Marti Abernathey

Are We Ready For Prime Time?

Filed By Marti Abernathey | January 18, 2008 2:55 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Democratic Party, platform, Sanchez, transgender

With the announcement from the Democratic National Committee of the appointment of a record number of LGBT members to the 2008 Democratic National Convention Standing Committees, an obvious question for transgender activists and supporters is are we ready for prime time?

The 2004 Democratic National Convention included seven transgender delegates. While this was historic, many people felt let down when the DNC left transgender people out of the party platform.

At the time, Steel City Stonewall Democrats Founder, Scott Safier said:

Needless to say, this is a great disappointment. This DNC convention will have more out and proud transgender delegates than ever before. Sadly, the trans community and their allies, may be the one group in attendance whose needs are left out of the platform entirely.It is not enough for the Democratic Party to oppose employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and ignore employment discrimination based on gender identity and expression.

It is not enough for the Democratic Party to say 'Lesbian and Gay', and not 'Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender'.

We must stand with our transgender brothers and sisters and assure they are included in the Democratic Party's vision for a Country where everyone is valued and respected, and nobody is left behind.

Since there wasn't transgender representation on the platform committee, Safier stood in. He put forth amendment to the platform but at the request of the transgender delegates he withdrew it. Saying:

Mr. Chairman, I am instructed by the transgender delegates to tell this
committee that the trans-community stands united behind the Kerry/Edwards ticket and will work for a Democratic victory in November. At the request of the trans-delegation, and in recognition of this solidarity, I have been asked to withdraw this amendment, and do so now.

With the announcement of Diego Sanchez to the 2008 platform committee, one has to wonder if this is a signal that the Democratic Party is ready to add us to their platform. After the divisive bruising that the transgender community took during the ENDA battle, the addition in the transgender people to the platform would be a positive step forward. Conversely, being left out for the second time in eight years would solidify the message that transgender people are too controversial to even mention. Hopefully the addition of Sanchez to the platform committee isn't a token appointment, but a meaningful step forward.

Cross posted from

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If we've learned anything from our experience with HRC, it's that tokenism does not equal inclusion or progress.

This seems to me to be little more than an attempt to insulate cowardly Democratic candidates like Hillary who avoid our issues and the Party itself from charges of transphobia.

The real proof of change, if there actually is any in the offing here, will come with our presence in the Party platform, and stated support in that platform for transgender inclusion in ENDA.

Anything less is nothing more than PC tokenism and more political gameplaying, and should be taken as nothing more than exactly that.

I am beginning to believe the Transgender community has a ways to go before they are ready for prime time. when you consider the bigotry intersex people face in the TG community i really have to wonder if TG folk as a community are ready to enter mainstream political life.

Take care

Since there wasn't transgender representation on the platform committee, Safier stood in. He put forth amendment to the platform but at the request of the transgender delegates he withdrew it.

Interesting, Marti. Do you have any more information about this? Why did the trans delegates want Safier's amendment withdrawn?


Here's an op-ed I wrote for Gay City News on the topic in '04:

Ousted from Democracy

In April, I led a team of trans and trans-supportive activists in a meeting that included the GLBT Outreach team leaders of both the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Kerry campaign.

We knew the political realities and our requests were quite reasonable. We didn’t go into this meeting asking for public declarations from John Kerry or the DNC of support for the inclusion of gender identity and expression protections in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and the hate crimes bill. We didn’t even ask the Kerry campaign people to have the senator declare his support for transgender rights.

We went into this meeting asking not for what would have amounted to miracles, but for one simple, basic concession: acknowledgment of transgendered Americans as a valid minority constituency of the Democratic Party, simple respect for the fact that we’re law-abiding, hardworking citizens, and we deserve a voice in the political process of our country, just like every other American minority group.

While the Kerry folks were less than enthusiastic, the DNC was different. They made it clear that they considered us part of the team and they were ready to work with us. They even appointed one of our team members, Mara Keisling, who is the executive director of the National Center on Transgender Equality, to the DNC Steering Committee. We made plans, we believed, we looked forward to the future.

Then, about a week before the Democratic Platform Committee meeting in Hollywood, Florida on July 10, the transgender-identified delegation of five delegates and two committee members to the 2004 Democratic National Convention found out the truth.

Platform committee member Scott Safier of Pennsylvania informed Keisling that he would present a one-minute speech at the meeting in support of a transgender rights platform plank, and then withdraw it from consideration. If the delegation agreed to this, they would be able to meet with top-level party officials in Boston, earn the party leadership’s “undying gratitude,” and be viewed as team players. In the alternative, the issue could be brought up at the meeting, and if supporters were unwilling to drop it, could be debated for about 20 minutes, annoying a lot of influential party players in the process. They were told it was likely that the amendment would still be voted down in the end.

By waiting until just a week before the meeting to present this ultimatum to the transgender delegation, the party leadership responsible for the civil rights portion of the platform could feel assured that there would not be enough time for the delegation to negotiate and gather substantial support for a plank supporting transgender rights.

The delegation chose not to press the issue, in the hope of gaining some goodwill from the party leadership that could serve the community well in the future. With the battle for the inclusion of gender identity and expression protections in ENDA and the federal hate crimes bill still raging, the ability to have direct access to Democratic Party officials and potentially do an end run around the Human Rights Campaign, which typically plays a conservative gatekeeper role regarding gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues on Capitol Hill, seemed particularly attractive.
And so, the 2004 Democratic Party platform includes a call to extend civil rights to include protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity or expression.

Watching the meeting on C-Span the other day, after the Democratic Dirty Tricks Squad had successfully accomplished its goal, I saw a Democratic member of Congress from Ohio describe the platform from the podium as “all-inclusive.” I wondered if she were lying outright, or simply repeating a lie she’d been told by others.
As elitism and discrimination won the day once more in American politics, I watched speaker after speaker congratulate themselves and the committee about how wonderfully inclusive their new platform was, and how they’d demonstrated their firm commitment to the equality of all Americans.

