We can't vote HRC out of office, but we can do everything in our power to disempower them for failing to be the advocate for transpeople and trans rights they promised us they would be. And so we are.

If HRC wants transpeople to take them at their word and believe what they say, at minimum they need to make a serious effort to show us why we should. As far as I can tell, they have not made even the slightest effort in that regard. That tells you something right there.

HRC has never shied away from telling anyone and everyone they could how great they are and how much they do for LGBT's, yet when transpeople seek to engage them on the issue of ENDA they remain unrelentingly silent. That tells you something too.

Take off your rose-colored glasses Shawn. The sun is shining brightly and the road ahead is quite clear. The most important sign along that road is this one: Don't put your trust in those who not only refuse to prove themselves worthy of it, but even refuse to even talk to you about the issues which they claim to speak for you on. That road is only for fools.

No one's denying that there's a lot of work to do. My own reaction was one of surprise that that was given as the reason why there wasn't a big push for an inclusive ENDA the way there was for repealing DOMA and DADT. The fact that there is a lot of work to do is NOT a good reason to decide to do less work.

Realistically, it wasn't an answer, it was a subject change. The real bothersome thing is that the question was dodged and never answered. That doesn't mean the sky is falling, but from Joe's history of half truths and "mis-statements", it's disconcerning.

Also, no one's denying that they are working for an inclusive bill, they were doing that in 2007 too. The fear is that they are also telling legislative leaders, "But if you have to take gender out, we'll have your back," at the same time. We watched closely in October when they had promised to oppose a broken ENDA. Then went back on that promise and said they would neither oppose or support. Then it was revealed that they were secretly supporting it all along. I can try to be optomistic, but how can anyone be expected to trust them now when the support they show now is less supportive then what they showed in September 2007?

Of course, the refusal to re-affirmed the 2004 board vote to oppose a broken ENDA only furthers the suspicion that they secretly would be willing to switch the bills at the last minute if they thought it was in their benefit.

Thanks to everyone for sharing their comments.

I've been writing my news section all day - and I just got back from covering Gavin Newsom at a Town Hall in Santa Monica - so I'm just catching up with this discussion.

Re Joe not saying publicly that HRC advocates for inclusive bills - including ENDA - I again refer you to my comment this morning - ie that you can watch him for yourself at http://www.hrcbackstory.org/

Joe talks about an inclusive hate crimes bill at about 5:50 into the video and an inclusive ENDA at about 6:40 in.

If there is still work to be done, as Joe suggests, perhaps the next stage is to figure out what specifically that work is, whom to target and how to do that in the context of a Congress that is still locked in bi-partisan fights as the country experiences economic convulsions.

I mean if there are Southern governors who are refusing to take stimulus money because it means they might have to extend unemployment benefits - well, how the hell are they going to care if some LGBT person gets fired?

So what's the message? How do we move entrenched people to care? Is fairness a good message or is fairness an easily sacrificed value - like the way people from Arab-speaking countries we treated after 9/11? Are there specific messages for specific communities? What works?

Clearly the anger towards HRC hasn't dissipated - and that's an individual position. But there are people in this country who need help now - and if HRC is in a position to get that help to them - strategically so it's not promised, then withdrawn - then perhaps a truce can be called until the goal is achieved.

Just a suggestion.

One time, a former friend of mine told a group of us that he was going to obtain concert tickets - heck, I'll mark my age, and state for the record that it was for a Genesis concert, back when Peter Gabriel was the vocalist. He told us he had them, but he did not, and had actually blown the money on weed. Said ex-friend was unremorseful and unapologetic, and completely ignored and avoided us. So, when the next concert came around, and said former friend came back around and stated that he had an inside source for ELO tix, we ignored him, bought our own tix, and did not involve him at all.

