Rebecca Juro

What Barack Obama really said about transgender rights

Filed By Rebecca Juro | October 11, 2009 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Barack Obama, ENDA, hate crimes against LGBT people, inclusion, politics, transgender, visibility

It seems like each time I write something about Barack Obama some variant of the following sentence is included in the first paragraph: The man knows how to deliver a speech.

Was there any real news to gleaned here? Well, maybe if you squint and look at it kinda sideways. Obama did use the word "transgender" once, the first time a sitting President has done so with major media coverage as far as I know. It may seem like a little thing to some, but Obama's use of the word may signal to Congressional Democrats that he wants a fully inclusive ENDA.

Obama's repeated use of the word "inclusive" was a signal to us, the LGBT community, and to transpeople in particular. He and his people know what LGB and especially T people understand the word "inclusive" to mean when it's used in the context of LGBT civil rights. Using "inclusive" was Obama's way of communicating his support for transgender inclusion in LGBT civil rights legislation to the community without actually saying it out loud. He even threw in a "gender identity" just for seasoning. It's a hell of a lot more than we ever got from Bill Clinton or any other President, but still a hell of a lot less than we deserve.

Why does it matter? It shows we're on his radar. Obama understands that as President and as an advocate of ENDA's passage, he must take a position on transgender inclusion pro or con and he knows he must communicate that position to us and to Congress. He did both artfully with this speech, but he also demonstrated that he's not quite ready to come out of closet with full-throated support for transgender rights yet.

The near-complete invisibility of trans people in this speech should not be surprising to anyone, and in fact was probably good political strategy given the timing. Obama gave the far right more than enough ammo with this speech, and neither he nor we would benefit from a strong public statement of support for transgender rights being used by the right wing to rile up their base against him and against us as Congress prepares to take on ENDA. Don't forget how the right wing used Obama's public statements on marriage during the Prop 8 battle to add his apparent endorsement to stripping same-sex couples of the right to marry in California. I doubt anyone on the Obama team wants to see anything like that happen again, and especially not while ENDA is still making its way through Congress. I strongly suspect that once hate crimes passes and the first legal recognition of transgender people in our federal laws is on the books, it'll become safer politically for the President and for us for him to express his support for transgender inclusion more openly.

He's close, but he's not quite there yet. Just as there are those who theorize that since Obama was in favor of same-sex marriage as an Illinois state senator and only started opposing it when he began his campaign for the US Senate, once he's successfully won a second term as President he'll come out strongly in favor of full marriage rights for gays and lesbians, I also believe that we'll see a much more courageous Obama on LGBT civil rights in general and on transgender rights in particular during his second term.

Does that mean we should let up on Obama until 2012? Hell no! And there's still Congress to consider, we know there's work to be done there. The more we can accomplish now in laying the groundwork, the easier the road ahead will be.

This was without question the most transgender-inclusive speech any sitting President has ever delivered and maybe even the most transgender-inclusive speech Obama has ever delivered. It just wasn't immediately obvious because our inclusion was slipped in through the rhetorical backdoor. We knew what he was talking about, but it's likely to escape the notice of many on the right. In the end, though, it really doesn't matter. Hearing the President say the T-word on television and talk about us might make us feel good for a moment, but that's not the goal here. The goal is pass an inclusive ENDA. The best way to make sure that happens is to not give the right wing an excuse to stir up anti-transgender bigotry.

I know, I know. I wanted more too, but I also understand why we can't have it...for now. Once ENDA is the law of the land, though, I'm going to start expecting a little more from him.

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Can't have it for now? Prez. O'bummer continues the norm everytime we, the LGBTQ community, allow that statement to go unnoticed for what it is; the continuation of heterosexual supremacy. As long as we are always grouped seperatly from "straights" and allow for LGBTQ instead of SLGBTQ then we give permission.

BULLSHIT. I don't want to be "acknowledged." I want equality. STOP MAKING EXCUSES FOR THIS BIGOT!

If you think being acknowledged at a fundraising dinner is a step forward, you truly have low self esteem. I hear echoes of Sally Field... "He likes me... He really likes me!"

Obama has not invited any of us over for coffee. Obama hasn't done a damn thing except talk. We don't need talk. We need equality. Duwanna Johnson didn't need talk. She needed equality.

If middle schools kids acknowledge and support transgender people, they're far in advance of the most powerful man in the world. End the bullshit, end the excuses. We demand the President and Congress act now: full civil equality in all 50 states now!

Obama is not a bigot. Obama is a political opportunist, just like most politicians. And yes we do need talk, but we also need action. What we don't need is the right-wingers protesting ENDA and trans rights.

I'm willing to give it a chance to work. You can scream and yell all you want that you want it now, but federal politics and civil rights progress have their own schedule and they're almost always interminably slow.

There's nothing wrong with trying to avoid problems as long as it's not accomplished at the expense of others. As long as transfolks are still included in ENDA, as long as we get the rights we need and deserve, I really don't care if Obama publicly expresses support for transgender equality right now. Once we have the rights, though, then it'll be time to expect more.

It has to be about the rights, first and foremost. Our entire community has waited much too long for it to be about anything else.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | October 12, 2009 3:27 AM

Rebecca, people who do bigoted things are bigots. They may also be tawdry political street hustlers and do lots of other despicable things but they are bigots.

Top ten bigoted things done by Obama, his campaign and his Administration:

1. Having religious tent meetings disguised as political rallies featuring born again “ex-gay” scum like Ronnie McClurkin.

2. Refusing to permit any mention of the LGBT equality agenda in the Democrat Platform.

3. Letting Rick Warren, another bigot, speak before an audience of billions at the Inaugural.

4. Allowing his DoJ to use violently bigoted language to defend DOMA.

5. Refusing to do anything concrete to repeal DADT and DOMA.

6. Setting up a 'spirit' guidance council composed mostly of bigots opposed to same sex marriage.

7. Setting up a national campaign organization of religious supporter groups and pandering to their backwardness.

8. Continuing the Hillary Clinton/Karl Rove White House Office of "Faith-based" and Neighborhood Partnerships and assigning Joshua Dubois, an ordained bigot, to run it.

