Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Underlying Cause of ENDA's Failure: Not MSNBC, Messaging, Or Apathy

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | June 01, 2010 8:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media, Politics, The Movement
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, ENDA, Gay Inc, marriage equality, MSNBC

We have been speculating here at The Bilerico Project as to why ENDA failed in this Congressional session.success.jpg

Of course, the fight for ENDA isn't over in this session, but even if it passes the House, it's likely too late in the session to move through the Senate. It would be largely a symbolic victory, though an important symbol for future Congresses.

Rebecca Juro says the media, and particularly MSNBC, shares some of the blame. Joe Mirabella says it's the gay leadership's poor messaging underlying that, and several commenters also pointed the finger at LGBT community apathy.

But I think there's a far more important cause that underlies all three of these factors.

That is Gay Inc's change in strategy that occurred in the early 2000s.

I enjoyed both Rebecca Juro's post and Joe Mirabella's. It's post-mortem analysis that is sorely needed.

But I think that, while there is plenty of "blame" to go around, we ought also to look for the strategy underlying the tactical failures of MSNBC, gay leadership and apathy.

Gay Inc. made a decision in the early 2000's to move away from targeting traditional civil rights movement discrimination, and concentrate almost exclusively on marriage equality via the "good as you" theme. I believe the thinking was that the campaign for marriage equality would drag the rest along in its wake.

That agenda came from our advocacy leaders, who live in an environment insulated from most LGBT people in terms of economics, education and culture. But most LGBT people are also not necessarily prepared to do such analysis in understanding why their advocacy leaders would push them into marriage equality as the number one issue.

Discrimination was moved way down the list in the hierarchy. It was never abandoned, but it limped along.

Marriage equality as a lead issue has proved largely a bust, having been stripped away from Americans in 31 states, in every single state in which it has been placed on the ballot. It has been quietly rotated out for a while, while we lick our wounds and regroup. But the philosophy behind it, the "good as you" philosophy, has not changed.

ENDA, and other non-discrimination measures do not fit with the world-view of "good as you." It requires making the argument that we are victims of oppression, and require liberation, something which I think most gay leaders do not feel.

Theirs is the "formal equality" mindset, under which all that need be done to achieve equality is to ensure that laws are neutral towards us. "Substantive equality," the idea that laws need to do something affirmative to correct the many forms of institutional bias against us, is a more radical proposition.

They have their high-paying jobs and their political friendships, and are treated as equal in their gay-friendly enclaves. They don't feel the oppression, and want to portray themselves as winners in the cultural Monopoly game. They want to wear Dolce and Gabbana, and hobnob with celebrities and politicians. Hell, who wouldn't?

As a f'rinstance, Ann Rostow recently made the argument that ENDA is "as useful to 21st century gay rights as a Betamax player." Heck, she's probably got DVR and TIVO. I don't even own a television. Not that I'm poor anymore; I've made it back to the ranks of the middle class. But I know where I was a few years ago, and you don't want to go to that neighborhood.

But this "good as you" strategy has led us to a place where ENDA is not something that Gay Inc really wants to push in the ways that count. Oh, they have their "ENDA Now" website and their stodgy "call your Congressmembers" emails, but there's no real creativity or money going into the issue. Prop 8 cost us $82 million. How much have we spent on ENDA? Not $82 million, I can tell you that.

Rachel Maddow is being advised by these folks, and for all I know, she's of the same mindset. Heck, she's got her fancy degree and her popular TV show, and a few shekels now. She's heard of ENDA and knows what it's about. Can we blame Gay Inc totally for her total failure to follow up on ENDA? For her calling "gender identity" by the name "sexual identity" as I heard her say when mentioning ENDA in passing last year?

Gay Inc. isn't helping, sure, but it's this underlying mindset of "good as you" that is the real problem here.

Marriage equality had to be put aside for a few years to regroup after Prop 8 and Maine. The fallback was DADT repeal. The reasoning I hear from a lot of folks for their support of DADT over ENDA, is that DADT is a specific law that prohibits gay people from doing something. There's no law against LGBT people working. So DADT logically comes first.

I hear the words, but I don't get it. There is a law against LGBT people being open in the workplace: it's called "at-will" employment law. While it doesn't specifically single out LGBT people, it's a law that acts on millions of LGBT people, making them unemployed, underemployed, subject to harassment and requires being closeted.

Does the fact that the military singles out gays make it a more pressing issue? It does if your goal is "good as you." We can't be "good as you" when there's a federal statute singling us out. But what about the statutes singling out gay federal workers who can't receive domestic partner benefits? What about the the DOMA statute singling out gay people who can't get married? What about adoption? There are plenty of statutes and laws singling us out.

And I'm guessing they are all more important than ENDA to people in the "good as you" camp.

The reason for ENDA's failure isn't MSNBC, and it isn't poor messaging, and it isn't LGBT apathy.

