Marti Abernathey

Back To Oz

Filed By Marti Abernathey | February 15, 2008 11:06 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Barney Frank, ENDA, gender identity


I really do hesitate to even write this post, as the topic is a rehash of one of the ugliest times for GLBT unity I've ever seen. But recently Matt Foreman said the following on the Michelangelo Signorile Show concerning the ENDA debacle:

I think what really happened is the Speaker's people said 'look, Congress has a terrible reputation right now, they're not delivering for any progressive causes, what do we do to deliver for our progressive allies?'

That means labor, health, and environment, and gays. And so, I mean... I don't know this for a fact, but I'd bet my life this is what happened. They went to Barney frank, they said, 'what do we need to do to pass ENDA?' Representative Frank, who's always been pretty squeamish on the trans issue, ... and I guess I can say these things because I'm leaving my job, ya know, said 'look the best way to pass ENDA and the easiest way is to take out gender identity.' And I don't think the Speaker's people thought this through, didn't think it through and said 'lets do it. '

Yesterday, Barney Frank came on Signorile's show to respond to Foreman's statement and said:

He just made that up, that's not remotely how it happened. He also has no basis for talking about my attitude on transgender people because I've had one set of conversations with Matt Foreman about transgender people. In 2002, when he was the head of Empire State Pride Agenda, he lobbied hard to get through the New York legislature a bill that did exactly what our bill did last year, it covered discrimination based on sexual orientation, but excluded people that were transgender. Some people didn't like that. Tom Duane said at the time that Matt Foreman excluded him from meetings on the subject. Matt Foreman not only helped get that bill through, frankly, and this I disagreed with, as part of the deal to get it though, that year the Empire State Pride Agenda endorsed the Republican George Pataki for reelection over an outstanding African American Democrat, Carl McCall. So you had Matt Foreman guiding to passage an ENDA bill that didn't cover transgender, it was called SONDA for the State of New York, and in return, denying an endorsement that I think he should have gotten on [unintelligible] to Carl McCall. The reason I talked about it with him was because called me around that time, this is late 2002, and said 'I'm being criticized for doing this, would you come to a meeting that we're having in New York to celebrate it and give an award for Gov Pataki to show that uh people shouldn't be attacking me for it.' And even though I did disagree with decision to make make the deal with Pataki, I do believe that you work together with each other, and you try to be supportive, and I went up there.

Since Foreman has said in the past that he regrets that choice and thinks it was a mistake, I'm not sure why Congressman Frank is bringing this up, except to smear him. Amazingly, Frank is admitting that he helped Foreman in his attempt to exclude gender identity from SONDA. Yet when asked about Foreman's statement about his squeamishness, he said:

I don't usually talk like this, but no one in the history of the United States Congress has advocated explicitly for including transgender people in legislation as much as I have. In 1999 when we were doing hate crimes, I brought up the transgender issue, and said that it was very important to include people with transgender, both in committee and on the floor. I testified this past fall about the importance of including people with transgender. Here's what troubles me. When they say I'm squeamish, what they're pointing out, is what I've said from the beginning, to various advocates including people within the transgender community, we have a political problem here. We've have been working the issues of gays and lesbians longer than transgender. Some of the initial reaction you get when you first bring up an issue is problematic. And so transgender people are victims of the same kind of virulent prejudice that we who are gay and lesbian were, 35 years ago, and we haven't had as much progress in dealing with it. This is a case of complain about the messenger. I told them that we had this problem, and they didn't listen.

I'm not sure how you can claim the title of great advocate for transgender people, when you've helped to exclude them in two different pieces of legislation.

During the interview Signorile pointed out to Frank that Foreman had said that he was squeamish about transgender people. Signorile then told Frank about his own history of squeamishness about transgender people. Still Frank insisted that he's never been "squeamish" about transgender people.

I don't know why you'd impute that to me. I have never had that view. There was a time when people weren't paying much attention to people with transgender. But I've always believed when you ban discrimination, you ban it against everybody.

But the experiences of transgender women through the years, paint a very different picture of Congressman Frank. In 2001 , Karen Ann Taylor asked Frank why transgender people weren't being included in ENDA. Of that experience she said:

As I approached him I cordially introduced myself, shook his hand, and cut right to the chase. I wanted to know why the transgendered were not represented in ENDA. The answer was such a surprise, I was dumbfounded at first. The whole crux of purposely and intentionally disallowing the transgendered from ENDA was something of the effect 'it would cause it not to pass... it would fail due to penises and vaginas showering together in the workplace.'