9. "gawd's in the mix."

10. “gawd’s in the mix.”

No. It wasn't good enough. It wasn't acceptable. I don't buy incrementalism in any form, and this was another example of that.

And, CNN is filled with a bunch of narrow-minded, uneducated ass-wipes. At the Democratic National Convention, they ran a constant scroll at the bottom of the screen that gave the percentage of the various minorities at the convention. It was "gay and lesbian" there, too. Since I'm in Atlanta, maybe I should offer to educate their reporters.

It is all political smoke and mirrors, he pretends to support us so we support him. This is just the same old political game; promise flowers and candy, but then forget the KY.

He will find a way to screw us again.

Angela Brightfeather | October 11, 2009 5:26 PM

Great statement on your site. Very complicated.

You should know better.

The first time I came out was in 1978.
The first time I heard the word TRANSGENDER at the DC Mall was from Phil Donahue who took the stage at the GLB (Less T) Maech, in 1993.
The first time I heard the word Transgender in a major poltical speech was at the Democrat Convention when E. Birch said it in 2006.

Last night, I heard President Obama say it once.

So, I do not feel good about being recognized once and in passing, like recognizing a dear fly buzzing around your head. I do not even feel that it is an accomplishment. I do feel that all those times I heard it, it meant something, but without the equality and protections that should be ours over all those years, the mention of it and a dime might buy you a cup of coffee in Dupont Circle, but no where else in America.

I consider Obama's single mention of Transgender, permission from the President to all gays, lesbians, cispeople and expecially HRC and politicians in DC, to continue to shelve us as equal participants in the fight for our rights and equality. It once again says to all those who say "wait your turn" to us, or throw the hated word "increntalism" out there, that it is OK and sanctioned by the Office of the Presidency and his speech writing staff.

The FEAR of our President to say Transgender along with Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual is not an act of laziness on his part. It is a deliberate omission that has been accepted, policed by speechwriters and encouraged by people within the GLBT movement who are willing to accept second class citzenship for people like me, within our movement and that they can continue to accept the deaths of our Transgender people in the streets, the suffering of their families and the discrimination that if any one of them had to endure, they would find the cause and source of deep depression and personal outrage.

To say that it is any way acceptable is to join the ranks of conformists who are willing to negotiate away our basic human rights. To agree with our inequality based upon our gender expression, to leave it out of the fight and to
deny it in this fight for equality alongside with GLB people and as GLB people also, is to agree to distinguish and single us out as not being worthy of the same rights. It denies common sense and when Obama, Julian Bond and other leaders in the civil rights movement refuse to recognize Transgender people equally as needing human rights with GLB people, then it sends the wrong message, it denies their spiritual belief and says they are willing to a draw line in the sand where some Americans dare not cross over or where they dare not speak to.

It is especially wrong when the President writes us out of the very movement that we started 40 years ago. It's inexcusable.

Angela, I just don't see it the way you do. We've seen the willful erasure of trans identities in politics before, in fact we've experienced it firsthand, and this just isn't it.

This is defensive mode, and with good reason. Gays and lesbians have become so mainstream now in so many ways that transpeople are rapidly becoming the rabid right's primary target.

Let's say Obama had made a strong public statement in favor of trans rights during this speech. Would it have been nice to hear? Definitely. But then what about tomorrow? A week from now? A month from now? Six months?

Very soon now, Congress will begin considering ENDA. Imagine what right-wing activists could do with a clip of Obama supporting trans rights to rile up their base against ENDA. Seriously.

Results are what matter here, and they are all that matter. As long as transpeople remain in ENDA, I have no problem with the strategy.

If that's what it takes to get the job done, I'm willing to take one for the team, how about you?

Let's stick with your "sports analogy," shall we? You say we should "take one for the team." What the hell do you mean? Have you forgotten our history? We invented the damn "sport," at Compton and Stonewall. Now, you advocate us to continue to be bench warmers? This "political process" with LGB people reminds me of when I was a kid and always being picked last for baseball. Well, not any more.

Sorry, Becky, but you and I will have to disagree once again. If you like your warm spot on the bench, then fine. It gives you more of a chance to type rather than play. You don't have to play. Those of us who actually been playing for decades are not going to sit idle while we get left out once again.

This is the 21st Century, and we will always be confronted by the right-wingers. It's our fact of life. You advocate for us to continue to be scared of them. Fear is what has slowed the process by the Democrats so far. If you wish to buy into that fear rather than facing it head-on, then please, be my guest. Just stay out of the way of those of us who actually want to play the game . . . and win.

The motto of state lotteries is: "You can't win if you don't play." Works here, too.

Monica, I'm not suggesting that we sit on our hands and do nothing. I'm suggesting that we place our needs over our wants. For more, I refer you to my much longer comment below.


Looks like I have to say a bit more, LOL.

To some extent, it depends on how you see Transfolks in relation to the mainstream.

From my perspective, we've been mainstream -- we are mainstream. There's already considerable talk about such and most folks are aware of it to some degree or other.

I don't actually think we are going to be removed -- doing so would have a tremendously negative effect not merely on trans issues, but throughout the GLB sphere that would likely take a good couple decades to calm down.

I have issues with the use of fear as a tool -- with no disrepsect meant, Brecky provides a good example of such (and something I spoke about in that blog post) in this quote from her response here:

"Imagine what right-wing activists could do with a clip of Obama supporting trans rights to rile up their base against ENDA."

What I imagine is actually not that bad. What many others imagine is essential to the position I made regarding the entirety of the concept.

Discussing trans issues is seen by many -- and most especially the cisGLB leadership and the media pundits in general -- as placing the passage of ENDA at risk.

