Bruce Parker

Throwing the Baby Out With the Bath Water?

Filed By Bruce Parker | October 02, 2007 3:58 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: ENDA, Human Rights Campaign, transgender

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.

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Right on Bruce. Seeing the glass as half full rather than half empty. Cudos!

Kim Pearson
Executive Director
TransYouth Family Advocates

How did I feel about all this, as it happened? Sickened, betrayed, angered...

But you know what? There is one heck of a silver lining. You see, I had grave doubts about whether the T in GLBT was just for show. Whether we'd be thrown under the bus.

Well, we were by the DNC. But not by the GLB majority. The votes are running 9:1 for not betraying us, on principle.

My GLB Brothers and Sisters, I'm sorry I doubted you. Just as some have proven they'd backstab us in a minute, you have shown solidarity, even when the politicians are saying it will cost you.

I, a Lesbian of transsexual experience, never distrusted the gay community. When HRC (HRCF at the time) actively opposed trans inclusion in ENDA a decade ago, I found it ironic that many groups with only Gay and Lesbian in their names openly supported transgender persons, while the group with "Human" in their name did not. From that, I drew the conclusion that Human Rights Campaign Fund viewed us as "not human".

When Barney Frank said he was not going to support a bill that "put men in women's bathrooms", I did not see Frank as the gay community - only as a very confused congressman.

When HRC and Frank started to support trans inclusion, I still felt nervous. Not because I didn't trust the gay community, but because I didn't yet trust HRC and Frank. And just as I was starting to warm a bit, Frank cuts transgender people from the bill and HRC can't join the stand taken by other gay, lesbian, and bisexual groups against this move - until much later when it's clear which way the wind is blowing, and how strongly.

I won't say I distrust Barney Frank and HRC - that would mean expecting them to act in ways that harm me. I will say I don't yet trust them. I am unsure that they have my back. And I am unsure whether to support them.

But I have trusted the gay community as a whole, and from what I have seen in the past few days, that trust is well placed.

Thank you for standing with me and my many-gendered siblings. I will stand with you.

I've been waiting on you to post about this, Bruce. I have a story I'd like to share with everyone about you and I. (And I may work this into a post sometime in the future.) was the 1st gay and lesbian group blog to include the transgender community as far as we've been able to find. Why did we do so? Because of Bruce... He just asked one day, "Where's the T?" and Bruce set out to find us a transperson who'd like to blog. At first it was just Bruce blogging about trans issues - a non-trans guy actively fighting and blogging for trans folk.

As we've expanded, we now have a healthy roster of trans folk here on the site - and we've had some of the best ENDA coverage around because of it. But none of that would have been possible without a gay guy starting the trend for trans inclusion.

So whenever I see the posts from trans activists who decry how the LGB community is selling them out or aren't true friends, not only do I automatically think of the 90+ groups that have signed on to say "Not with out the T in LGBT," but I also think of Bruce. Three years ago Bruce was there for you. And he still is today - as are all of us because of him. :)

As a transgender activist, I have never thought that the gay and lesbian community was selling us out, I have always and still believe that HRC has never been nor is now a LGBT advocacy organization.
They are highly skilled at marketing and fund raising, motivated by nothing but the almighty dollar. BUT, they don't matter right now.
I am thrilled to see that we do have one community and we are showing a united front. I am proud of the way everyone has stood together and continues to do so without reservation. Our goal has been made clear to Congress and we will continue to deliver that message, loud and clear and unified.