Huh? You gotta be kidding! This was the most asinine thing I'd heard! When I asked what about gay and straight men in the same shower, the reply was essentially 'that's not a problem, not even in the military. Even the bathroom is not the issue. But penises and vaginas in the same shower will cause it to fail. But we can take care of that with an amendment.'

But that's the VERY argument that was used by the creator of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. From Wikipedia:

In 2000, Northwestern University Professor Charles Moskos, the principal author of DADT (which, as originally coined by Moskos, was "Don't Ask Don't Tell; Don't Seek Don't Flaunt"), told 'Lingua Franca' that he felt that policy will be gone within five to ten years. Moskos also dismissed the unit cohesion argument, instead arguing that gay people should be banned due to 'modesty rights', saying 'Fuck unit cohesion. I don't care about that...I should not be forced to shower with a woman. I should not be forced to shower with a gay [man].'

Another incident was described by Miranda Stevens-Miller:

A little while later, I found Barney without a group of people around him, so I once again engaged him in conversation. 'So,' I said, 'does your support of transgender inclusion in the VAWA mean that you might be changing your mind about inclusion of gender-variant people in ENDA?' An innocent enough question, but you would have thought that I was threatening him with a loaded weapon. He got red in the face and started shouting, 'Never.' His problem was that until we could answer the question of 'people with penises in [women's] showers,' there is no way that he would support it. The conversation got rather heated to say the least. And with Barney speaking very loudly and repeatedly about 'penises in showers,' we attracted a lot of attention in the restaurant.

But the reality of penises being in showers with vagina's is small. First of all, how many employers have communal showers? Of those, how many of those have open shower areas? I've spoken to quite a few of my natal women friends that tell me that many shower areas in women's locker rooms have shower stalls in them. That they aren't "communal" in the same sort of way mens' showers are. So what are the odds that an employer has to have showers, then has to have communal shower areas, then add to that, what employer can't make accommodations for their transgender workers (showering before or after everyone else, showering in another location). All in all, you're talking about a hand full of jobs. Out of those handful of jobs, how many would have a transgender woman that is preoperative that would want to flash their genitals around in a communal shower in the workplace? I think the odds of Jesus coming back and fishing with Marilyn Manson on the Potomac is more likely. But that seems to be the standard reasoning Frank has given since 2000, as to why we shouldn't be included.

Then Frank blamed transgender people and their advocates for the lack lobbying.

Part of the problem, frankly, is with the transgender community and some of those who put that in the forefront, because they didn't lobby. The only time they started lobbying is when we said 'You know what, we don't have the votes for this, we gotta to do it partially.' Then they began lobbying the Democrats that were supportive. I've never seen a worse job of lobbying. For years, literally years, I have been begging them to start talking to people about this, and have said you, look, have political problems here, I wish we didn't but we do, and you have to deal with them.

In reality, GenderPAC started lobbying Congress in 1995, the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition in 1999, and the National Center for Transgender Equality in 2005. Until recently, those lobbying efforts were done as by unpaid citizens, and were done without the help of gay and lesbian organizations. Transgender activists have been asking for help with access for years, but had been largely ignored.

I find it puzzling as well that such a stanch advocate of transgender people like Frank who aren't "squeamish", would continue to use disease phraseology when referring to transgender people (as "people with transgender"). If he's trying to advocate for us, a simple first step would be to stop saying that.

While the rhetoric Congressman Frank is spinning is nothing new (see also: October-November 2007), the timing now seems odd. As I mentioned in a previous post at, both Democratic candidates for president have publicly stated their support for an ENDA that includes gender identity (with Clinton going even further and stating support for gender expression as well). The Democratic tsunami on the horizon bodes well for a GI inclusive ENDA. Everything is trending towards inclusion of transgender inclusion in the 2009 ENDA. Why isn't Frank?

Cross posted from

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It's understandable that Frank wants to defend his record, and it's understandable the Foreman wants to criticize it -- but both are acting in discord with their public statements about "working together" to pass an inclusive bill.

If Frank wants to gain credibility as a trans advocate on Capitol Hill, he needs to be one. He should a) take some time to understand the issues, b) set aside old arguments ("penises in women's showers") and admit that using those arguments was wrong, c) stop blaming trans people for their lack of political power, and d) start educating his colleagues in Congress.

