The first term I was a student at Antioch College, I had the remarkable opportunity to take an independent study in masculinities with a sociologist named Francis Hasso. She could recite bibliographies around many sociological themes, including masculinities, off the top of her head. I was, of course, intimidated and didn’t do my best work in the course. However, her response to my own and other students’ tendencies to think of research and social theories in absolutist terms has stuck with me. As we condemned the limitations of Marxism or other social theories she would always chime in reminding us to not “throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Her advice keeps surfacing in my mind as I try to sort out the recent ENDA breakdown. I am not the best contributor to offer a legislative analysis of the different versions of ENDA that are being considered. Any discussion of the reality that, despite the protests of many gay men, everyone has a gender identity and expression has already been done better than I could do it. Instead, I want to take a moment to consider how we should collectively make sense of initial statements released by the HRC and Barney Frank concerning the political realities that necessitated the consideration of a non-inclusive ENDA.
One of the reasons I haven’t posted on ENDA since all this started is that whenever I think about the events of the past week I tear up. I tear up when I read news stories or blog entries about it. I tear up every time I think of Barney Frank and the HRC. It brings back every bad feeling I experienced in my two years working as the representative from the Indiana Transgender Rights Advocacy Alliance to the larger LGB community. I have found myself asking over and over can the transgender community ever really trust the gay community to stand by them?
My friends are all talking about how this only reinforces their intense alienation and disconnection from the gay and lesbian communities. This was a sentiment that I was sharing and feeling very discouraged about until it occurred to me. We are making a fatal mistake when we let ourselves draw conclusions like that at this point. Francis Hasso would be very angry with me and everyone else for falling into the trap of “throwing the baby out with the bath water.”
HRC’s actions and inactions around ENDA in the past week must not cause a dangerous rift between the Transgender and Gay/Lesbian activist communities. Instead, we must take notice of how many GL organizations are bravely standing by a gender identity inclusive ENDA. They are risking no ENDA moving forward at all to demand that legislators only consider a fully inclusive version. If we take a moment to appreciate the good friends we have in the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, as well as the other organizations across the country that have signed the recent statement to the House leadership, we will realize that a large portion of the gay and lesbian community have come a long way.