I have no intention of listening to a speech given by Joe Solmonese. I take that position for the same reason why I did not ever trust the above-mentioned ex-friend after being burned. HRC chairs and ex-dirs have worked against T rights since 1995 (which spans my knowledge of such; I think it well predated that year), but Elizabeth Birch at least was honest about her lack of support for T rights. Solmonese said all the right things, then got caught lying in the worst possible bald-faced way. I know I can't even consider trusting any organization led by such a character. If someone honestly opposes a position I take, I can honestly try to refute their positions, and perhaps negotiate in good faith, although civil rights isn't something that should involve negotiation. However, the words of a liar are not worth the time spent listening to, or reading, them, because you cannot know if they're truthful or not. If you take the time to prove them to be fact or fiction, you can take the time to know them for yourself.

So, I do my own activism. I say what I wish, and do my own analysis, then blend it with the data and voices of others I have proven trust in. HRC is not one of those, and the main thing history tells me is that where HRC is concerned, I should expect them to deliberately screw T people. The words of their present leadership mean nothing to me, because they have lied before and probably will again. It's not a matter of hatred or of fighting HRC, because i am not interested in that; I'm more interested in making a bit of difference with the limited amount of time I will have when not working to keep a roof overhead, because I never lose sight of those in the T community who cannot speak out and don't have a roof over their heads.

I recommend that T people ignore HRC altogether, and instead speak directly to every Congressman and Senator possible, especially House Democrats from the classes of 2006 and 2008, and minority caucus members. Those offices, whether or not they be in DC or at home, are the trenches in which this battle for ENDA will be won. I don't have time to sift through the statements of HRC's so-called leadership to determine what is fact and what is fiction, when most of us with lobbying experience already know what must be done to win. It isn't worth anyone's time. Pick up the phone and talk to your Congressman instead.

There is no question that HRC supports an inclusive ENDA. As Rebecca is pointing out, however, they refuse to declare that they would oppose a non-inclusive ENDA.

This is not just a rhetorical difference; it is why they can't join the UnitedENDA coalition.

I crafted an elaborate reply to this, and it refused to post, so here I am redrafting it. I realized that the near-blog-post reply I'd crafted carefully, could be said more directly.

T people, don't bother listening to Solmonese or HRC. They are liars. We have no time to sort and sift through the words of liars to determine what is fact and what is fiction. During the Cold War, the CIA employed people to analyze Pravda to determine what was truth and what was propaganda. We don't have the people to bother with that. I don't have time to read Pravda. I must do what I do between segments of a life, because too many T people can't have a life, due to prejudice. If Solmonese gave a damn, he'd have never lied at SCC, and if HRC cared about T people organizationally, or expected anyone active in T rights to care what they had to say organizationally, Solmonese wouldn't be employed there.

We already know the facts: this battle is won in the trenches. The trenches are the offices of Congressional and Senate Democrats who were elected in 2006 and 2008, as well as Democrats from the South, West, and Midwest, plus members of the minority group caucuses. Shun HRC. Ignore them. Don't even take the time to read their materials. Pick up the phone and talk to your Members of Congress directly. Go see them in DC, or at home, but do it. Work for local and state candidates. Empower yourself. Tell your story like it is.

Whoops, it did actually post. Oh, well.....

Kelly Moyer | March 18, 2009 6:17 AM

Judging the HRC's merits (or lack thereof) with respect to the trans community produces different results depending on where you focus.

Watching the whole ENDA debacle - from Southern Comfort to the talk in Jenna of leaving no one behind, through the behind-closed-doors veto of other orgs' objections and on to the ridiculous 11th hour poll results - left me with complete distrust and a vast amount of disdain for Joe Solmonese and others who call the shots in the legislative side of the HRC. I do not believe that trans issues occupy anything greater than a third rate position in HRC's legislative agenda. I'm sure the power players would be happy to see progress... they just aren't willing to truly commit to making it happen. What makes the situation especially heinous is the fact that what could and should have been an honest disagreement about strategy was cloaked in an appalling parade of lies and double-crossing, and it is THAT behavior - not strategic differences - which ensured that I will never trust the HRC's legislative wing to do what it says it will do.

However, that is only one part of the HRC story.