Becky is obviously aware of that point -- everyone is afraid that the wrangling over bathroom bill bs is going to derail it and shift the discussion away from areas in which they are comfortable.

In part because none of that leadership is actually Trans, and yet they are expected to speak for trans people.

They know they don't have the ability to win that argument *and* keep things moving forward. SO, instead, they are submarining it, and essenitally promoting a sensibility that it is all about GLB stuff in order to sneak us through.

That's the political machine at work -- and my point is that the aversion to having that discussion, the fear of the consequences associated with it, and the underlying dislike of many of the leadership for being in a position to not have their previously successful strategy of both but give up one all amount to the single issue I was addressing.

Institutionalized transphobia.

Something outside the realm of the players themselves, and part of the system that has grown up around it.

The *idea* that the opponents can use us against the bill is, in and of itself, part of that institutional transphobia -- it doesn't mean that Becky is such for having brought it up, but that the system where such a concept has top be looked at as a political reality is, in itself, transphobic.

The only way to break that -- the only way to weaken that status quo, which will, if allowed, hold fast through the whole raft of bills mentioned in Obama's speech -- is to stop and face such directly, with will, with purpose, and without fear or aversion or dislike.

And yes, that means it will be ugly. IT means having to deal with something even the trans community doesn't like to deal with -- the vast variety within it.

For me, because I see us as generally mainstream, and because I've had to deal with the arguments around the bathroom thingy already, I'm not worried about such a fight.

But that's me -- and I'm never just one of the crowd, lol

Sometimes fear is healthy and indicative of common sense. The reality is that the right-wing did exactly this sort of thing during the Prop 8 battle with Obama's statements on same-sex marriage. It's perfectly reasonable to expect them to try it again, if not with us then with any of the many other usable clips they may have gotten from that speech regarding gays and lesbians.

And certainly we are more mainstream than we used to be, but let's be honest here. Most of the time the media never makes it past the first two letters of LGBT. We've seen that all through the coverage of the March. As much as we may wish that we were further along that road, we have to accept that right now we still have a long way to go, even once we win our rights under federal law.

We don't have to like political reality to accept it and work within it in a way that gets us what we want and need.

I absolutely agree that fear is healthy and indicative of prudence. In situations where one's physical well being is imperiled -- when your life and limb are in danger. Otherwise, no, I do not find fear all that healthy, and will disagree strongly on that point.

I find that common sense is neither common, nor necessarily sensible.

I'm well aware of the reality of it having been done before -- and the response then was the same as it was now -- avoid talking about trans people. IN that case, specifically, it's been widely noted that they prop 8 campaign sorta failed to really talk about gay people, as well. And for much the same reasons: it was deemed not politically responsible and dangerous.

I am absolutely certain they will try it again -- this time, as well, they will pull out all the stops, and hurl massive efforts towards the bathroom argument in particular since they've already learned they can apply it to gay folks as well as transfolks -- and win.

That's not a fear -- that's an absolute certainty -- I worked within the Republican party for far too long not to know that one's coming, lol.

Where there is fear, there is a weakness that can be exploited. You run at it, and it will give way. Where there is no fear, there is only testing.

Until recently, the last two years (and five years overall) the media has been exceedingly *good* at bringing the subject up and being inclusive of the the T. The B part not so much.

Indeed, it's only been as the battle over ENDA readies to gear up and the President speaks at the HRC and the March for Equality is held that they've suddenly dropped mentioning the T.

As I noted, there are political reasons for such -- politics is not about rational decisions, its about emotional jockeying.

IT's part of an overall strategy to minimize things -- and its based in fear.

The wrong kind.

I do agree that we don't have to like the political reality -- but that doesn't mean we all see it as a political reality -- some of us see it as a political opportunity.

To get what we want and need, however, is going to take far more than this. It's going to take us running for office ourselves -- getting elected, and serving in the Congress. Until then, its always going to be about jockeying for the aid of others who will rarely have our interests held at heart the way we do, and who will always be willing to compromise on them.

And sorry about the length of posting, but I'm walking a narrowish line here that doesn't give me much room for brevity.

Democrats who are political opportunists, like Obama, thrive by watching you beg for legislation. They love the feeling of a bouncer at the velvet rope.

Obama knows the right buzz words to drop, Stonewall, LGBT, gender identity, Easter Egg Roll (yes that was in there). But he still sees your equality in his hands, overall a condescending, patience children, we're not there yet approach. The man has trouble speaking of freedom, but can speak on and on of fairness and equality.

Here's a transcript of the speech

I listened with great interest to the speech and found, transgender mentioned once, gender identity mentioned once, LGBT mentioned several times and transsexual mentioned not once.

Scorecards are important in politics.

Not once did I hear Obama say gay marriage, certainly not the Canadian term equal marriage. All I heard him say was relationships and families.

I also heard him speak of domestic partnerships; this is his history. This has been his long advocacy. I suppose the end of his incrementalism for gay and lesbian people--i.e. not marriage but marriage in everything but name--is OK.

It wouldn't be OK for me if I were gay, but I'm not, so I can't comment on that.

However, the message I heard from him, as I hear from so many in positions, such as the HRC, such as Egale Canada, such as the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition is all consistent.

Transgender is always used in the context of sexual orientation.

It is used as the way gay and lesbian people express their sexual orientation; never have I heard any of these people/organizations clarify the simple fact that sexual orientation and gender identity have no necessary connection.

But then, is that several incremental steps in the future?

Is this the subject of education in the future?

The dominant paradigm is as clear in Obama's speech as in the Canadian Rainbow Health Coalition's human rights complaint, sorry the private human rights complaint of the executive director of the Coalition, the comments of the Executive Director of Egale Canada:

transgender is part of sexual orientation

Obama is not the leader of the Soviet Union, the HRC Dinner is not Lenin's Mausoleum, this is not an exercise in reading the tea leaves.

How much plainer can he be?

Either his view that domestic partnership is the ultimate goal of his administration or that transgender is simply part of being gay.

