Guest Blogger

Enron Activism

Filed By Guest Blogger | January 19, 2008 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: LGBT rights, politics, transgender, transgender activism

Editor's note: This guest post is by Monica Helms, an Atlanta based transgender activist. Monica is past executive director of Tran=Action and co-founder of Transgender American Veterans Association.

Monica Helms.jpg After ten years as an activist for the transgender community, I am seeing a rather dangerous trend in the mindset of many other activists in our community. I call it “Enron Activism,” after the failed corporation who convinced their employees to put all of their money in the company’s stock and not diversify. Many transgender people are not supporting the idea of diversifying our efforts when approaching various issues. We saw what happened to the Enron people when they didn’t diversify. Not pretty.

I’m not talking about those wonderful people who work just one issue, like homelessness, AIDS/HIV, the youth, or transgender veterans. I’m talking about those who think their approach to the broader issues facing the community is the only way we can accomplish anything. They even go as far as saying that what other people are doing has no merit.

Historical references from other rights movements show us that a multi-prong approach is always the best. Each of those movements had leaders who took one direction to achieve their goals, while others took another direction. While Gandhi was on his hunger strike, others were in the streets protesting. A similar thing happened in South Africa and here in this country. Individuals took a single approach, but they DID NOT put down those taking a different approach. That’s the difference I’m seeing today in the transgender community.

I have heard a lot of negative comments from all sides of the transgender community on what other people are doing. Most of the comments are centered on how the community should react to HRC and their supporters. I have been a target of some of those attacks for things I’ve said. Some people are saying we should ignore HRC, but when others want to do protests, educational initiatives or write extensive blogs about HRC, they are somehow “wrong.” Why? “I don’t see any benefits in that.” I can’t recall anyone becoming omnipotent all of a sudden.

Others who are planning on doing educational initiatives at HRC events are looking at those who want to ignore HRC and they say, “I don’t see how that will do any good.” For a community that prides itself on being able to think beyond binaries, it amazes me to see so many stuck with a singular viewpoint in activism. And sadly, some are stuck in a never-ending, singular hatred towards others in this community.

I get the impression that if a person didn’t come up with an idea initially, then it has to be wrong, flawed, not helpful, or has no redeeming value. Sometimes, one never sees the redeeming value of an effort until after someone makes that effort. I always say, “There is no shame in failure, but there is in failure to try.” Why are there so many in this community who don’t even want to try and want to put down those who do?

This very thing happened to TAVA when we decided to have the first Transgender Veterans March to the Wall. Other veterans dumped on us with all kinds of negative remarks, such as, “You shouldn’t be so visible at the Wall.” “People will say horrible things to you.” “The police will arrest you.” “You have to have a lot of people to make it successful.” It turned out to be one of the smoothest run events in transgender history. We had 50 people show up; we laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns and even got a police escort from the hotel to the Wall. We were not afraid to try and look what happened.

It would be nice that one of these days someone will come up with a novel idea and instead of hearing from a ton of negative people in our community, we hear things like. “I may not want to participate, but I wish you luck.” Or, “Let us know how it goes.” Or even, “Just be careful.” No, we won’t hear that. Some will waste a multitude of bandwidth writing on why this person is wrong, why the effort will fail, and even put down the person on a personal level. It’s a terrible thing to witness, but I am guilty of doing it, too.

Rather than the constant horizontal in-fighting, we need to become more unified. Yes, I know I’m dreaming. Many talk a good game about wanting to unify the community, but their actions and constantly putting down of what others are doing makes that unification much harder.

A person may think that what someone else is doing will not help the community, but they need to stop verbalizing it. We are coming up on one of the most critical years in our history and the action of outside groups and people to divide us are succeeding. We are better than that . . . at least I think we are.

I can just see Ken Lay smiling because the transgender community’s attitude toward diversification mirrors his. He’s looking at us through all those flames that surround him.

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You know, Monica, this kind of reminds me of the way people think of Riki Wilchins.

After an all-out public attack on Wilchins and GenderPAC almost a decade ago for actions against the interests of the trans community, many in this community still refuse to not only stop seeing them as the enemy even though they've really don't nothing against the interests of the trans community since that time, and also refuse to give credit where credit is due, apparently just because it's Riki.

Since that time, GPAC has taken on, pretty successfully I might add, an aspect of the movement for trans/gender-variant rights that none of the other major orgs, trans or LGBT, havemade any real effort on: Engaging the youth of our community in the struggle for equality. We can argue from now until doomsday about stuff that went on almost ten years ago, but today's reality is that GPAC is doing much-needed work that the rest of us just aren't doing.

Also, I think we seriously need to unify on the grand scale, both as trans and LGBT activists, and then the diversification of effort will become not only easier, but that much more effective when coordinated with the work of others.

You Know Monica; and i have said this to your face..
the problem isn't your or anybody else's direction.
the problem is how pushy you and others are toward the mainstream and your desire not to work with and give a little to make everyone happy.

When are you going to learn you have to go along a little to then to get along a lot.

Why can't YOU people try and work with the mainstream more.
if you did you would get more TS support.

Susan Robins.

the problem is how pushy you and others are toward the mainstream and your desire not to work with and give a little to make everyone happy.

When are you going to learn you have to go along a little to then to get along a lot.

Are you being ironic, Sue?

Activism's all about being pushy and not going along to get along. But that doesn't mean that it can't come without a certain amount of mutual respect.

I believe that we have met only one time and we did not have that conversation. I seem to recall that the meeting went rather well and we did not discuss any particular pressing issues.

The article had nothing to do with trans activists being too pushy with mainstream people. Is it of your mind to use a gentle approach with the public? That's fine. I do not feel I would like to particapate, but I wish you a lot of luck. Let us know how it goes. And, be careful out there.


I am being Dead Serious.
There is pushy and there is being pushy to the point of being unreasonable.

Alex i guess it's a matter of perspective....
When i first came out in 1980 it was a lot easier to make one's way into mainstream life you know jobs housing etc... Then it is now The backlash many of us were afraid of has been here since 2000...
I feel for the young they are not going to have it as easy as i did when i came out as a 24 year old transwoman back in 1980.

Take care

We didn't discuss passing issues.
However i did tell you that i thought you and your ilk were being too pushy....
What you might remember is a did pass on my appreciation for your work with TAVA.

In a way the article does have something to do with "trans-activists" being too pushy. several people my self included have been booted off lists you and others of your ilk run for expressing our dissatisfaction for the way y'all do things We see it as being too pushy. Y'all are not working to get along with streight people you are fighting them every chance you get That is clearly the wrong way to go about doing things.

And they wonder why TS are leaving the GLBT in mass numbers

Take care

I am confused. You were never on any lists I was the owner or moderator on, because you're not a veteran. I only moderate a few list that transgender veterans are on. If others have booted you off lists, then there must have been a reason and you need to take it up with them. Lumping me in with other people who may have a totally different personality then me just so you can be angry with me seems quite unfair. Is it you goal to be unfair? Please talk to the real people who booted you off those other lists.


it's no surprise you don't remember...
a transwoman of legendary rudeness had interrupted our conversation. Her rudeness is second only to her obsession with the bathroom.

Karma is Great;

Take care