Having had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Allyson Robinson, Samir Luther and Meghan Stabler at various times, I have absolutely no doubt that there are people within the HRC - particularly outside of the legislative organization - who are deeply committed to furthering trans equality. As someone who helped get complete trans health coverage offered at a company with over 30,000 employees, I know for a fact that the Corporate Equality Index - whilst perhaps not always advancing as fast as I might wish - has had and continues to have a significant positive effect on the drive for trans health coverage. Documents provided (and in some cases created) by the HRC proved incredibly useful in both my on-the-job gender transition and in drafting my former employer's workplace gender transition guidelines. The work that has been done on intersections between trans issues and faith may seem irrelevant to some, but it will surely be crucial for others who find themselves in need of guidance at that particular juncture.

Basically, HRC is a multi-headed beast, and while many of us feel righteous fury toward the head that gets most of the press (Joe Solmonese and the legislative wing), there are other parts of the organization doing meaningful, important work for the trans community. Will I give any of my money to the HRC at this point? Not a chance. Neither, however, will I blithely castigate the entire organization when different parts have shown such radically different colors. People like Meghan, Samir and Allyson may not be able to influence HRC's legislative agenda in a meaningful way, but that doesn't change the fact that they are able to do other meaningful work that aids trans people.

I never doubted the work of trans people involved with HRC or their commitment. It's the "I can make a difference" attitude that history has proven to be an incorrect assumption. Many came to activism just a few years ago and completely ignore any history behind HRC. A lot of us, Polar, Becky and myself included, have stuck our hands in the fire and quickly learned not to do it again. We now stand near that fire and warn others to stay away. It amazes me how many trans people think they are invincible and will not get burned.

The Newton Laws of Motion states that an object in motion (HRC) will stay in motion unless acted upon an EQUAL and opposite force. A few trans people being involved with HRC does NOT constitute an equal and opposite force. All of the trans community working together cannot stop their motion. BUT, with the help of our allies, WE, and not the trans people with HRC, are the ones who will make a difference. And, Obama and his desire for a fully inclusive ENDA IS the equal and opposite force that will stop HRC's non-inclusive tactics. HRC better get on board or their carcasses will be left to rot in the history books.

Karen Collett | March 18, 2009 8:23 AM
Basically, HRC is a multi-headed beast, and while many of us feel righteous fury toward the head that gets most of the press (Joe Solmonese and the legislative wing), there are other parts of the organization doing meaningful, important work for the trans community.

I think this is a perfect reflection of my ambivalent attitude towards the HRC. When I transitioned at work, the most useful resources came from the HRC. It's very odd to feel grateful towards the HRC while at the same time remembering that the HRC betrayed the trans community when it mattered most.

Having had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with Allyson Robinson, Samir Luther and Meghan Stabler at various times, I have absolutely no doubt that there are people within the HRC - particularly outside of the legislative organization - who are deeply committed to furthering trans equality.

Ah, but that's the most often overlooked component and the #1 thing that helps fuel the HRC fire, isn't it? (Take, for example, my post yesterday "What Can He Do?"

Pissed off trans activists blame HRC for the end of the world and don't credit any staff members as a positive force for trans rights. See my post from the same day "What Can He Do," for example. It was much easier for ET to run in and leave disparaging remarks about the only trans woman in the HRC Workplace Project fighting to make the CEI a truly trans-friendly tool. That's eating your own.

But for those LGB staffers at HRC who aren't trans, what impetus do they really have to further trans rights? If they do something bad, they get screamed at - even if the mistake was small. If they do something right, everyone assumes ulterior motives, ignores it, or claims it just isn't good enough. The T-friendly staffers end up jaded with "There's nothing that I can do to satisfy them, so why bother?"

It's a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Everyday Transperson | March 18, 2009 2:06 PM

Mr. Browning,

Let's talk about "eating your own" for a moment, shall we ???

There is no better classic example of "eating your own" than when trans folks (and even other everyday GLBT people for that matter) are discriminated against and are blatantly shown the exclusion game by their very own GLBT brothers and sisters, just so these "elitists" in the political/corporate/media circle can clink champagne glasses at gala events and throw it in everyone elses face how so-and-so is idolized as a new member of elitist "GL" society. The very posh exchange between this author and Mr. Sanchez clearly illustrates this kind of thinking ............. Again, how nauseating.