If Foreman wants to pass an inclusive ENDA, he needs to a) offer constructive criticism rather than ad hominem attacks, b) drop the conspiracy theory speculation about what happened with ENDA last September (for the record, I personally believe he's not far off, but it doesn't do us any good to sound like loons), and c) occasionally recognize the work Frank has done.

Ya, I agree. At the expense of gender identity inclusion, no less. I hope this ego stroking makes them feel better. Because neither one of them is helping things with this pissing contest.

Michael Bedwell | February 15, 2008 12:21 PM

And Foreman, who was showing signs of mental instability long ago, if he has not left his old job yet needs to put the title of his organization where his mouth is. In other words, why still no second T for Transgender in NGLTF?

And, as much as I luv Ozian references, I'm sorry to see Frank mocked in the form of a very unattractive/unbelievable cross dresser/ trans woman irregardless of the fact that other Oz images could have been used by anyone who disagrees with him [Scarecrow - brainless; Lion - no courage; Tinman - heartless].

Is Susan Stanton hijacking people's logons?


I had an encounter with Frank AFTER the language of the fully inclusive ENDA had been agreed upon and in his speech, he was showing a hesitation on liking the language. He gave me crap when I brought it up, but I said something that stopped him dead in his tracks.

He still wanted to "keep penises out of the women's showers" even then. I asked him, "How do you think women would feel if a trans man, with a balding head, full beard, top surgery and a hairy body would walk into the women's showers? You think they would want him in there, even though he still had a vagina?" His response, "I never thought of that."

He didn't care about the fact that most places wouldn't have communal showers for women, or that other places have seperate facilities for ANY employee that would be embarrased to shower with others, and he didn't care that a pre-op transsexual in that situation - maybe 1 or 2 in this entire country - would be respetful of their co-workers.

Still, some of what Barney said in this article was a bald-faced lie, but Matt shouldn't have started this pissing contest as was suggested by Marti in her above response. It doesn't help our cause and makes Barney develope a trench mentality of holding the line . . . like he really needed any help in that matter.

For me, the worst part of this wasn't Barney being Barney. We know he's transphobic. There's mountains of evidence and personal accounts of him being exactly that. After all, if he really wanted a trans-inclusive ENDA, why hasn't he offered to use his own influence to get us access to people like Ted Kennedy? The answer is as obvious as his intent in stripping us from the bill and then promising in the media to introduce a non-inclusive bill next year, not even knowing what kind of Democratic majority will be in Congress or who will be President by then.

What was really most annoying to me about all this was the fact that Mike Signorile, who did an awesome job cutting through Joe Solmonese's bullshit when he was on his show late last year, didn't challenge Barney on anything he said.

Mike knows the truth as well as any of us, but instead he let Barney just come on his show, completely misrepresent what Foreman said, throw in red herring after red herring, and not even have the cajones to challenge or even follow-up for more details on any of it.

Seems to me that unfortunately Signorile is getting too much like HRC: More concerned with maintaining friendly relations with powerful Democrats than with really representing the community's views and interests.

Seems like these days when Mike Signorile has a controversial guest on his show, you never know which Signorile is going to be doing the interview: The one with journalistic integrity and incisive interview skills like Mike Wallace or one more like Mary Hart. We get the first one, we win...we get the second, like we did yesterday and at that LGBT caucus he did a couple of weeks ago, and we all lose.

OK, now I'm up to speed on the Frank Penis Shower Outburst of 2000. It's a lot less sexy than I thought it'd be.

While Frank can apparently be something of a hothead when challenged by someone like Foreman, isn't he still the one who said he wanted to be an advocate for trans people after the ENDA split last fall? Seriously, maybe he should get his act together and start focusing on that instead of bickering over who's the most trans-supportive. It's kind of a ridiculous contest.

"In this corner . corner . corner . weighing in at 185 pounds . pounds . pounds . wearing pink trunks and sporting a Ralph Loren tank top . top . top . is Matt "The Uniter" Foreman . man . man . . . "

(Insert crowd cheers.)

"And in this corner . corner . corner . weighing in at 240 pounds . pounds . pounds . wearing the powder blue trunks with gold fringe trimming and a tattered white T-shirt . shirt . shirt . is Barney "The Purple Dinosaur" Frank . Frank . Frank . . ."