Those who refuse to say transgender and transsexual have enabled him and the HRC and every other organization and all those who simply repudiate our claims to being mis-sexed, which enable those who are transphobic to hurt us, physically, emotionally, in our ability to earn a living--not because of our relationships--but who we are.

>the HRC Dinner is not Lenin's Mausoleum

Hilarious Jessica!

As you've pointed out in his cliche word count, it was as if he used a "GLBT for Dummies" book to write the speech.

He can easily discuss and integrate the gay, lesbian, trans topic in a wide array of forums and settings. But he does it at HRC because he sees us as HRC.
An interest group...a group first...individuals second.

For those who believe in the incrementalism of the HRC--for sexual orientation, only, of course--this blog entry by Andrew Sullivan should be of interest.

Sullivan himself is not the most inspiring of characters for, among many other things, as senior editor of The New Republic he was responsible for the publication of Betsy McCaughey's piece that sank the Clinton effort.

Read Sullivan's

The Battered Wife Syndrome Of The Human Rights Campaign

And then there's this about Don't Ask, Don't Tell--and its OLD>

Hastings withdraws ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ amendment due to White House ‘pressure.’
Angela Brightfeather | October 12, 2009 11:28 AM

"Those who refuse to say transgender and transsexual have enabled him and the HRC and every other organization and all those who simply repudiate our claims to being mis-sexed, which enable those who are transphobic to hurt us, physically, emotionally, in our ability to earn a living--not because of our relationships--but who we are."


And where is this all going you might ask? Let me tell you.

I happen to be a plumber and the old saying is that fecal matter flows downhill and you get paid on Fridays. Well, the one real constant in that is that fecal matter does flow downhill and I guess, so does being Transgender now days.

Our community is being forced into a situation in the future, when we will have to face the fact that the vast majority of it, which used to be referred to as "gender diverse" and now has been conscripted into the terms pre or post op, transsexual or suitably passable, will be left behind and sacrificed specifically so that the bathroom issue can be ignored and at least some people can go on with their lives.

The fecal matter that no one really wants to discuss in this or any other blog, post or relevant discussion is, what do we do with those women who don't look like women and never will? We know that there is no such thing as a crossdressing woman, but what about those crossdressing men? How do we "real" transgender people survive as long as those less than real transgender people still need to go to the bathroom?

Well, we are being taught all about it by HRC and President Obama aren't we. We are craftfully being guided into the political situation of being redefined, sifted through carefully and then accepted based on the most prevalent standards of bathroom etiquete. This is being done by first making us gay or lesbian look-a-likes, then lumping us into the same sexual terminologies and distinctions that are acceptable and then turning us against each other for the purpose of creating enough separatism within our own community. In other words, they are killing the heart of our gender diverse community and teaching us that incrementalism isn't just a good thing, it's a great thing to consider when your accepting passes for people to use the rest room also.

The day is coming when those who are compromising for our community now will have to face our community and tell all of us that if your passable, you are on HRT, you live full time, or you have undergone some form of permanent physical surgery to change your sex, then you and only you are considered transgender and can use a public rest room, because if they can compromise our being able to get a job in a church or even becoming members of the church of our choice, then they sure should be able to distinguish our acceptability about going to use a bathroom also.

It's not funny that those who seem to be compromising for us now, and accept HRC and Obama's incremental approach, will probably be the first to get their passes to use the rest room of their choice. You can tell who those people are when you talk to them and they shake their head and say they fear having to confront the issue because it will be used by the inept and bigoted right wing to keep all of us from being equal. They are also the ones who are willing to make the compromises when it comes to DMV markers and such as well. "Institutionalized Transphobia?" You bet it is and they are teaching us how to do it and become experts in it every day.

As for me, I have no dog in this fight about bathrooms or what that issue makes Transpeople do or not do. It makes very little difference how I am dressed or look when I go into either rest room. I just open the door and shout, I'm the plumber. Finish your business and everyone out now!! Kind of ironic isn't it? I'm transgender and I have people begging me to help them with their bathroom issues. I think I'll try placing a bid on the next job that comes up at the White House.

And I thought you really agreed with my position, given your support of my comment, Angela.

You say, and I agree

Well, we are being taught all about it by HRC and President Obama aren't we. We are craftfully being guided into the political situation of being redefined, sifted through carefully and then accepted based on the most prevalent standards of bathroom etiquete. This is being done by first making us gay or lesbian look-a-likes, then lumping us into the same sexual terminologies and distinctions that are acceptable

But then you say

How do we "real" transgender people survive as long as those less than real transgender people still need to go to the bathroom?

And earlier

which used to be referred to as "gender diverse" and now has been conscripted into the terms pre or post op, transsexual or suitably passable

And finally

I'm transgender

The argument you make, rather nostalgically, for the day when we were all gender diverse, when we were all necessarily transgender is precisely the argument I oppose because it calls for the exclusive use of the term transgender.

This enables the violence I point at in the quote of mine you use.

Frankly, the position you take I cannot see as anything other than utterly contradictory though I do look forward to your use of transgender and transsexual in the manner you apparently approve of at the top of your comment.

And, yes, I did say mis-sexed, not mis-gendered.

There is quite a significant difference, the Butlerian notion that sex is always already gender notwithstanding.

It might be why they are making transgender people

gay or lesbian look-a-likes, then lumping us into the same sexual terminologies and distinctions

Obama is still using us as a political pawn. He needs to listen to Julian Bond. Meaning all minorities need their rights and suport from both those who have won then and those who have not because we are all part of "We the people"

I just wonder if/and, or when we(the T in LBGT) are going to be used again by the HRC as a bargaining chip to pass ENDA? I wonder if Mr. Obama has actually had had conversation with a T person has he ever been invited to a conference with us? There are several on this list that should be at conference with him. Maybe, Just maybe it might give him a bit more info. The hearings that occurred last month or so ago, may have been the first time any one in Congress has really heard what happens to a lot of us. At a recent event I attended in NJ lot (7 out of 10)of very intelligent people did not have jobs or were under severely employed. We need to continue to educate that we are not child molesters, voyeurs, or problems in a bathroom! When I need to use a necessary room, It is because it is necessary!