And oh, by the way, here are our VERY few token trans leaders at HRC and other places who we let in because they agree with our agenda and maybe even kissed a few asses along the way, therefore we all should worship them like they were the second coming to transpeople. As I said before, ONE voice does not speak for All of us, regardless of what many have been brainwashed to think...........

And in the end, many of us get criticized and prematurely labeled for being "pissed off activists" when its the very system that you all are supporting which is causing us the anger in the first place..........When was the last time you were at a job and went to the corporate people about being who you are and was subtly given the following implication by the HR department in conjunction with the corporate Gay and Lesbian sellouts:

"You will make your changes according to the "best practices" procedures which were laid out by some HRC SHRM attendee or trans elitist who is the "be-all-tell-all" of All trans folks. After all they are powerful leaders and thus credible, so they must be right !! And if you don't like these "best practices" procedures (which are really designed to increase the corporate bottom line) then LEAVE !!"

So Mr. Browning, before you are quick to jump on the HRC and staff protectionist bandwagon and criticize my comments because they ruffle a few feathers in the crony circle, I suggest that you talk to people who have been royally screwed over at their jobs either by the current "system" in place or because the HRC staff that many praise is incompetent and corrupt (crony circle or no crony circle, let's deal with the REAL issues here, not who pissed off someone in the clique !!)

"Eating your Own" ??? Well, how about less groupthink and more diversity here in thought rather than the elitist "by invitation only" system you have here, excluding everyday people a chance to tell their story without the HRC "patrol" policing the blog, ready to pounce on people who threaten the system.......... Otherwise it will continue to be another example of the very phrase you coined yourself.

Lead by example, not by influence or hierarchy..........

Thank you for your time.

Kelly Moyer | March 18, 2009 6:04 PM
Pissed off trans activists blame HRC for the end of the world and don't credit any staff members as a positive force for trans rights. See my post from the same day "What Can He Do," for example. It was much easier for ET to run in and leave disparaging remarks about the only trans woman in the HRC Workplace Project fighting to make the CEI a truly trans-friendly tool. That's eating your own.

But for those LGB staffers at HRC who aren't trans, what impetus do they really have to further trans rights? If they do something bad, they get screamed at - even if the mistake was small. If they do something right, everyone assumes ulterior motives, ignores it, or claims it just isn't good enough. The T-friendly staffers end up jaded with "There's nothing that I can do to satisfy them, so why bother?"

It's a self-fulfilling prophesy.

I may be mistaken, but it sounds like all you are willing to see of the trans community is the aforementioned "pissed off" trans activists. Painting all of us with the same brush and implying (if that was your indeed your intention) that all trans activists behave the same way would be precisely like painting the entire HRC with the Solmonese/ENDA brush... It ignores the considerable good for the sake of focusing on the strident bad.

Seeing the baby in the bath water is an exercise that must happen on all sides of the issue.

A new movie: "A Few Good Trans People."

"Truth? You want the truth? HRC can't handle the truth."

The Top Three Universal Lies:

1.) "The check's in the mail."

2.) "I'll respect you in the morning."

3.) "HRC supports equality for trans people."

(If you want a 4th one, it's, "We'll come back for you later.")

Meghan Stabler | March 18, 2009 10:30 AM

This will be my last post. I have read and reread them all. Monica, Rebecca, Polar, and everyone else.

My fellow sisters and brothers are entitled to their opinions. But none of you know me. How can you be so quick, so often, to judge someone you don't know. I read a book called "The Four Agreements" a while ago, I learn't a lot from that simple book. Some posts on TBP have slided me, picked on me, and called me an elitist corporate person. Personally, whilst I did transition within my company, I am no longer at the same level or pay grade as before. I am two layers down in the organization and earn close to 45% less. I struggle financially. At work, in Texas, we didn't have policy for transition or even welcoming execs at first. I had to educate and lobby. None of my healthcare "medically necessary" surgeries were covered. But I guess overall I am lucky in that I have a job. On the personal side, I have lost a lot financially and with my family. I WAS impacted by prejudice, transitioning here in TX in the most conservative county. But that is WHY I fight. That is why I am doing my bit, with a positive spirit to move "our" needs forward.