It's this "we're as good as you" focus that wishes to leave behind issues of oppression and liberation. Us? Oppressed? Liberation? Oh no. We're as good as you. We're just like you, with the exception that our partners are of the same sex. It's just these old fashioned laws that need changing.

What? That's not true of bisexual and transgender people? Oh, well, um, we value all parts of our community. Uh, ENDA is important and we'll continue to demand equality. But the votes just aren't there. What's that? We have enough votes? Oh, I meant the political will isn't there. But we'll continue to educate Congress. We don't have much money left for ENDA, though, because there is a lot on our plate.

The truth is that, in the minds of many Americans, we are not as good as them. That's why the "good as you" campaigns are failing. Even DADT repeal hasn't succeeded, even if that compromise measure passes. That compromise specifically says that the President and the Defense Secretary and the Joint Chiefs of Staff get to say whether our being begrudgingly allowed into the military will cause any problems for the normal soliders. As long as we don't cause any disruption, they might let us in.

There's no non-discrimination clause in the compromise measure. That's because Gay Inc wants to work from the assumption that everyone knows we are "good as you." This is a totally unwarranted assumption. It exists in the minds only of some liberals in DC and New York and San Francisco.

As the picture at the beginning of this post sarcastically says, the key to success is pretending you already have it, and selling it to others. But "good as you" hasn't brought us any success. It's tantamount to pretending that we have been successful.

ENDA died because it's not about "good as you." Gay Inc didn't push it because it's not consistent with their "good as you" thinking, and MSNBC ignored it for the same reason. LGBT people didn't get behind it because Gay Inc and the media sabotaged it for the same reason.

Sure, we'll try for ENDA again in the next Congressional session. But with "good as you" thinking, it's not something we really want to put much time or money into.

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"Good as you" is an appeasement strategy. It seeks to make them feel as if it's not all that big a deal for them to do something.

And the result of such a strategy is appeasement -- the kinds of compromises that happened with DADT, the whole idea that "civil unions are just as good", the "well, we're going to fix the bathroom thingy" ideas.

ALl of these things say that we are not as good as someone else. All of these things say we are still being treated like second class citizens, and the established hierarchy across *all* the major orgs is willing to accept *anything* given out because they are, in the end, trying not to make waves, trying not to "seem unreasonable".

I might be an "angry" gal to many, but the simple fact is I'm not really angry. I'm just not going to take being told that I don't count as much, that I'm not as valuable, on someone else's terms.

When I say I want ENDA, I mean that things that I'm saying are the minimums. Those are the very smallest of pieces I will take, and there is no flexibility in bathroom usage, and no, I will not accept some sort of compromise on those things because those are the bottom line.

Trans folk have been calling for the head of Joe Solomonese for a couple years now. And back when, we were told to shut up and be quiet and don't make waves.

Don't cause problems, don't upset the balance of things, don't challenge the status quo.

And yet, seeking equality is precisely the opposite of that: it is an effort to change the status quo, to change the way things are.

So I ask this: how can you change things when the action you are taking is to not change them?

George Byrd | June 1, 2010 9:46 AM

I haven't heard "good as you" used to describe the movement before, but I would say that it clearly does not signal any appeasement. "As good as" clearly signals that we demand equal treatment and the same rights, protections and responsibilities as everyone else.

If people who appear to be promoting "as good as" also appear to be promoting compromise, then they aren't thinking clearly. I don't think the movement is monolithic. Criticism should be given where due, but I don't think "as good as" deserves any criticism itself, as it is only a phrase, and there are plenty who would use it in its real meaning.

Other than that, I agree with you. There should be no compromises and nothing less than full equality at minimum.

Hi George.

"Good as you" is pretty much a variant of "just like you". Which is assimilationism-- the goal being to be unremarkable and ordinary and "normal".

The movement as a whole is certainly not monolithic -- in the time since my comment, for example, we have a trans woman arguing against trans inclusion in ENDA using a rather transphobic argument, for example.

But assimilationism seeks to make it easier for those who do not make waves, who do not creates problems, who are not "difficult" or "bothersome".

And that is going to lead to actions of appeasement, of sacrificing those who are too hard on the alter of expediency and saying we'll come back for that later.

Appeasement is taking it in little bites -- a bill here, a bill there, a DOMA here, a DADT there, an ENDA here -- and then compromising on each of those things, a piece at a time yet again.

That's incrementalism, an approach that is based on the notion of appeasement (it's only this little bit, not the whole thing), on the idea of making those in power happier by making it easier for them to give you whatever table scraps you can get them to give you now so you can feel good about it.

And maybe vote for them, because you want them to stay in power when the other side won't even go that far.

Harsh stuff, I know --hey, I'm still dyssonance, lol, and I'm still trans, and I just kinda find it odd that I've talked about his for at least the last year and been told that my suggestions are kinda unrealistic -- and I'm no where near the only one to say so, nor even one that's been saying it for a long time...