To the non-T's and the people that are worried I would be in the wrong restroom, does it really make sense to you that I wait in the long line for the womens room instead of the short line for the mens room? Also Do you have separate rest room facilities at you house or do you share as needed?

Anyone who reads me knows I'm no incrementalist, but I am a realist. There's nothing wrong with asking for everything we want up front, and in fact it's probably a good idea to do so, but if you actually expect to get it you're just not being realistic. I'd rather get my rights piecemeal than not get them at all.

My big issue right now, as it should be for all of us I think, is inclusion. Let's not forget that this isn't just about transfolks, it's also about gays and lesbians in non-accepting areas of our country who are facing the same kind of workplace discrimination we are.

We have to be realistic. Hate crimes is just about ready to be signed into law. Congress has held hearings, once recently, on transgender inclusion in ENDA (they may have called it something else, but that's really what it was).

I simply do not care much if Barack Obama says nice things about me and my community in front of a television camera or not. What I do care about very much is that LGBT Americans are protected from discrimination and afforded the same rights as other citizens.

Immediate gratification is nice, but essentially useless over the long term in accomplishing our real goals. If keeping us temporarily out of the political spotlight helps keep us permanently in ENDA, that's a tradeoff I think we should all be willing to make.

Let's not forget 2007. In September, we were all cheering when it looked like an inclusive ENDA would make it through Congress. Barney was on board, HRC was right there, everything seemed to be coming together, we were just one big happy Queer bus on our way toward social justice....right up until Bus Driver Barney and the rest of the passengers kicked transfolks off the bus and then backed up over us just for good measure.

They did this to us at a time when anyone who was paying attention knew perfectly well that neither ENDA nor the HCPA (which successfully passed both houses of Congress) would ever become law as long as George Bush remained in office.

I think we should heed the lessons of those days and keep our eyes on the prize. There will be plenty of time and opportunity to criticize, cajole, and complain before, during, and after the battle to protect our right to work.

Further, I submit that the reason why ENDA is different and requires different tactics is because in our capitalist society the right to work (i.e. to generate income) is the root from which all other rights flow. I don't mean that in the legal sense but rather in the practical.

The more of us who are able to get and maintain gainful employment, the more money there will be in the community to fund the work of our activists, the more we ourselves will be able to do, the more influence we will have with the federal politicians, and the more progress we will make at the local and state levels as well.

We need ENDA and we need it now. If we are ever to get past the point of being popularly seen as a fringe element in this country by our mainstream media we have to be able to generate the revenue to make it happen.

Unfortunately, we transfolks don't have Bruce Bastians and Tim Gills who can just write a check and make things happen. We have to rely on ourselves, and the only way to do that is to ensure first and foremost that our right to earn a living is protected under by law. It is the only possible way transgender Americans will ever see anything approaching economic justice in this country in our lifetimes.

Before transgender people can hope to see true equality as citizens of this country we must first demand and achieve a level economic playing field. ENDA will not achieve that for us by itself, but it will spur the process along in a significant and lasting way, much the same as happened for racial and ethnic minorities after the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

No one could credibly claim that the fight against racial and ethnic prejudice and discrimination is over even now, 45 years later, but neither could anyone deny that the progress made toward that goal during that time in our country has been immense, including the election of our nation's first non-white President.

We cannot let our wants get in the way of our needs here. We want Obama to speak out on our equality, but we NEED ENDA to be passed into law.

Eyes on the prize.

Angela Brightfeather | October 12, 2009 2:00 PM

"Frankly, the position you take I cannot see as anything other than utterly contradictory though I do look forward to your use of transgender and transsexual in the manner you apparently approve of at the top of your comment."

The comment regarding "how do we real Transgender people" was tongue in cheek. I am sorry for being vague about that.

Other than that, I still do look at Transgender as including all gender diverse peoples who wish to identify that way. I do not make a distinction between Transgender and Transsexual and I never will although technically I consider myself as both, I am a TS who prefers to keep it all together, at least until we have some kind of equal rights in the workplace and protections.

Why, you may ask? Because I realize that only a transgender person (pick any one kind you like)truly understands what another transgender person or a transsexual person has to go through and out of all the people on the face of this earth, they are able to support and defend it the most and need the least eduation about what it is all about. Better friends don't exist in a political battle, so why agree that they should be separated by definitions imposed that suggest special rights for one or the other. WE are all in this together and have been for many years until the internet and enough post op people were able to get together to start yelling about our differences as transgender persons instead of our similarites.

I refuse to leave any gender diverse or gender queer person behind by making the same distinctions that play into the hands of HRC and others. By making such distinctions, we are giving them every opportunity to slice us up like a piece of a pie and make distinctions in legislation that will leave people unprotected. If you can't see that happening now, then you will see if when it happens. In fact it already happened when they cut us from ENDA by trying to distinguish Transpeople from Gay and Lesbian people. I do not relish getting pushed into the same corner again by them using the differences between TS and TG and CD as their wedges.

Angela, difference does not mean less no matter how much you imply it does. I am quite happy with my medical condition--it is treated and doing quite well, thank you.

I'm not sure those whose transgender identity, not those who also have a medical condition as you and I have, are quite as secure. Why must they appropriate my life? If you want to give them yours, that is your right.

Without recognition of our differences it is simply not possible to establish a true coalition; the only political organization possible is that of a policed, single issue entity--like HRC.

And you want to do that for transsexual and transgender people? For transgender people?

so why agree that they should be separated by definitions imposed that suggest special rights for one or the other

This statement is so close to the way the right attacks both ENDA and Shepard/Byrd.

Obscuring differences will not make things better for those who are obscured, it simply makes it easier for them to be erased.