History in our movement is history. I sure understand the feelings and resentment out there. But, unfortunately some like to regurgitate the "past" without knowing "current" activities and actions. I understand that - you are not there, so can only base this on the past and emotions. HRC on the legislative side, led by Allison Herwitt continue to push the Hill hard for only an inclusive ENDA. I have NEVER heard anything different from them in the meetings where they talk along side me. Of course some of you are going to hit back and deny that HRC is doing this, but where is your proof? I use my personal time to be in the Rep and Sen offices, talking i-ENDA and ONLY i-ENDA side by side with HRC legislative staff and execs. No one pays me for that, I pay my way, and BTW my company is not a national HRC sponsor. I do it because we must lobby at the national level and educate with personal stories whenever possible. I also do it here in Texas along side Equality Texas.

So my point. You have a right to be angry based on things from 2 years ago. I was there in DC sitting with Donna and Mara at a table when that crap happened. The outcry was heard by HRC. If you truly want your voice to be heard, channel your anger to educating the Hill or go work with an organization like NCTE, NCLR, NGLTF. Certainly we are not there yet with GI fully embraced and understood. Go to NCTE lobby day with Mara next month, tell your story, and keep doing it, again and again. Use your energy to progress our needs.

I know that when an inclusive ENDA passes in a few years time, shared praise for the work done will not necessarily be extended out to me or HRC. But I will be able to stand up, with a smile, both internally and externally to myself, and say "we, WE, DID IT". Until then I will continue to work with anyone that I need to, to make our needs and equality top of mind. That for me is leadership.

You seems to take our mistrust with HRC as a personal referendum on your intregrity. I never questioned Donna Rose's intregrity, though her decision to trust HRC was always a topic of discussion. Same with you. I have friends who know you well and they have vouched highly on your intregrity.

But, your decision to work with HRC and your belief that you can change them is an issue as old as the Sun. You can't change them. You won't make a difference. They will listen to politicians and the rich white gay men who prop them up. They only care about marriage, so that is what HRC cares about most of all.

Donna gave them lots of money, and look what it got her. Your money does not come with influence. If it does, then get them to put out a written statement that they will ONLY SUPPORT a fully inclusive ENDA. You do that, and then we will see that you can make a difference. Anything short of that is crumbs from the table. The one true issue is ENDA and that's what it will always be. Everything else is a smoke screen. If you can make a difference, then prove it. (I have given that same challenge to several others in the past and all have failed. Show us you can truly make a difference. Just pretent I'm from Missouri.)

Michael D. Pearce | March 18, 2009 1:43 PM


I have such great respect for not only what you do on a daily basis but the grace with which you do it. I am a bit shell shocked at the amount of personal animosity thrown at you by our community in this blog. I am not looking to stir the pot. I recognize that there a strong emotional opinions on the subject of HRC and its representation of the transgender community. However, I would like to point out that it takes a great deal of courage to fight as hard as you do when that fight entails defending yourself to your own community. It shows a great strength of character and devotion to the cause to remain as strong as you do. On a personal note, I had never spent any time with anyone transgender but thanks to my time with HRC I am now fortunate enough to call the two beautiful women who sit on our board friends. I commend you both for your activism and support of our entire community.

Much love,



What I said was not a personal attack against you or anyone at HRC, except perhaps for the BEHAVIOR of Joe Solmonese and the HRC Executive Board. They're in charge, they made these decisions, so they get the blame. Seems perfectly fair to me.

I do make the distinction between HRC's corporate diversity efforts and their political arm, but that's only valid up to a point. It's hypocritical in the extreme to advocate for workplace diversity through one avenue but take political positions that work against that goal on another. I know it, you know it, HRC's leadership knows it, and Congress knows it too.

You tell us that HRC now only advocates for an inclusive ENDA, but the org's political arm still refuses to say so publicly and still refuses to publicly discuss the issues with us. If they can truly be trusted on this, why won't they release a statement saying so? Why do they still refuse to talk to us about it?