George Byrd | June 1, 2010 9:38 AM

People always have and always will put their time and money towards those issues that interest them. Marriage Equality has captured people's attention for a reason. It's not that it's the "best" issue or the "right" issue, it's that it's an issue that clearly resonates with people.

Sure, we all need jobs and housing, and I'm not saying that dismissively. However, in the hearts and minds of gays and lesbians, what is at the core of discrimination against us? It is that we are told who we love is wrong. Relationships are at the core of discrimination against gays and lesbians. Loving someone can get us fired, put in jail or even killed.

And yet, most of us do love someone. Most of us want to have the safety and security of knowing that if something happened to our partner, we would be able to take care of them and not lose everything. Rich or poor, we all fall in love.

When you are constantly in fear of losing your job or housing because you are gay, concerns about marriage equality may seem unimportant. Marriage seems like a luxury when you can't afford to support a family. The ENDA fight is very important.

Ultimately, both of these battles serve the same side in the same war. That's the nature of a diverse, democratic political system. We each work on that which is important to us. Let us be supportive of each other, and let us each work on that which fires us up the most. Battle by battle, we will win. We are already winning the cultural war. Politics are always far behind culture.

ENDA has not failed. Any delays in the passage of ENDA are not due to Marriage Equality. Our struggle is against a society and political system that does not understand us and is fearful of us. Such ingrained beliefs and behaviors will take time to overcome. No one said this battle would be easy, but we need to remember who the enemy is. It is not ourselves.

George, note that I did not say, nor do I mean to say, that any delays in the passage of ENDA are due to Marriage Equality. I reject any inference that I said that.

The lay of the land right now brings up a really nasty choice for LGBT activists, especially us trans people. Either we continue being out and honest, and deal with the at-will employment ax hanging over our heads; or we drop off the face of the issue, shuffle our identities into the deck, and be as low-key as possible. I've dropped my identity off the web once before and can do it again if need be.

With ENDA so low on the issues ladder the latter option is looking better all the time. The thought of going back to the job market for any reason _terrifies_ me. A girl's gotta eat, after all, and right now I know that a quick search on Google reveals my trans status, my advocacy work, and my fiction bibliography. That is enough to toss me off an employer's short list, no questions asked.

If Gay Inc. isn't going to help me gain a level playing field, then I've got nothing to give for Gay Inc; I need to drop off the LGBT media world, or at least work to make my presence anonymous. I can't afford the real-world exposure if legislative priorities continue to be this lopsided.

Perhaps you are correct Jillian. I have stated before that my perspective is similar but I approach it this way. When the focus shifted from non-discrimination against sexual orientation with gender identity included to gender identity or "no sale" the bill became an orphan. Hearings were held with testimony taken from respectable transsexuals but ..... out in the hinterland a depression was on with 100 applicants for every open job. Organizations could easily whittle down to the top 5 applicants and choose the "apparent best" from those even perpetuating "legal discrimination" by selecting "obviously heterosexuals" if the organization is homophobic. The cues and tick-marks aren't that hard to find. But wait....now we have the "by the way" factor. The organization makes the job offer and is looking forward to a great new employee except as the paperwork is being signed the applicant says ..."btw, I'll be wearing a dress when I report Monday".

Now is that fear realistic? I would say not at a statistically significant level. But the "bathroom issue" accentuates it. Now we have a focus on undefined "transgender" as a broad concept. And while no GLB wants to be accused of hypocrisy and tossing someone under the bus to secure their own rights there is no simple response to the Lafferty type fear mongering. And to emphasis the complexity sites like Youtube provide plenty of examples of "broad spectrum" gender fluidity.

The political solution is, of course, let's defer action on this.

I do not have a brilliant solution to offer. I guess that puts me in the company of the BP officials who are wringing their hands saying "oh shit". And like them I suppose we need to try something, anything .... and pray.

So, could we horse-trade 'giving up' on Marriage Equality for passage of ENDA as a 'concession'?

Gay Inc. made a decision in the early 2000's to move away from targeting traditional civil rights movement discrimination, and concentrate almost exclusively on marriage equality via the "good as you" theme.

Gay Inc. did not choose marriage equality.

The gay community didn't choose marriage equality either. The conservative anti-gay movement chose to strike at the gay community by preemptively banning gay marriage *everywhere*. It was most demoralizing thing I've ever been through to see sweeping bans of same-sex marriage and we were completely unprepared for it. So excuse the hell out of us for finally defending ourselves.

Rachel Maddow is being advised by these folks, and for all I know, she's of the same mindset. Heck, she's got her fancy degree and her popular TV show, and a few shekels now.

You just made that up. WTF with the made up character attack? WTF? She's not advised by anyone. She doesn't even like HRC. She's not even married to her partner in Mass.