I wondered when my rights and those of my transgendered sisters and brothers would rate more than a mere one-minute commentary before we were thrust once more into political invisibility as others returned to working to gain rights and advantages for themselves.

I wondered how many more transpeople would have to be found murdered in shallow graves before the Democrats came around to the idea that it might be a good idea to cover us in federal hate crimes legislation.

I wondered how many more transpeople would be thrown out of their homes, denied basic social services, fired from their jobs, or denied employment altogether, before the Democratic Party came to the conclusion that our right to live and work free from bigotry and discrimination might be worth protecting, too.

A press release issued by the DNC two days later described the new platform as “the most inclusive in American history.”

Politics is a dirty business; deals and concessions are part of the game. Yet, if we are willing to betray our core values by sacrificing the rights of some to gain advantage for others, what right have we to proclaim ourselves better than those we rail against and oppose politically for doing the very same thing?

Yes, politics is the art of compromise, but it’s also the fashioning of ideals, belief systems, and the art of creating a better tomorrow for all of us. Once we lose sight of that simple truth, we have surely lost all that really matters in the higher purpose of politics and government.

If transgendered Americans have no justice, then there is no justice. If civil rights don’t protect us, then they are not civil rights at all, but every bit the special rights our opponents claim them to be.

If government does not represent all of the people, then it fails in its purpose and its intent. If it’s bigotry and discrimination when Republicans seek to ban same-sex marriage, then it’s every bit as much the same when Democrats willfully exclude a different group of persecuted citizens from equal treatment under the law.

LOL. Nick, THE SHORT ANSWER is that they didn't have enough support for passage, so they withdrew it as a gesture of unity. Transgender inclusion was something that was talked about late in the game... so they had a reason. This time, I don't see how they could not include us.

Wow! Thank you for the wealth of information! And thanks for the cliff notes, Marti.

With the battle for the inclusion of gender identity and expression protections in ENDA and the federal hate crimes bill still raging, the ability to have direct access to Democratic Party officials and potentially do an end run around the Human Rights Campaign, which typically plays a conservative gatekeeper role regarding gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues on Capitol Hill, seemed particularly attractive.

It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

The reality of the situation is that the nominee of the party decides what gets into the party platform, regardless of the make-up of the committee. And the decision isn't based on merit, but political calculus. I don't say that as a good thing or a bad thing. It's just the way things are.

In 1984, we had to negotiate for people to say the words "gay and lesbian" from the podium during the convention. That's it - just *say* the words. (No, it didn't occur to us to ask about bi and trans)

Only one of the main speakers took us up on it - Jesse Jackson. Mario Cuomo, the keynote speaker, and the governor of my state at the time, could only manage to spit out the phrase "all orientations" as a compromise. No one in the arena knew what he was talking about.

I suppose you could say I was a trans delegate, even though I didn't know it at the time. To the unaided eye, I was an openly "lesbian" delegate. I was certainly more visible as a queer person then than I would be now.

I can't strongly enough how grateful the transgender delegation was for Scott Safier representing our interests at that meeting. While he acted from his own moral convictions - all his statements and actions were those of the transgender delegation; unanimously voted upon.

We honored Scott with an award from the transgender delegation at the Boston Convention. A wonderful man.

Karen Bachman | January 19, 2008 10:52 AM

This can be done. We did it in CO. In 2006 we had the State Dem. party platform amended to include G.I., & we Just had the Party by laws done @ the last Central Commity meeting. W/ the support of our State party Chair Pat Waak we submitted this to the DNC last year to [email protected] ; [email protected]

To Whom It May Concern,
We represent the Transgender Caucus of the
Colorado Stonewall Democrats. We know that recently
the Party updated the wording in the in its EEO
employment guidelines to include "gender identity." We
applaud this move.
However, we have noted that the bylaws and platform
have not yet been similarly updated. Therefore, we
wish to bring to your attention the following specific
occurences of non-inclusive language, and the changes
that need to
be made:

From the Charter, page 6 Article 8 section 2--add
"gender identity" after "sexual orientation";
From the Democratic Party Credo, page 8 article 9
General Provisions section 17--add "gender identity"
after "sexual orientation"; From the 2004 NDP Platform
Page 37, "A Strong American Community," Civil
rights--insert "gender Identity" after "sexual
orientation"; page 38,
"full inclusion of Gay & Lesbian Families"--add

We trust that this is merely a matter of bringing the
Party documents into line with Party practice, and
should not be at all contentious. Therefore we hope to
hear from you soon regarding the time line for
achieving these changes, so that we can report back to
our members on successful completion of same.

Thank you,
Karen Bachman ( [email protected] ), Vice-Chair,
Colorado Stonewall Democrats

Thaniel Chase (), Communication
Director, Colorado Stonewall Democrats
and Co-Chairs, Transgender Caucus, Colorado Stonewall

I was also there at the 2004 DNC. The aware we gave Scott was called the "Jane Fee Award" after the one and only out trans person at the 2000 DNC. I hope that the tradition will continue in giving that award to another person this year, trans or not, who helps us get more visibility at the Convention. I have the template for the award.

When I heard Scotts speech in withdrawing the amendment, I cried. He did a wonderful job. Marti is right on why we asked him to withdraw the amendment. We did get the access to the Kerry campaign, but as we all know, it did us no good.

We have learned a lot in the last 4 years, and in my opinion, we have gotten stronger and more savvy. Only a few bloggers existed in 2004, but now our voices are being heard everywhere. I want to thank people like Marti, Becky, Autumn and Monica Roberts for making our voices sound louder in 2008.