If HRC is for real this time, why won't they say so?

Inquiring minds want to know.

As stated above, I can't work with HRC, because I can't work with orgs and people who aren't trustworthy. I don't believe in a "new Nixon" - the "new Nixon" was the same as the old Nixon, and so it is with HRC. It's not just the total waste of money, the robbing local orgs of operating funds by throwing the huge galas, or the failure to hire T people until the late 2000s - it's the lies. All about the lies. Liars and cheaters, a person don't need for friends.

Meghan, this is not on you personally. Good luck doing what you're trying to do there. There may be some good people at HRC, for all I know, now. Solmonese isn't one of them, and he's yer exdir. I don't have time to bother to find out. They've done us too many times, and have shown us nothing. I don't give serial liars a second chance, particularly when neither me personally NOR the T community particularly needs HRC - we simply need to do the work for ourselves.

In fact, I'll throw this inflammatory comment out: we cannot trust anyone else to do the work for us, plain and simply, and anyone who gripes about HRC without themselves picking up the phone or visiting their Member of Congress, I have no use for, either.

We don't need them.

Interesting enough, not one trans person who has ever supported or supports HRC has ever given one dime to TAVA, that we are aware of. I know that the well-know ones have never donated to TAVA, yet they gave thousands to an organization that never supported their equal rights and did minor things to help trans people. And the excuse, "I'm not a veteran." Yeah, but many of the ones who are veterans also happen to be some of the poorest trans people in the community. So much for caring for trans people. They just cared for rich, white gay men.

There are just two supporters of HRC who have proven that they can also care about their trans brothers and sisters because of the wonderful things they have already done for TAVA. They are Allyson Robinson and Diego Sanchez. Everyone else had the same attitude toward veterans as Bush did. Pretty sad.

My personal E-mail is monicahelms@earthlink.net, if any of you wish to discuss this with me off line.

It's not 2 years of betrayal Meghan, it's at least 15 years of what I called the stale donut "support" of HRC. They are pro-trans in whatever fashion doesn't cost them much more than comments, a webpage or two or the stale donuts they provided Gender Pac back in the day......

They used to actually buy off national level trans leaders then discovered there was no shortage of those who'd "work" with them for free.

Twelve years ago I warned about their tactics, they never changed but I became a pariah in activist circles for it......and remained so even after those who insisted on working with them eventually got burned themselves enough times in turn.

The problem all along was throwing in with them in the first place when the natural alliance was with the women's movement which has been supportive but ignored all along. Of course now it's the men taking over the "heavy lifting" of transactivism when, again, back in the day, they were no where to be seen.

Trannys were set up over and over and over with the exact same tactics but each new group thinks it will be different for them because they have "right" on their side......grow up.

Angela Brightfeather | March 18, 2009 6:51 PM

Here is the truth about HRC if you really want it.

I recently had a knock down drag out with Maddy Goss, who promotes for HRC on their Governor’s Board here in NC. It all boils down to one thing, as it has since 1993. The basic question has always been the same.

Why doesn't the HRC Board of Directors conduct a vote and give Joe Solomonese the directive to only support an inclusive ENDA?

I asked Maddy to get me an answer on that. I want a simple vote by HRC saying that the outcome of that vote is only support and inclusive ENDA and it is the only version they will support. Anything other than that and you know they are lying and will continue to lie about ENDA to the benefit of their own political position.

Maddy came back from the HRC Lobby Day and immediately started spreading the epistle according to her mentors at HRC, that everyone there preparing to lobby the next day, were instructed to make the point that HRC will only support an inclusive ENDA. OH happy days! Now everyone in NC thinks that Maddy has done the impossible by getting HRC to publicly state that they are only lobbying for an inclusive ENDA.

This is the way that HRC brainwashses people in the GLBT community. There was no vote of the Governing Board of HRC about ENDA and there probably will not ever be one. But somehow, by lying to Trans people inside of HRC who they then send out to the rest of the Trans Community to spread that lie, they get out of having to do the one thing that would convince people like me that they support an inclusive ENDA only.