This post is such a crock of up made up junk.

I've never been ticked off at you Jillian. I've mostly agreed with you. But I'm really beside myself. I've never seen you just make up stuff.

You know, forget it. This bill is yours now. You own it. I've had it. ENDA is the transgender civil rights bill and it's up to the trans community to pass it. Watching people crap on my community isn't worth it to me. I tried and I can't take it anymore.

I don't blame Rachel Maddow for not liking covering gay politics. On the one hand she gets raked over the coals by Pam Spaulding and Mike Signorelli for like an hour straight on his radio show for not covering Prop 8 enough. And now this.

So down goes Amy Ray.
Down goes Bitch.
Down goes Rachel Maddow.

Any other dykes trans folks want to tear down? Have you gone after Ellen yet?


Thanks for your high dudgeon and drama, GrrrlRomeo. Very entertaining, but not much information there, except for how much you think trans people hate lesbians. I never said Rachel Maddow is being advised by HRC. I said that she can think for herself and yet hasn't mentioned ENDA except in passing and even then got it wrong. It's a fact that she has a PhD from Oxford and a successful cable TV show. What's made up? As far as Maddow herself, I love her show and think that she's an important progressive voice. The likelihood that my little gnat of a criticism on some blog is going to take down that elephant is ludicrous. Also, your idea that constitutional amendments preceded our attempt to push marriage equality seems to put the cart before the horse. Why would people put amendments on the ballot for something that doesn't exist?

As far as your "okay fine, ENDA is a transgender bill and I'm sick and tired of this crap, and it's up to the transgenders to pass it" well, it's been that way for a long time. That was the point of my post.

How do you know if Rachel does or doesn't like HRC, and if she truly doesn't why has she (as well as Olbermann and just last week, Chris Matthews) had Solmonese on her show? Are you really so certain that she has complete control over the content of her show or perhaps is that content influenced by her show's producers and MSNBC higher-ups?

When you claim it's about tearing down dykes, you're ignoring the reality. It's not about tearing down dykes, it's about tearing down antiquated, tunnel-visioned perceptions in our so-called "progressive" newsmedia about the American LGBT community and the movement to protect and ensure our civil rights and equal treatment under the law.

These kinds of perceptions are held both within and outside of our community, and thus far none of the pundits at MSNBC have demonstrated that they actually understand the real issues at play here, and instead are just going for the shiniest, sexiest, most ratings-boosting parts of the real story.

As I asked in my own post on the topic, I wonder whether any of these folks took a second to consider investigating just what kind of lives these gay and lesbian soldiers who are discharged because of DADT or who leave the service when their tours are up are going to come home to.

That's what I attack and criticize, not Rachel herself, not even the quality of the coverage we see every night on her show, but why we don't see that same level of quality in her coverage of the LGBT civil rights movement.

You can call it what you want, GR, but the reality is that we have the right to expect better than what we're getting from Rachel because she has consistently proven that she can deliver it.

A. J. Lopp | June 1, 2010 1:18 PM

I agree with GR's premise but not her analysis.

She is right: Gay Inc. did NOT choose marriage equality.

A combination of two things virtually forced Gay Inc. to adopt marriage equality: the Lawrence v. Texas decision in 2003, plus the fact that countless gay couples across America took the attitude, "Well, we are no longer potentially illegal, therefore we must be OK in every respect that society can validly consider." ... Then, individual couples started legal actions intended to produce judicial decisions declaring laws requiring man-and-woman to be discriminatory and unconstitutional (usually at the state level). This, in turn, poked the anti-gay Right into action at promoting anti-same-sex marriage constitutional amendments.

Joe S-whats-his-name is not the Gay Pope, HRC is not The Vatican, and gay couples across America are not his bishops that he can restrain with canonical bulls (the paper kind, not the animals). Basically, it's all a mess, and no one is in charge. (And I'm not implying that any one particular person should be in charge.)

So ... let Rachel Maddow off the hook ... ENDA is floundering because the GLBT populace isn't making it a true priority. The economy doesn't help: straight Congresspeople aren't going to pass ENDA when they can be charged with robbing jobs from upstanding, unemployed fathers with a wife and 2.3 kids to feed, and not-up-to-date mortgage payments to make.

Oh, yeah. And a Dodge RAM 3500 to buy gas for.

You're right AJ, Solmonese is not the Queer Pope and HRC is not the Queer Vatican. The problem is that for many years that's exactly how they were seen by the media and the politicians. The mainstream media are still living in the past when it comes to our issues, mainly because mainstream newsmedia across the board has a history of ignoring us and our issues unless and until there's a story so big and popular they can't possibly ignore it and still appear credible.