As is happening.

To use the term transgender only, as a political decision, merely enables the erasure of all those whose primary questions in life are Am I female/a woman? Am I male/a man? Am I both? Am I neither?

Not Who do I want to fuck? Not How best do I attract those I want to fuck?

Jessica -- it's not Butlerian when it comes from me, as you know, and hat's a weak argument since its predicated on several faulty assumptions.

Enough CTS nonsense.

I'm very much a realist, myself. I'm also quite aware of the way politics functions, in practice and theory.

The erasure of trans experience in preparation for the arguments in and around ENDA '09 does indeed require someone like the president to step up and speak our collective names.

Look to the impact just today, where trans protections are cast aside in California. Few are raising hue and cry there.

Barney was NOT on board in '06. Had he been so, he would not have split the bill whilst it was still in committee.

Revision is not something I will welcome.

I am not looking for immediate gratification, either. I am looking for a concrete solution -- if gratification was my purpose for speaking out, I wouldn't be doing so -- I'd blend into the world.

I am heeding the lessons of those days -- those days when no one spoke up against anything for fear of nothing happening, and, oddly enough, once again, nothing happened.

I do agree that ENDA is essential -- and, truthfully, moreso for transfolk than GLB folk. Yet this particular version of ENDA is extraordinarily limited in scope and potential value outside the basic value of its symbolism.

Look, for example, in practical terms, to what we are excited about -- myself included: the only recompense allowed is, in effect, getting one's job at a company that has just tried to deny you or fire you.

And while expenses are paid for by the loser, the costs to file such a suit are still upfront -- thus, we really do, in the end, get little more than the symbolic victory for anyone who is of ethnic background.

So there is no true economic playing field created -- even I, with my staunch support for it throughout its evisceration would not go so far as to say that.

Is it important? Absolutely.
Is it needed, absolutely.
Is it the prize?

Not on your life. And, more to the point, not on mine.

IF it did, indeed, accomplish all those wonderful things -- if the punishing power of it was not so watered down as to be effectively worthless, if it aided our lovers and our family, if it held a strong statement not merely symbolic -- then yeah, maybe I'd be willing to bite my tongue.

IT doesn't. And to be perfectly direct, I don't trust any of the players.

So yes -- constant awareness is of critical importance -- or else this bill will lose even its symbolic value as we are erased from the mind of the public in its terms, through fear of it not passing.

No, this argument isn't about ENDA's value. Never has been. All are agreed its important.

This argument is about erasure -- not merely being ignored, but being pointedly left out of the discussion.

On purpose.

And because of institutional transphobia.

Yes, it is about institutional transphobia--phobia of those who transition sex/gender, particularly from male to female.

Those who choose to express their gender in non-normative fashion, as part of their sexual orientation, seem to have found an ally as demonstrated by his speech. He may not be as supportive of them as of those who are just gay and lesbian, but at least he recognized them.

And it is also about those who enable institutional transphobia.

It does make a difference. Yes it's true that not everyone will be able to afford to sue, however:

1. Many states with anti-discrimination laws have civil rights enforcement agencies, which may investigate your claim and bring sanctions if found to be valid. These agencies would likely not have the authority to take action under federal law, but would refer them to US district attorneys.

2. In most cases, larger companies will simply obey the law. After one or two big-money discrimination awards hit the media (as they did a few years ago here in New Jersey) the vast majority will comply. That's not to say there isn't plenty of discrimination still, especially at the ground level, but I can tell you from personal experience that it does become easier (read: possible) to find a job as a visibly gender-variant person as a result of companies knowing that there can significant price to be paid both in cash and in bad press for discriminating against transpeople.

We can't just blast through institutional transphobia, we have to dismantle it piece by piece because that's how it was built.


"After one or two big-money discrimination awards hit the media (as they did a few years ago here in New Jersey) the vast majority will comply. "

ENDA does not allow for *any* big money lawsuits. So that entire line of reasoning isn't applicable.

Indeed, it is *explicit* that it doesn't allow for such.

And I said it makes a difference. I said it was important.

As for it having been built piece by piece, well, that's a serious stretch for anyone to make, Rebecca, given it's inherently tied to the cultural systems developed a long ass time ago. Too big for either you or I to attempt here.

But then, I suppose racism needed to be legislatively broken down piece by piece as well? I mean, its not like there was an entire chunk of law passed all at once in the mid 1960's or anything...

But we can, should, be able to count on the statements of the "best friend we ever had in the White House."

Even if he does sign into law an inclusive Shepard/Byrd and an inclusive ENDA laws, there is still a missing piece--which is not missing for gay and lesbian people and those who express their sexual orientation in non-normative ways.

Obama is a smart if not brilliant man.

Obama is a truly eloquent speaker--when he wants to be. And, for whatever reason, he has not wanted to be so on Health Insurance--as George Lakeoff has made exceptionally clear.

So, I assume, with considerable evidence, that Obama knows about not only transgender issues--in the context of transgender being gay people expressing their gender--but about transsexual issues.

He chose to speak about transgender as gay and not to speak about transsexual.

Obama did not use the word transsexual. He has been enabled in doing this by all those who refuse to say transgender and transsexual.

That he did not say it in front of the HRC shouldn't surprise, it is a gay only organization, regardless of its occasional forays into transgender as a gay issue.

Rebecca, if Obama chooses not to say something it is not because he doesn't know.

If he chooses to conflate transgender with gay, and exclude transsexual, it is intentionally.

Without this generation's great communicator where will the inspiration come from? He has clearly chosen to inspire gay people--for whatever that is worth.

He has chosen not to inspire transsexual and transgender people--those who are not gay or lesbian.

You declare yourself to be practical with your eyes on the prize.

What prize is that? The one that Obama refuses to speak about? How realistic, how practical is that?

He declared it is no more appropriate for gay and lesbian people to be told to be patient today that it was appropriate for black Americans to be told to be patient 50 years ago.