(Insert most of the crowd booing.)

"Okay gentlemen. No kicking, whining, eye gouging and sticking out your tongue. Shake hands and let's come out fighting!"

The truly sad part is Barny wins by a knockout.
Take care

You are absoluely right.

You know what, maybe I'm the only one in the room to say it, but I'm happy as hell that Matt did it. It's about time one of the leaders of one of our major orgs stood up and said what needed said - Frank isn't comfy with the trans community. Lord knows HRC has always given him a pass.

Barney tried to use an old political trick - attack the enemy with a "but he did the same thing years ago..." as if past behavior can't be regretted or learned from. As long as you're making the same mistake someone else did long ago, you can claim it's not a mistake.

MauraHennessey | February 15, 2008 10:17 PM

The lot of us went out late this afternoon for our "hair and dinner Friday." It is the habit to get our hair done at the same shop and then head off to dinner together. My friend of operative history was on her own this eve as her partner was busy with issues at work so we paired up at the table at the restaurant as my wife is nursing the flu and demands privacy for her misery. In the midst of discussing my friend's upcoming wedding plans and the good fortune that will make the wedding performed in Canada legal in New York, I mused that it was shame that other states did not recognize same sex marriage as she had recieved an attractive job offer from an institution in Texas. She replied that the marriage was not the only issue; Texas would legally see her as male, something that none of us at the table see her as.
If she leaves New York and crosses into Pennsylvania, she will cease to be married. If she goes to Texas she will still be married but will become a male legally, something that stunned the group of us as she related it, because no one can imagine anyone telling her that she is a male.
There seem to be a million issues of trans-equality to be addressed; the activist and political leadership don't appear to be addressing any of them. When this woman can be a civil rights protected married Lesbian in New York, an unmarried Lesbian without civil rights protections in Pennnsylvania, and a married male but trans and without any civil rights protections in Texas in the time that it takes to fly from Western New York via Pittsburgh to Dallas, I feel compelled to suggest that Representative Frank might look beyond the shower room to the board room where this woman and many like her work and deal with the real issues of inequality.


your friend must have a birth certificate issue.
I lived, worked and was a resident of Texas for a year and the state saw me as female.

One thing you must keep in mind of the so called activists in the trans community none of them are willing to deal with the birth certificate issues.
The reason 47 states recognize a change in someone sex legally has to do with Transsexuals taking action decades ago not Transgender activists aligned with the GLBT.

Don't expect this to change very soon just like TG rights that keep being thrown out of ENDA you will never see Transgender activists aid in the needs of anybody who has had genital reconstructive surgury and successfully transitioned into mainstream life.

my heart goes out to your friend and her unmet needs.
Take care

MauraHennessey | February 16, 2008 11:32 AM

She has a birth certificate saying that she is female. However, Texas defined a woman as born woman and XX in court case and in it's Consitutional Amendment "proecting marriage."

The upside of her dilema, though, is that we get to keep her in the Women's Professionals Group.

That said, the absurdity of her situation is mind boggling. Her identity and status can change multiple times in a single plane flight....

She must have an amended birth certificate.
The state didn't have a problem with my reissued non amended birth certificate. If you are borne in California you can obtain a court order to have the state issue a new, not amended birth certificate and the court order can require the state to seal the old one.

Texas wouldn't know if the old BC is sealed, if the new one is amended she just as well be Pre-Op.
A person's medical history including their operative history should be a private matter, however it seems some states take exception to the correction of certain kinds of birth defects.

If she was borne in Texas then her legal options are somewhat limited. Unfortunately what happened in Texas was a direct result of the gay marriage movement.

Take care


I reside in the lonestar and am reconized as a woman untill I, am admitted into a hospital, am busted(i'm not), or get married which would get met busted(hmmm).
Its all very don't tell, we won't ask.

My Doctor in San Antonio was one of four people who knew my history.
She treated it as a matter of medical history and kept it confidential. Being post-op any trip to the emergency room would have not have changed anything. Unfortunately being borne in Texas does suck, so does transitioning in Texas.
Texas is a good state to come back to or to live in stealth if your documentation is all in order.
If i had not worked myself out of a job and not wanted to live on my credit card for 6 months while i found another i would still be there. That doesn't exclude my future life as a resident of the republic of Texas. I very much plan on going back all it takes is time and patience.
Take care