That's why the just about only representative of the LGBT activist community you ever see on MSNBC and most other networks is Joe Solmonese, except in the rare cases they have on an issue expert like Aubrey Sarvis or Allyson Robinson. It's why seeing other community activist leaders interviewed in MSM such as Rea Carey, Mara Keisling, etc. is still relatively rare.

The fact is that these folks just aren't doing their homework on LGBT issues, just like they haven't been for decades now. They see and promote only the surface issues and completely ignore the meat of the real story.

So no, we should not let Rachel (or Keith, Ed, etc.) and MSNBC off the hook. They could be doing far better on this story than they have been. It's they and their network which are making conscious choices not to.

That's something that needs to be consistently called out, not poo-poo'd and swept under that rug, AJ. If history teaches us anything, it's that if we don't speak up about stuff like this and keep speaking up consistently, we can be sure that no one else will either.

A. J. Lopp | June 1, 2010 3:31 PM

To me, Rebecca, it seems to me that you and I are presenting an argument where each side has a good point: (1) The media people aren't doing their job (not even the queer ones), and (2) not enough pro-LGBT people are complaining about them not doing their jobs.

So where does the blame lie? ... With both!

On this we agree, AJ. Not enough LGBT's are speaking out about this issue, which is precisely why I wrote and published my post and podcast on the topic in the first place.

It's my hope that between, me, Joe, Jillian, and everyone else in LGBT media who decides to take on this issue, we'll finally see MSNBC and the rest pull their collective heads out of the sand and start presenting the LGBT equality movement in a way that accurately reflects where we are today, not where we were five years ago, or where we were a decade ago.

The only way that happens is if we keep putting this issue in the public eye and we keep calling out their inconsistencies and failures over and over, louder and louder, until others in our community media and then finally the MSM itself begins to pick up the story.

In short, it's the only tactic that makes any sense because it's the only tactic, aside from having our own issue-specific media rock star ala Dan Choi, that has been shown to have at least a chance of actually having an impact.

I agree that Gay Inc didn't make marriage a priority in the beginning. It was that couple in Hawaii that pushed it (with Evan Wolfsom), and then it metastisized from there. Of course, that was around the time anti-retrovirals were discovered, so LGBT people were still mostly concerned with HIV/AIDS. Both those things changed.

Although then gay inc really got into into the marriage thing. I'd even say they're less so now than a couple of years ago, when federal action was impossible and it was the biggest thing to push for.

GrrrlRomeo, you seem determined to set up these opposing camps of dykes and trans people but it doesn't seem to occur to you that many of the trans people you are upset with are dykes.

Beyond that, it's not reasonable to take the action of one trans person here or there and claim that they represent all trans people. I don't imagine you would do so for those you consider your community, and you would probably be upset if others painted the entire dyke community in such a way. Jillian's cautious comment about Maddow is clearly coming from a place of respect. Individuals are allowed to point out a public persona's lackings while still respecting them. And even if this constituted "taking a crap on" Maddow, it wouldn't be representative of the whole trans community.

Additionally, I must speak up when it comes to Bitch. The event she was canceled from was organized almost entirely by cis women. They made the decision to cancel her performance and they adamantly claim full responsibility for the decision. Even Bitch in an interview claimed that her protesters were almost entirely made up of women who are not trans. Yet somehow I doubt this revelation will lead you to switch to ranting about the horrors of how the (predominantly queer) women's community is going around looking for dykes to tear down.

But above and beyond this, I find your fair weather friendship style of alliance to be incredibly disturbing. So some trans person makes a disparaging comment about Maddow and a few cis women Bitch's performance because of her anti-equality stances. All of a sudden you're willing to abandon the push for trans rights? It doesn't even matter to you that cis folks are being impacted by employment discrimination either. You're so desperate to lash out at your imagined version of the trans community that you're willing to significantly damage your own queer women's community in order to do so. I truly hope that was a misguided statement made in anger that you will soon reconsider, because anyone who is so cavalier about withdrawing support for equality could never have been an effective advocate for it in the first place.

Kathleen of Norfolk | June 1, 2010 1:21 PM

I think that you are ignoring the effect of the great recession. A shrinking economy is generally bad for civil rights expansions. People don't really want to be fair when their own situation is bad. If I was a member of Congress, even a supportive one, it would be difficult to explain why I did something for LGBT job security when I could do nothing for Joe Sixpack's job security.

One of the other big problems for ENDA under a "as good as you" approach is that the people who are most impacted by employment discrimination are those with the least privilege elsewhere. While a fancy degree, specialized skill, family connections, and so forth aren't a guarantee of a job, they certainly help. And those without a savings, couch surfing with friends, with inconsistent access to hormones, and facing other forms of oppression are the ones who have the most at stake in ENDA.

It's all fine to point at the skilled and decorated soldier who's being discharged. Or to the highly educated and experienced passable trans person who was turned down. But proportionally the real face of employment discrimination is a face that the "as good as you" crowd fears being associated with.