How patient must transsexual people be?

Jessica, I didn't say Obama didn't mention us directly because he didn't know. I said he knows perfectly well and demonstrated that by communicating his support of transgender inclusion with his use of the word "inclusive".

Which would you rather have, a mention by he President on television or federal protection against discrimination in the workplace? Unfortunately, our current political climate still precludes the certainty of us being able to have both.

Personally, I'll err on the side of justice.

Rebecca, I'm not so convinced what inclusive means in this context. I know what I mean by it. I believe I know what you mean by it.

I'm not convinced that Barney Frank knows what it means--and if he does, he's demonstrated even if he does understand the way you and I do, it doesn't stand in the way of his doing, and saying, what he did and said.

Maybe the law is as you say it is. Maybe, Dyss's concerns rise only to the level of concerns and are not of importance in the larger picture.

But in the larger picture, I cannot not be concerned when someone who still wields so much influence cannot bring himself to say the words I believe both of us want him to say.

More than this, as an adherent of the doctrine of social determinants of health, I know the brutalizing effect of silence from this bully pulpit.

"Realism" was the excuse HRC has been using against wanting us included in ENDA since the Birch days. "Realism" was the excuse Barney used to keep us out of ENDA in 2007 and Joe Schmo backed him up.

Since people got off their asses and away from the computers to actually make a difference, then they change the "realism" of the past to reflect the "realism" of us being included in ENDA today. Buying into the current reality by throwing up our hands and giving up trying is not how reality gets changed. Buying into the form of reality mentioned i9n the article is nothing more than buying into incrementalism. It's what we fought against for the last two decades. It's not any more acceptable now then it was then. Be the change or be the blockage. Each of us has to decide.

Interesting enough, CNN had a special on the Jonestown survivors after the President's speech at HRC. Seems appropriate that people are still drinking the Kool-Aid today.

That was a long time ago, Monica. Things are different now and you know that as well as I do. Back then we knew with a certainty that if ENDA were to somehow pass transpeople wouldn't be in it. For that matter, at that I point I believe the same was true for hate crimes as well.

We already know that some Democrats will abandon ship the moment the going gets rough. It's what they do. It's what they've always done. We've been thrown overboard once already and I don't want to see it happen again.

"Realism" as used in the 90's and being realistic about modern political political reality are not at all the same thing.

And another thing, just for the record:

I don't advocate that we should stop pressing Obama or Congress on moving forward on our issues. In fact, I believe we should turn up the heat now like never before and I've said as much on numerous occasions.

I'm no Kool-Aid drinker, Monica. You know me better than that. I'm just sick and tired of waiting for results and I don't want our community providing the right-wing with a chance to get in the way of what we all need from our government.

Again, I'm all about results. I don't think it can or should be about anything else right now because the stakes are just too high. Once every LGBT American's right to work is protected under the law, then I'll be among the first to complain when the President doesn't acknowledge us in his speeches.

You have written a lot more in the comment section then the length of the original article, trying to counter some of what you said in the article. The article comes across as if we should step aside and let the gay men of DC make all the decisions for us, and to be happy the President threw us crumbs. The comments are countering this mindset. Will the real Becky stand up? The article and the comments don't jive.

I disagree. My mindset is that if there's nothing concrete to be gained by the President mentioning us on TV and there's something negative to (potentially) be prevented from him not mentioning us, then I say who cares?

Again, I'm all about the results. If you want to consider that contradictory to what I said above I can't stop you, but it really isn't. I never said we should shut up, I only said that if it's advantageous to the ENDA fight for us not to be a topic of media attention right now, then so be it...for now.

Angela Brightfeather | October 12, 2009 4:07 PM

Interesting enough, CNN had a special on the Jonestown survivors after the President's speech at HRC. Seems appropriate that people are still drinking the Kool-Aid today.

They also had a piece on two Transgender youths and I was very aware that the CNN reporter questioning them made the point that changing a persons sex at such a young age, seemed very difficult.

I felt like reaching inside the TV and wringing his neck. It's the same old thing. The news hypes up Transgender Youth, then concentrates on the sex change instead of gender expression.

I thought of that young person in the news the other day in Atlanta who was not allowed back in school because he/she refused to stop dressing as too feminine. The honesty of that person was overwhelming for me when he/she stated that it wasn't the clothes being worn, it's simply that this is who I am. Accept me and give me the opportunity to be educted just like everyone else.
The clothes have nothing to do with my education.

I have been rather startled that this story has not shown up on Bilerico so far and his interview has not been shown. I also think that this points out the fact that today, unless a person wishes to change their sex and not just the way they express themselves in the opposite gender, then it's either to fetishistic to comment on or it's just not newsworthy enough because it does not involve any permanent or consequential change.

All that being said, the real reason why people need to hear some outward acceptance of T4ansgender people from the President other than a brief mention, is because we are equally aware that there is little time to do what ahs to be done before the Dems may lose thier majority in the House and Senate and we are faced with no possible action on the legislation. Even if Obama wins a second term, if they don't have the numbers they ahve now in both houses, he and we, might as well forget about any real changes.

We can build on legislation that passes tomorrow because into the future it's harder to roll back such legislation without looking like a bigot. If it doesn't get done between now and November 2010, then it stands little chance of ever getting done.

However, thinking the way that Becky is, it would seem that any talk, news, promotion or interviews being done about Trans people should be simply muted or at least filtered in sme way, until ENDA passes, and I find that hard to accept if not simply impossible.

I view this in one way and from past experiences. If you are transtioning in the workplace, the one thing that you want is to have the full support of the HR team where your working and a good and stong management policy from the boss. In the case of ENDA, the President is the boss because he has to sign the bill to make it law. If he is afraid to speak out about us or recognize us because it might make him come under fire, how does that reflect on the kind of support we are going to be getting when it becomes law or cases end up in the Justice Department? How much will that law be enforced by the EEOC if it's an unmentionable issue to the boss?

