After Barney Frank's Tuesday night tirade against the GLBT community, I wondered if the situation between Congress and the GLBT community could get any worse. I have to learn to stop asking that question! Frank's press conference yesterday in which he claimed that some folks “can’t handle the truth unfortunately” amounted to a hysterical bitch slap to the ever growing list of the United ENDA supporters (284 national, state, and local organizations).
Parroting his words from Tuesday night, he said:
The headline will be, 'Pelosi pulls gay rights bill from agenda,' that they didn't have enough votes to pass it. I don't understand how that helps us.
I find it ironic that Frank decries his critics claiming that his actions have been seen as:
a betrayal, as a failure of moral will,
the anger is counterproductive.
Who's being the drama queen here? I don't know of any major GLBT organization that has called Frank's decision a betrayal. Can't the community disagree with Frank without being painted with such a wide brush?
When it comes to the importance of passage of the bill now, Frank resorts to flat out dishonesty.
Should we kill the whole bill? I have a very profound difference with people who say we should…I do not think you deny people protection if you can.
This is a very deceptive statement. This bill has ZERO chance of ever becoming law in 2007. If this bill is shelved until 2009, absolutely NO ONE WILL BE DENIED WORKPLACE PROTECTIONS.
Let me say that again...
IF THIS BILL IS SHELVED UNTIL 2009, NO ONE WILL BE DENIED WORKPLACE PROTECTIONS.
Matt Foreman's quote in the New York Times states it perfectly:
What we are talking about is stripping out a part of our community for a symbolic vote, which in our opinion does not advance the struggle for civil rights for our people. If the goal here is for the new majority to demonstrate that it is responding to a core constituency, passing a non-inclusive bill is not going to accomplish that.
Part of the problem is that there is a lot of revisionist history floating around recently. Mara Keisling recently sent out an ENDA update stating:
Up to this point, no member of Congress has done more to advance transgender rights in Washington, DC than Congressman Barney Frank. I am truly distressed when transgender or allied people misunderstand the great work and tremendous heart he thus far has put into this lifesaving work-lifesaving work for transgender and all LBGT people.
Frank's advocacy in ENDA for the transgender community has not come easily. He has been historically and constantly against trans-inclusion in ENDA. In 2000 when asked by Miranda Stevens-Miller if his recent support of transgender inclusion in the Violence Against Women Act meant that he'd change his mind about inclusion in ENDA. She tells the story this way:
A little while later, I found Barney without a group of people around him, so I once again engaged him in conversation. 'So,' I said, 'does your support of transgender inclusion in the VAWA mean that you might be changing your mind about inclusion of gender-variant people in ENDA?' An innocent enough question, but you would have thought that I was threatening him with a loaded weapon. He got red in the face and started shouting, 'Never.' His problem was that until we could answer the question of 'people with penises in [women's] showers,' there is no way that he would support it. The conversation got rather heated to say the least. And with Barney speaking very loudly and repeatedly about 'penises in showers,' we attracted a lot of attention in the restaurant.
He said in 2003 that :
"'ENDA will not [include gender identity] because there would have been a very significant fall-off, especially among Republicans,' he said at the time. 'We had talked about that, … but my sense is that, particularly among Republicans, it’s a problem.'”
On Tuesday night Frank made the insinuation that United ENDA GLBT organizations are out of touch with an American public that does not support transgender inclusive legislation. Unfortunately for Frank, that has been proven to be false. Both the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have done studies (HRC study/NGLTF study) that show close to 60 percent of Americans favor transgender anti-discrimination workplace protections.
Frank claimed in 1999 that federal transgender workplace anti-discrimination needed to be started at the state level before it was introduced on the federal level.
A recent post at Bootstrapping Andrew Sullivan frames this succinctly.
Iowa can Deliver on Gender Identity Non-Discrimination, why can't Democrats?
Among jurisdictions that provide protection for sexual orientation and gender identity, the population voting for both outnumbers those with just one by a nearly two-and-half-to-one margin (38% to just 15%).Dropping 'gender identity' bucks the trend, as every State action since 2003 has included 'gender identity', all eleven of them. Not one exception or qualification.
With nearly 53% of the voting public covered by some sort of workplace non-discrimination, one would think that it would not be that far a jump to finish up the rest at the Federal level, given that national polls suggest over 60% support to do so. Why are the Democrats having such a problem?
The more one looks at the trends and the numbers, the more perplexing a "strategy" to move forward without gender identity seems oddly calibrated.
When looked at under that lens, it does seem rather odd. But the political realities at hand point to a different explanation. This isn't a matter of educating the masses, because the majority already stand with us. Between now and 2009 we need to educate Congress about how the masses feel about gender identity inclusion in ENDA. We need to weather the storm and realize Frank's drama queen attitude comes from Congressional and Presidential politics. With the veto of S-Chip and the lack of any victories in doing the will of the people to bring home our troops, the Democratic Congress is hungering for a win.
A loved one of mine always encourages me to look for the silver lining in every situation. The silver lining in the fight for marriage equality is that transgender people stood in the trenches with gays and lesbians. In those trenches something amazing happened. We slowly built bridges across our divides and we came to know each other in a very substantial way. Those bonds have never been more clear than in the last year. Although I'm disappointed in Representative Frank, but I'm encouraged by my chosen family and my chosen community. I can say it with great sincerity for the first time in my life...
we are ONE community.