Tobi, too true indeed to your comment, "But proportionally the real face of employment discrimination is a face that the 'as good as you. crowd fears being associated with."

These are exactly who we can and *must* fight for. It isn't for the best-off of us that we should be working, but for those who need the most help. Equality under the law requires exactly that, and to skate by for the benefit of those who need the least help is moral cowardice of the first order. Failing the achievement of absolute equality, we fail far too many. Worse yet, we fail the future.

polargirl360 | June 2, 2010 2:22 PM

This is a nice coming from someone who has it well in society. It seems like some people get a tiny bit of success and it gets to their heads. They just want to push people less fortunate out of the way and throw them under the bus for their own gain.

I am glad to see you are not like that. How I wish the transgender community had a charity and perhaps political organization dedicated and focused exclusively to them (intersex an exception) and independent from other causes.

Kathleen of Norfolk | June 1, 2010 3:29 PM

Fair enough but interest groups and social movements normally cherry pick "test cases" with which to make their points. Take for instance the Schroer v. Billington case. The ACLU was all over that because of Schroer's background.

Largely agree here. I don't think the gays understand all too much the divisions already there in the community, and I don't think that they much care. The people with the money and the influence in the community not only don't have to worry about employment discrimination (or they just don't even if they should) also don't have friends who have to worry about that. Class division runs deep among LGBT people, just as it does everywhere else in the US.

I don't think the issue is specifically that we're trying to assimilate - that could include other measures like ENDA. I think another piece to the puzzle is the popularization of neoliberal identity politics that focus on formal discrimination, yes, but also devalue economic production and make it much easier to ignore labor issues. How many people still hold the same job all their lives? How much job discrimination happens now in the freelance/temp world that is hard to follow and litigate? How many Americans think that if they lose their job they should just be able to find another, and if they can't it's their fault.

There is a deep apathy about this topic in the community. Kate Clinton recently posted numbers, and somewhere like 80% of LGB people are partly in the closet. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of that was at work. And yet we don't want to talk about it because if we do, it's our own problem.

Also too, I get what you say about DADT. Some people who are just fanatics about repealing that (and more power to them) make me wonder just what it is. Lots have never served in the military and they never will if they're not already in it. And yet they think it's the center of our oppression.

They're looking for a grand symbol of inclusion (exclusion they feel, in part, because of workplace discrimination) and DADT is it. Marriage is it too. ENDA isn't - it's unglamorous work to get us more unglamorous work.

GrrrlRomeo: It's not a transgender civil rights bill. It includes sexual orientation, and many LGB people still experience discrimination based on their sexuality.

Plus I really don't think Rachel Maddow is worried about losing her job because she's a lesbian. How is that statement wrong? She's a neoliberal talking head, and there's nothing particularly wrong about that but it does mean that her coverage is going to be biased based on her own politics and we should be able to recognize that.

LeighAnne | June 1, 2010 4:06 PM

"Good as you" is pretty much a variant of "just like you". Which is assimilationism-- the goal being to be unremarkable and ordinary and "normal".
And that is going to lead to actions of appeasement, of sacrificing those who are too hard on the alter of expediency and saying we'll come back for that later.


What nobody wants to say is that trans people are often hard on the eyes, and hard on the ears, and it's not so much a matter of not making us a priority as it is of wanting to accomodate us -- but only as long as we don't make other people uncomfortable. And that's just not going to happen anytime soon.

We're expendable because we're not known, not understood, not really accepted, much less embraced -- a liberal afterthought, not even a real constituancy.

Compromise in this country *means* giving up something to get something else -- meeting in the middle, splitting the difference -- and there is no middle ground where trans people can live in peace.

So of course, those who don't really know us are going to wring their hands over bathroom "rights" and fables of bad men.

Marriage equality isn't freezing us out. Our supposed friends are, in reality, our enemies.

Because a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, when writing laws.


So, isn't it possible that they were telling the truth, and ENDA got bumped from this Congressional session simply because they needed to hold the DADT repeal vote? Because they actually did do the DADT thing in the defense authorization last week, and that actually was something that would tend to prevent the lgbt advocates in Congress from being readily able to tackle another big project this session. Meanwhile what reports we have seemed to indicate before that unavoidable interruption, they really did make a lot of progress on ENDA once the whipping started. We're in big trouble that ENDA is going to be considered so late, but it seems like the problem here is the total lack of movement in the sessions from november up until the start of this session, not the failure to complete the whole thing this session. It sounds like this session they finally started actually doing things right, and that if they keep going as they did this last session we win, if [ big if :( ] there's enough time.

