When Barney Frank decided to remove gender identity out of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the GLBT community responded on an unbelievable scale. Most of the community has been positive about this, but there are some detractors of the “ENDA, not SPLENDA” movement. One of those detractors is blogger John Aravosis.
"I think that a lot of gay people never truly accepted the transgender revolution that was thrust upon them."
The "revolution" that Aravosis writes about has little to do with the actions of transgender people. The revolution happened on October 1st, 2007, when 12 national organizations stood up in solidarity with their transgender brothers and sisters. Today over 300 national and statewide organizations have signed on to ONLY support a transgender inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
The reason gender identity (i.e., transgendered people, e.g., transexuals) got dropped from ENDA wasn't because Dem leaders didn't want trans in there. It's because we don't have the votes to get ENDA passed if it includes job protections for transexuals.
I'm not sure if Aravosis is being passive aggressive, or if he's slapping transsexuals in the face. He spells transsexual, “transexual.” Google transexual and you'll immediately see what I mean by a slap in the face. As far as vote counting, I'm not sure how John knows if we have the votes or not. The whip count that put the stripping of gender identity out of ENDA hasn't been made public.
What concerns me most is Aravosis' incorrect analysis on the acceptance of transgender people in American society. He writes:
Something has been bugging me. Why did Congress add gender identity to ENDA this year if they knew it didn't have the votes and they knew they were going to remove it anyway? I mean, they must have known that America isn't exactly as trans-friendly as it is gay-friendly (and calling America gay-friendly is already a stretch).
In September 2004, HRC polled Americans and found:
65% incorrectly believed that it was not legal to fire people just because they were transgender. 65% believed it should "definitely be illegal" to make hiring decisions just because a person was transgender and 13 percent believed it "probably should be illegal."
Keep in mind that this poll was taken in the middle of a one of the most anti-GLBT voting cycles ever. Still over 78 percent of people supported some form of workplace discrimination protections.
One of the most insidious claims made by Aravosis is that transgender people forced themselves into the GLB community.
In simpler times we were all gay. But then the word "gay" started to mean "gay men" more than women, so we switched to the more inclusive "gay and lesbian." Bisexuals, who were only part-time gays, insisted that we add them too, so we did (not without some protest), and by the early 1990s we were the lesbian, gay and bisexual, or LGB community. Sometime in the late '90s, a few gay rights groups and activists started using a new acronym, LGBT -- adding T for transgender/transsexual. And that's when today's trouble started.
Aravosis is correct on the time line, but he neglects one very important fact. From Wikipedia:
In the 1990s the term took on a political dimension as an alliance covering all who have at some point not conformed to gender norms, and the term became used to question the validity of those norms, or pursue equal rights and anti-discrimination legislation, leading to its widespread usage in the media, academic world and law.
I'll dismiss his usage of transgendered (it's transgender, not transgendered). Before the 1990s, transgender people were simply seen as queer. I don't think Aravosis is mean spirited or transphobic, he's just ignorant. In his Caucasian, khaki pants world of straight acting/looking gays and lesbians his argument might resonate. But gender identity/expression isn't just something that transgender people struggle with. Butch lesbians, diesel dykes, and nelly queens are all expressions of gender identity within gay and lesbian culture.
Gays and lesbians who are gender variant understand and can identify with our plight even if they aren't transgender themselves. Outside of gay and lesbian culture anyone that is GLBT is queer.
Sylvia Rivera and many of the “Screaming Queens” later identified themselves as transgender, but at the time they had no words to describe themselves. They were just queer. To rip transgender people out of GLB history is to dismiss the icons of Stonewall and the Compton Cafeteria Riots.
I'm not surprised that Aravosis is against transgender inclusion in ENDA. The folks that produce John's Americablog also are the same folks who were commissioned to produce the Human Rights Campaign's “HRC Back Story" blog. His friends over at the Human Rights Campaign have a long history of talking the talk of transgender civil rights but not walking the walk.
Oddly Aravosis' logic doesn't extend to marriage equality. The Human Rights Campaign is at the forefront of the fight for marriage equality. I don't hear him clamoring for HRC to cease and desist advocating for marriage rights for gays and lesbians.
On his blog and in his Salon article Aravosis asserts that
“this year is also the first time that ENDA actually has a real chance of passing both the House and Senate -- but only if gender identity isn't in the bill.”
This is a belief that very few people, including Barney Frank, believe.
That is, we have been very critical of arguments that we should not push for votes on anti-discrimination legislation simply because it wasn’t openly going to win.
Even if ENDA passes the House there's not a snowballs chance in hell that ENDA will pass the Senate or make it past the President's veto pen.
Taking presidential politics into consideration when mapping out the underlying reason for stripping out gender identity, the answer becomes obvious. Neither Aravosis or the Human Rights Campaign want to embarrass a Democratic president by sending them a bill they won't/don't want to sign. The idea of the the 2012 election hinging on transgenderism the way gay marriage did in the 2004 election has everyone shaking in their stilettos.
Transgender people are being thrown under a bus... a presidential campaign's bus.
cross posted from Transadvocate.com