It would be so simple for them to have that vote and put this whole thing to bed, but they know that after Southern Comfort and what was said there, they can't be caught in another lie about ENDA. Even the inexperienced and nieve Trans people they have talked into working with them over the last two years, would drop them like a hot brick and end up outside on the sidewalk at these unholy propaganda dinners, with some of us older activists who have been burned and can recognize the word games that HRC plays.

To my Trans friends “on the inside” who still consider HRC to be doing something, I have only one thing to say to you. DO YOUR JOB FOR US ON THE OUTSIDE AND GET A VOTE FROM THE HRC BOARD, in writing with the results on their website. If you really want to make changes on the inside, then do this one thing and I will be grateful and supportive. Just don't bump your heads on that glass ceiling please or at least wear a hard hat, your going to need it. If they refuse your request for a vote, then maybe you all need to think twice about what you are doing by supporting them and going to these dinners.

And the dinners. I have been to a number of them and the one thing that I am very sure of is that the people that I meet at them don't have the slightest idea about what HRC did this last time with ENDA or any time before that either. The GLBT people who do know what they did just don't show up at them any longer. They seem have too much integrity.

Angela Brightfeather | March 19, 2009 2:39 PM

Alright, it's been over 24 hours now, and I don't hear anything coming from anyone inside of HRC about my comments regarding the HRC Board conducting and official vote saying that HRC only supports an inclusive ENDA. NO one is stepping forward to answer.

That should be more than enough time for the spinmiesters to come up with an answer. Or perhaps there are some Trans people who are working inside of HRC who are still trying to get an answer to my question and are busily hitting their heads against that glass ceiling I mentioned earlier.

Perhaps they are hearing the old excuse "WE don't need to answer any questions like that, and WE aren't going to be forced into having a Board vote by anyone." Are even the TRansgender people inside of HRC taking that position now?

Bil, perhaps you could tell me if I'm asking too much from HRC to have a vote, like a vote of confidence that would help to pull things together in the GLBT community for once. Or is this question I ask just too honest and unpalatable for HRC to answer? I mean really, am I being unreasonable here about asking a question and making a request of HRC to finally take a stand about inclusion in ENDA, that becomes their officially voted on, and published position?

One of the things that I have noted about HRC is that they love to put things that they do seem to do on their website and broadcast it to the general GLBT community at these dinners and radio shows. They wave these laurels and achievements in front of pundits, politicians and movie stars as "the only reality". Sometimes they even like to take credit for what they haven't done. But they don't like to have to answer questions about what they won't or refuse to do that would help the GLBT community to unite.

As a person who is aware that at one time the HRC Board of Directors did have a vote to be inclusive about ENDA, about 2 1/2 years before they ceded the power to Joe Solomonese to represent them in the final negotiations, when we were dumped from ENDA this last time, I will still give them one more chance. Out of respect for those Transgender people who I know inside of HRC and who have been working to change things, I am willing and hoping to see if their hard work and dedication has paid of. Here is a second chance to unify us as they did 4 1/2 years ago. Remember how happy we all were back then when they voted to support us by being inclusion after we caught them prelobbying against us? Now they ahve a chance to fix allthat and instead of rewriting history as they have a perchant to do so often, they can create a new and positive bit of history with a simple vote on the issues.

I simply have to believe that they would never make the same mistake again. It would be far to divisive and costly for them to go through all this again after calling a vote for total commitment to be inclusive. It would be the end of HRC.

Just speculating here a bit...could that be why no one is seeking a vote of their Board and the cause of this deafening silence? Is there some kind of fear there to confront them and perhaps have to face an unpleasant reality that would make some people further question their intensions in supporting HRC no matter what? Exactly what is it that HRC does not understand about committment? Or are the present words of Joe Solomonese when he says "We still have some work to do on ENDA", just another attempt to hold out that committment to the Transgender Community by keeping his foot in the door and not allowing it to finally close the chapter on this fracture in the GLBT Community. Are we being warned again by HRC?

I'm leaving it to my TRansgender brothers and sisters inside of HRC to find out for all of us and to let us know this time, before it's to late.
Please tell us why they won't openly vote for inclusion this time.