As far as the rest of your post goes... I have a response which I don't know exactly how to express, I have typed and deleted a paragraph here several times. Basically here's the problem I have here: Who is "Gay Inc."? I can think of specific people who fit your series of complaints here down to the letter, both what they did and why they did it. But I get a sense that you are then lumping in a lot of other people in with them, or maybe inflating the importance of some group of people you are irritated with. Like for example in the absence of any specifics it seems very easy to read your "gay, inc" comments as just being the omnipresent Establishment Gays Versus The Blogs narrative. Thing is, as far as I can tell, at least over the last two years it has been the elitist, unaccountable DC entrenched orgs, like HRC that everyone hates so much, who have been almost the only people pushing for ENDA. The grassroots do not care-- the period when hate crimes and ENDA were the top legislative focus were met with intense protests, boycotts etc because the grassroots organizers wanted to work on DADT. I have not seen bloggers treating ENDA as a priority, you are the one exception I've been able to find. This is larger than the elitist coastal gays.

The reason I am picking at this is that I think if we look at this in too simplistic a way we lose the ability to do anything productive about it. Like for example let's say we just conclude, the problem is the advocacy leadership. Oh, well then the solution is easy. We just have to replace the leaders. Fire Joe Solomonese and put Cleve Jones in his place. Problem solved! But if the problem is more endemic, then we can put a bunch of effort into purging leadership and still be right back where we started.

Here is what I think. The problem is that our community is not unified. Everyone has a pet issue and we focus on our pet issue, we do not think about how things are linked. The bloggers I complain about above who were angry ENDA got prioritized above DADT did this because they sincerely cared about DADT. The people who care about marriage and prop 8 but not employment nondiscrimination, most of them were not following or even aware of the "good as you" philosophy of the strategy wonks you describe in your post, they did it because they wanted to get married. I am writing a post here in which I complain about bloggers who focus too much on DADT instead of ENDA, probably I am only doing this because ENDA is the agenda item which benefits me most personally! A lesbian IT specialist in Seattle does not have a reason to care about the needs of a transperson in Texas and sometimes vice versa, and we haven't figured out how to get the separate struggles of these different people to synergize instead of everyone just stepping on each other's toes. And I have no idea what to do about this.

Getting a little off topic: I also think you may be overstating the extent to which the gay rights organizing is anything like a unified bloc. For example, you suggest marriage supplanted ENDA as a priority of gay rights organizing, and you say "that agenda came from our advocacy leaders". I don't think this actually fits the chronology as I saw it. It seems to me that over the last six years when the marriage thing arose it was pushed almost exclusively by state-level orgs, and almost always in states where ENDA/GENDA had already been achieved. In other words marriage is something that in each arena has been tackled only after the more fundamental "substantive equality" measures succeeded, by groups who had no substantive equality work left to do. The marriage issue was taken outside those areas-- taken to the federal level, taken to most of those 31 states where we failed-- almost always by *enemies* of equality, as GrrrlRomeo points out. The federal level gay orgs meanwhile are doing what the state level orgs mostly did, locking down hate crimes parity + ENDA + DADT-- the more fundamental "substantive equality"-- before moving on to relationship recognition. (Again, the American gay rights world looks to me a lot more like a series of autonomous, poorly coordinating single-issue groups than any kind of system where "advocacy leaders" even exist.)

Angela Brightfeather | June 1, 2010 10:51 PM

When I see the progressive media spending the money to put together shows showing the unemployment and discrimination of GLBT people insider of the many cities they exist. Or until they follow around some Trans youth who are scraping around to stay alive. Instead you see them putting a pile of money into following around an ex-city manager for a year, or traveling out to Colorado to once again show the details of someone getting their SRS.

I don't remember one show on MSNBC or any other, so called "progressive" news media outlet, making a case for ENDA or interveiwing and telling the story of the many, many GLBT people who have become victims of workplace discrimination and job loss. Or for that matter the overwhelming support of non-GLBT people for ENDA.

I use to have discussions with friends about how different things were on the west coast for Glbt people compared to my home state of Oklahoma.. And Like this discussion because they couldn't comprehend, because of not experiencing the challenges faced in very Red states. The notion you have no legal recourse for being fired because of T or G or L or B .. Or how the state will not change the gender marker till after surgery for a Drivers license(something commonly done in coastal states,change the sex on DL before surgery), Essentially outs you and thus bars your employment opportunities. One cause they see your misGendered. Two they can openly say we don't Hire your kind here freak, now get out.

Oh they hear of such things and then with arrogance and self assurance they do the Marie Antoinette equivalent Let them eat cake.. "Oh i would never stand for that ! I would just get a lawyer and say no nonooo no you dont... "
I gave up trying to convey because they have no foundation to build a understanding of what it means to have no legal recourse by state law..

I think Dr. Weiss is Right on the money with her views here. I thought pushing marriage rights was a bad idea then.. and Seeing the reaction in 38 states I was right 80% of my state arched their backbone and said NO >> But funny thing i think they dont feel it rights to discriminate in employment. HAD WE CHOSEN TO FIGHT FOR NON DISCRIMINATION IN EMPLOYMENT First and stayed off the religious toes and proved our selves as good as or better than. Maybe marriage would have come.

