Wednesday, October 3, 2007

What Now?

No Rose for HRC

One of my favorite lines from the movies is at the end of the film "The Candidate". The lead character, Bill McKay (Robert Redford), is an upstart and largely unknown Democratic challenger to the well-heeled and longtime incumbent Senator Jarmon (Don Porter). McKay's campaign catches wind and with the final push from his father, ex-Senator John McKay (Melvyn Douglas), he actually pulls off the upset.

In his hotel room, awaiting the election results, the final word is declared...he is the winner. And after months on the campaign trail, dozens of speeches and policy statements, he looks beseechingly to his campaign manager Lucas (Peter Boyle) and asks "What now?". Having never the initial thought of winning...and not having any time to consider that during the hectic campaign, the newly elected Senator was without a plan.

And that seems to be where things sit with the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), the recent attempt to remove Gender Identity from the bill's provisions and the waffling response of the Human Rights Campaign to the development outlined by Rep. Barney Frank - one of the bills original authors - and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Two things should be immediately noted: The vast majority of all other LGBT advocacy organizations roundly criticized and opposed the maneuver. And so did one of the bill's other sponsors, Rep. Tammy Baldwin.

News now that HRC's first and only openly transgender member of its board, Donna Rose, has resigned. You can read her detailed, impassioned letter here and a subsequent entry on her personal blog here. I would recommend reading her blog entries from September 29th through October 3rd. Actually, read the entry before the 29th and you get the idea that she was completely blindsided by the action of the HRC leadership.

What Now? At this point, HRC has no transgender presence on its Board of Directors, no transgender presence on the Foundation Board, no transgender presence on the Board of Governors and, to my knowledge, no transgender members on staff. Thus is the example from the "one of the largest and most successful political action committees in the country" (their words, not mine). This must be fixed.

What Now? As it turns out, taking Gender Identity and Expression out of ENDA may actually be more harmful to many gays and lesbians. Oft-times they are targeted not so much for their choice of partners, but there appearance as too "feminine" for gay men, or too "masculine" for lesbian women. And there was also a softening of language around the exception for religions, which may have rendered much of what was left riddled with loopholes and not protections. This must be fixed.

What Now? Unfortunately, transgenders face a challenging situation. If ENDA (trans inclusive) is offered to the House and is shot down, then we will be held "responsible" - that is the position that Rep. Frank and Speaker Pelosi have cast. It couldn't possibly be poor leadership and stewardship of the bill by Rep. Frank and Speaker Pelosi. And if they decide to hold back ENDA entirely, pending a more "willing" House, then transgenders again will be held "responsible" for the delay. And if ENDA (no trannies allowed) is offered and is defeated, then transgenders will be held "responsible" because of all the hoohaw we created. I have no clue as to how to fix this.

LGBT? GLBT? LGB and T? LGB or T? LGB no T? It's your choice.

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