The news hypes up Transgender Youth, then concentrates on the sex change instead of gender expression.

And you believe the sex reassignment should be ignored in favour of wearing the clothes?

I suppose there is some consistency here, that it is "men" wearing dresses and "women" wearing pants that is the story, regardless of whether it is for a weekend or for one's whole life.

I also think that this points out the fact that today, unless a person wishes to change their sex and not just the way they express themselves in the opposite gender, then it's either to fetishistic to comment on or it's just not newsworthy enough because it does not involve any permanent or consequential change.

And this is called transgender? And we must blend this with transsexual so to make it not fetishistic or to make it more newsworthy?

I do not understand the intentional conflation of these two very different states, one a medical condition, requiring medical treatment, and the other an adopted identity that, there seems to be general agreement, does not require medical treatment.

I don't understand why it is necessary to say both are the same, why it is demeaning to one or the other just to point out the differences, and the different needs, and why the emphatic response that this differentiation is politically imprudent.

You don't "understand," because you refuse to understand. SOP.

I don't understand because I don't subscribe to your ideology.

And it angers you that you can't impose it on me--and others.

Your ideology is fading.

Dawn Storrud | October 12, 2009 7:25 PM

Push now, push later. Shout now, shout later. I suppose all of this is a matter of perspective. The girls I talked to Saturday night at 5th and K in DC do not have the luxury of a roof or a warm bed. They hope to make enough each night to eat and buy enough pain killer of some kind to make it through the next day. Even though I invited them to the march, I don't think one of them came. They have no expectation that anything will happen soon enough to do them a bit of good. They have a, “I will make my own way, now” agenda. I hope you understand.
Each of us has a bit more than they do. The more we have the easier it is to be accepting of an incremental road to change. When I am thirsty, I'll climb down a steep cliff to water., but, if I had a super large canteen I could wait for erosion to remove the obstacle.

That's exactly the reason why we need ENDA passed. That's why it has to be about the rights, not whether or not Obama's talking about us on television.

Angela Brightfeather | October 13, 2009 2:27 PM

And it angers you that you can't impose it on me--and others.

Your ideology is fading.

And now you understand why we are divided and will continue to be so. People like yourself continue to create rungs on the ladder that you climb at the expense of leaving others behind. Very similar to what HRC wanted to do to "Transgender people" in ENDA.

That makes it very difficult to take you seriously since your willing to do to some people in your own community, exactly what your fighting against someone else doing to you.

She's from Canada. I can't understand why she even cares what happens here in our country. She doesn't have a dog in this hunt. I think you pinpointed the real reason she commented here.

'Your own community'.

You don't get it.

Some of us refuse to be dragged along for the carnival ride, despite all the insistence in the world that no one has a choice.

Macho tough-guy phrases that are used to try and support you two by dismissing someone out of the country are amusing,

Some arguements extend outside the narrow lens of your military service. Truth doesn't need a vote to be heard.

It's all very exhausting.

But then, that's the real reason for commenting here, isn't it?

“We invented the damn "sport," at Compton and Stonewall.”

No, the gay transgender was at the forefront of Compton and Stonewall…first and foremost the queens who rioted were gay…transgender was incidental. Those protests didn’t result in a transgender movement (though it could have). What it did was start a gay movement. It was a bed that was made that the transgender must now lie in. Jessica is quite right: Transgender is always used in the context of sexual orientation.

“Most of the time the media never makes it past the first two letters of LGBT.”

That’s very true, and for good reason: the media (and the mainstream as well) do not differentiate between the G, the L, the B and certainly not the T. And why should they? Most of the trans activists are gay or lesbian…and heterosexual post ops are silenced, shouted down, and kept out of the debate altogether. Certainly the position of those of us who are heterosexual are never, ever mentioned by the GLBT, yet we are held captive, by association, to that same group.

“It's the same old thing. The news hypes up Transgender Youth, then concentrates on the sex change instead of gender expression.”

“I also think that this points out the fact that today, unless a person wishes to change their sex and not just the way they express themselves in the opposite gender, then it's either too fetishistic to comment on or it's just not newsworthy enough because it does not involve any permanent or consequential change.”

That’s very true and there is a reason for that: society has historically been able to wrap their arms around transsexualism and the need for GRS and a sex change; the birth certificate laws are on the books as proof of that. But “gender expression” is simply looked at by that same group as a bunch of gay men playing dress up.

“Some of us refuse to be dragged along for the carnival ride, despite all the insistence in the world that no one has a choice [but to belong to the GLBT community whether we want to or not].”

Indeed, many of us do. We refuse to other ourselves by prefixing our sex/gender and subscribe to the so-called community we are supposed to belong to for no other reason than just because. That fact is one that the trans activists simply do not understand or if they do, will not acknowledge. To us, it’s all about setting things right through GRS and then going on about our lives; we have no more in common with each other than we might have with the neighbor down the street. To the transgender, it’s about the GLBT...the community.

And that brings us full circle and back to the title of Rebecca’s post: “What Barack Obama really said about transgender rights.” He didn’t mention transgender rights in his speech because it wasn’t necessary. As Rebecca said, most people don’t get past gay and lesbian when discussing GLBT. The reason they don’t get past gay/lesbian is that to “most people”, there is no distinction; transgender is a gay issue to them. The trans activists have done an excellent job of instilling into the mainstream that transgender is not a gender issue but one of sexual orientation. The transgender should be pleased that the mainstream society that denies them the very rights they so desperately seek equates them with the gay/lesbian movement. After all, the activists have spent the past 40 years or so reinforcing that perspective. And, no doubt, will continue to do so. What is unfortunate for the transgender is that due to their success in convincing the mainstream they have some inherent and overwhelming common interest with the gay and lesbian movement, the gender issue that is supposed to be their root issue has been lost and now equated as a sexual orientation one. Thus, the mainstream doesn’t see a male-to-female transgender as female, but as a queer male.