Now with backlash against federal government and the 10th amendment nutcase running around and banning same sex marriages into the states very own Constitutions, they really hampered any future efforts for a long time to come for marriage equality. Along with any hopes of really getting ENDA taken care of.

Only hope i see is if DADT is changed and were allowed to openly serve.. in 20 yrs maybe enda will finally come back an make it like it did with integration of the military in the late 40's and then the civil rights act of 64.
parallels are starting to line up with intergration and DADT IMHO...

Only problem was interracial marriage took till 71 or so with LOVING vs Virgina ..

Enda first.
Dadt second
Marriage third. But we got it backwards cause of the coast were they had their freedoms and forgot their brothers and sisters of the Red lands .. just like Gay inc.. has forgotten what homeless cold, hot , Hunger feel like up in their 40th floor condo's in NYC and San whatever.. and Georgetown houses. Cause sista my wallmart shoes they get-tin mighty thin and 2 dollars is all i have for today's dining budget..

Here's more proof for my "good as you" theory:

The Advocate announced the recent election
of Congressman Charles Djou of Hawaii by labelling him "Anti-gay," even though he openly supports ENDA, DADT repeal, domestic-partner benefits for federal employees, domestic-partner tax equity, and opposes an anti-gay-marriage constitutional amendment.

Why? He supports civil unions instead of marriage equality.

Congressman Charles Djou is the 225th yes vote on ENDA.

Marc Paige | June 2, 2010 10:12 AM


That's exactly what you said!...that delays in ENDA are due to marriage equality. You can reject the inference, but here are your words: "Gay Inc. made a decision in the early 2000's to move away from targeting traditional civil rights movement discrimination, and concentrate almost exclusively on marriage equality via the "good as you" theme."
Your words Jillian. Sad that you feel the need to pit one vital right against another vital right. At least we achieved success with hate crimes, and we are closer to success with the end of DADT.

The facts that ENDA WILL never pass is thanks to The Trans language.
Trans is simply too wierd and deluded/mentally ill in 98% of humans minds throughout the world too accept.
ITs not thier fault rather its natural selection.
We cant have kids and too distracted to be good wives or employees.
I say quit blaming society for YOUR problems. They didnt make you Trans rather Nature and you did.
I say stop the whining.
ENDa will never pass in 2010 nor will in 3010 if the Trans luanguage remains...
For us to force ourselves on others is very Machoistic and silly.

Wow Crista, really?

From the looks of your comment I have to cautiously wonder if you are a troll just trying to stir a reaction or if you aren't trans but pretending to be so for that purpose. Of course it might just be wishful thinking because I would hope no one would be that self-hating and filled with so much internalized oppression.

Natural selection has nothing to do with employment, as hiring decisions should not be based on who you would like to procreate with. Beyond that, I'm just as capable as having kids with my partner as my parents were. And I can't even fathom a rational behind the suggest that all trans people are too distracted to be functional. (as employees, "wives," husbands, or partners).

You made up that 98% number, probably based on nothing more than personal feeling. Well, I'm not blaming society for my problems, nor do I see being trans as a problem. I'm highly functioning, have good relationships, have a good job, chair the board of a non-profit, and run my own business. I'm accepted by the vast majority of people I meet, have pleasant conversations with strangers (sometimes even about trans issues), and have worked to successfully pass trans inclusive non-discrimination policies with local organizations and on the state level.

Claiming that ENDA will never pass is pure pessimism without reality. We've got majority support in the house and the senate and a president who supports the bill. It's only being held back by political maneuvers. It might not be passed now, but that's a far cry from never. I've worked on campaigns in far worse positions which proved to be ultimately successful.

I try not to attack other posters, but that last post made no sense at all to me. I'm also wondering if those folks who think MSNBC is part of the problem think they have allies over at Faux News and Beck , Hannity, and O'Reilly? Just curious. Rachel Maddow got called "sir" by a dim-witted South Carolina congressman and she seemed cool with it. Ann Coulter attacks MSNBC for promoting gender-bending calling Rachel the manliest commentator they have and Richard Wolffe "androgenous". Guess they can't win. Of course we have Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, or do you all think they are transphobic too?

Was that "last post" you're referring to me? My comment is the one right above yours but wasn't about MSNBC.

However, I do want to say that we can, dare I say should, have a more complicated view of politics than a simple binary of enemy or ally. We can criticize our allies when they are not up to par without labeling them as enemies. Stewart and Colbert, for example: I love them, I watch them, they're one of my main news sources, and hell yes they are transphobic! I once tried to keep a tally of how many "tranny" and "shemale" jokes they made and eventually had to give up. I don't mistake them for "the enemy" but they've certainly demonstrated a lack of friendship to trans people.