Angela, you know my long-time position on this. I see what you're trying to do, and I know that you realize the silence from the monetary morgue on Massachusetts Ave, is to be expected. However, I have to ask this: if HRC were to actually do as you've asked/suggested, how could you trust the announcement to be the truth? How can anyone trust any pronouncement that comes from the mouth of Solmonese, Luna, Smith, et. al., to be truth?

I can't.

We should ignore their existence, go on with our work, and watch our backs.

Wow. Lots of good comments. I'm just going to say thanks to Karen for reporting on this and getting these conversations going.

Angela Brightfeather | March 20, 2009 3:08 PM

Yes Ann I would believe them this time. Things have changed and I have the genuine hope that Transgender people on the inside of HRC who have made the committment to changing their policies, will take my message to their Board of directors, obtain a vote and publish the results on their website.

I believe that that is exactly why they are there and I have been told this by people like Allyson Robinson and a handfulof others Transgender people who are working on their projects.

I also agree with you in doing moving on beyond all this and doing what ahs to be done about ENDA. I would just rather prefer that we all do it together.

My hope also springs from the fact that this new administration is sizing up groups like HRC and comparing them to NGLTF and NCTE right now, as we speak and that their decisions to act won't be based on the money as much as what is the right thing to do. I have hope, but I see no other postings from those Trans people inside of HRC and I have not heard anything about a vote of their Board of Directors, so that first step seems to be a big one for them.

Perhaps they need to be asked more directly.

christie c | March 21, 2009 9:32 AM

As an employee of HRC Allyson would not be able to suggest or get a board to vote, she is an employee, it needs to come from those Trans people working with HRC but not employed by them.

Angela Brightfeather | March 22, 2009 12:12 AM

Christie C,

I know more than a few Transgender people who are in positions on HRC Board of Governors. Now that Deigo Sanches isn't attached to them as much, he could ask for such a vote and since Allyson is the first Trans person hired by HRC, I don't think there are any rules set about her asking for a vote either.

If all the Transgender people or a majority of them at least on the inside, asked the HRC Board to vote on inclusion only in ENDA and to put it on their web site, I believe that it would be either unifying or it would show them that they are wasting their time.

Lynn Shepodd | April 3, 2009 1:08 PM

Dear Monica,

We are so proud of Jessica Bair, our stellar HRC-LA Steering Committee Co-Chair. She is (ask anyone, I NEVER use this word) 'awesome' in every way as a leader here.

The complete Hate crimes bill has just been re-introduced. Hopefully, the House of Representatives will be willing to pass it as is rather than make changes that cause us to blame each other for the loss.

It takes all of us educating members of Congress as to the need for the legislation. And it takes coming out to our electeds.

Then there is the expensive part:

Critically important, passing legislation requires that we promise to support in future elections those members who stick their necks out by voting for the inclusive hate crimes bill. That is HRC's unique role in in the gay org landscape. But it is the job of a PAC.

Additionally, HRC has been educating Congress and the public for years about all types of hate crimes in our community. We have brought beloved members of our trans community to Capitol Hill on many occasions. And we support and train religious leaders on all our issues to lessen the attacks on you, on us.

I, too, am weary of the marriage issue because it plays into the religious extremists' game plan before the public is at all ready for it.

What should we do? Blame the first 4 glbt couples who flew to Hawaii in the 90's to get married, setting in motion a way too early discussion of hugely delicate, personal,political issue that has overtaken the media?

No. They thought they were doing a good thing as did the legal org that sent them.

As a former executive director of 2 national gay orgs, and an HIV org, and as a person who chomps at the bit over every unfair thing, I have suported HRC, as a volunteer and donor since 1982.

Why? Because our community deserves a professional political presence on Capitol Hill, the place where reps from East Jepip to Gotham City all gather to rep their people from their places.

DC is the picture of frustration, but it is the way democracy works. Bit by bit we will get what we want if we remain present and powerful.

Because we represent people from East Jepip to Gotham City, too, is why HRC stays at it.

Lynn Shepodd