Recently, there's been much discussion about how we go forward in dealing with the Human Rights Campaign as a community, where the popular opinion of the greater LGBT community, and probably of nearly all of those who identify as transgender or gender-variant in some way, is that this organization simply cannot be trusted to reflect and advocate in concert with the will of the majority. One of the most common assertions, one I believe has been repeatedly proven conclusively accurate over the last several months, is that HRC's leadership not only simply doesn't get it, but they really show little or no interest in getting it in the future.
It's not quite as complex a problem as some would have you believe. Indeed, what they don't get is really quite simple. When you consider that in order to be a part of the organization's leadership, to have decision-making and agenda-setting power at HRC, one must raise or donate fifty thousand dollars a year, the answer is as simple as it is obvious: The problem is money.
Think about how much personal wealth one must have in order to generate this level of donation to HRC. Can someone with that kind of cash in the bank possibly understand what it is to have to live on a budget, to have to make economically-dictated decisions between what one wants, what one needs, and what one can afford? Can someone who can simply write a donation check for more than twice as much as many of us make in a year really understand what is to have to pay the bills working a low-paying job at a local retailer or the impact that losing such a job because of bigotry has on those who depend on such relatively meager incomes to survive?
The answer, of course, is yes. Not everyone with money is born into it, and many wealthy people proactively educate themselves and use their financial clout to help make things better for others not so fortunate. The real question, however, is not if it's possible that someone so wealthy can possibly understand the reality of the lives of the vast majority of Americans who don't enjoy that level of wealth, but rather if it's likely, and the answer to that question is clearly a resounding "No!".
To put it in perspective, consider how many of us, probably most, view the issue of Darfur. It's commonly understood that the people there are suffering greatly, but how many of us actually do anything about it in a concrete way? How many of us actually donate money, speak out on the topic, or take some kind of action to help alleviate the suffering of that country's people? I'm willing to bet not very many. Most of us are just too involved with our own lives and issues to devote much time and attention to a problem and a people who seem so far away and far removed from our own lives.
The problem we gender-variant folks face in dealing with HRC bears striking similarities to how the tragedy of Darfur is popularly perceived by the American public at large. No doubt there are many on the HRC Executive Board who would agree that the persecution and discrimination of gender-variant Americans is awful in principle, but how many of those folks really care enough about us to devote their time, effort, and resources to helping to solve it? If history is to be our guide, then clearly the answer must be not very many at all.
I mean, how is it that after all these years of claiming to represent gender-variant Americans and our interests in Washington, this organization still needs to hold trainings to educate its own membership on transgender and gender-variant issues? How is it possible, or even rational, that such an organization, which is clearly incapable of even getting its own membership up to speed on these issues, could be relied upon to advocate these issues to the United States Congress? The obvious answer is that they can't, not by any reasonable stretch, and anyone who tries to claim otherwise is either lying or or clueless.
Even more convincing evidence of HRC's lack of both credibility and competency in advocating on behalf of gender-variant Americans is the reality that since Donna Rose left the organization late last year, no effort has apparently been made to replace her on the Executive Board. Instead, HRC tries to convince transpeople that appointing two new trans members to their non-political Business Council somehow makes up for the complete void of transgender and even simply lower, middle, and working class voices in their actual leadership.
HRC is, simply put, an organization run by rich gays for the benefit of rich gays. Period. End of story. It's an organization so arrogant and so completely out of touch with the pulse of what's really going on in the 99% of LGBT America that can't write fifty thousand dollar yearly checks to the organization just to have a voice in its administration, that they can't even get their own people to take the time to fully understand what they claim to be fighting for.
Even worse, HRC's leadership thinks we're all morons. How else can you explain them trying to claim that they're fighting for and representing our interests in Congress while at the very same time continuing to support and actively promote legislation that will give people like those on their Executive Board protections in the workplace, but exclude gender-variant Americans from those selfsame protections, and even proactively penalizing legislators who support those protections and vote in concert with those beliefs in their ratings on the organization's Congressional Scorecard? Could there possibly be any clearer proof of HRC's incompetence to represent our community effectively? Actually, yes...there's even more.
The Human Rights Campaign has been around since 1980, and after nearly three decades of their existence, what does our community have to show for their leadership of our movement?
Don't Ask, Don't Tell, which precipitated the largest anti-gay witch hunt in the history of the US military.
The Defense of Marriage Act, cited by governments and corporations alike to justify denying equal rights, benefits, and treatment to LGBT Americans all over this country.
45 states with laws or constitutional bans prohibiting same-sex marriage and/or domestic partnerships and civil unions.
Failure after failure after failure. If any employee had this kind of performance record in private industry, they'd have long since been fired. Any company with this track record would have been forced out of business decades ago. And yet, somehow, most of the membership of the US Congress, presumably highly intelligent men and women all, somehow still perceive this organization as not only credible, but as representing the majority will of the American LGBT community.
Forrest Gump's mother had it right: Stupid is as stupid does.
Put all the lies, betrayals, and other disgraceful indignities HRC has visited upon gender-variant Americans over the years on the shelf for a moment, and even then you still have this simple, undeniable reality:
The Human Rights Campaign is completely and utterly incompetent as a political advocate, not only in representing the interests of the gender-variant, but also those of gay and lesbians as well. No matter what yardstick you choose to use, HRC not only doesn't measure up in terms of helping to achieve positive political progress for LGBT Americans, but its leadership of our movement has made our situation incalculably worse than it was before.
Of course, it all comes back to money...cold, hard, cash. They have it, we don't, and it's the one and only thing they have going for them. It's what makes the politicians listen, and it's the one and only language the people making the decisions at HRC speak.
To those still supporting this organization with their donation dollars, I say this: If you really want to see equality for people like us anytime soon, you need to put your money where it will actually do some good. Organizations like NGLTF can't win every battle, but at least they don't have a unbroken thirty-year record of not only complete failure to make any positive progress at all, but also an almost equally consistent record of losing ground in the form of laws that now formally enshrine second and even third-class status for LGBT Americans in ninety percent of American states.
Have we had enough yet?
Money, while certainly useful, does not equal competency or credibility. It's time to give HRC their richly-deserved pink slip and hire some people who know what the hell they're doing.