Editors' Note:Guest blogger Diego M. Sanchez is the Director of Public Relations & External Affairs for AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, Inc. Deigo was a featured speaker at HRC's San Francisco gala dinner. This is a copy of those remarks. Video of the live speech is at the end of the post.
Thank you for that gracious introduction. Thank you to the Steering Committee for inviting me to address my LGBT friends, family and allies. Ladies, Gentlemen and everyone else who doesn't identify that way ... You are dedicated to a common goal - equality, and you are clearly committed to keeping marriage for same-sex couples a reality in California. Equal marriage is a national priority, and we transgender people hope that you will help us be seen as equal and as a national priority as well.
Tonight, I hope to accomplish three things. First, I want to intensify your commitment to transgender inclusion, and to affirm that our lives matter. Our need is urgent. Our employment is at risk, our healthcare is at risk and our lives are at risk. You only have to look right here in California where the lives of Gwen Araujo and Lawrence King were taken simply because of who they were. I urge YOU to help change that landscape.
Second, I want to explain a little of the frustration my trans brothers, sisters and ally colleagues and compadres in California are talking about, what they're singing about, what they're chanting about and what they're standing about .. across the street.
Third, I want to talk about what HRC is doing and what more HRC and we all have to do to show our commitment to the full inclusion of trans people into our community.
It's always a pleasure to be at the Westin St. Francis. My first professional hotel stay was here for the Coca-Cola National Bottlers Convention in 1979.
Ten years later, I was on the Holiday Inn corporate jet returning to Memphis after a Mexico City business trip with the company president. He had arranged for us to listen to the World Series, which, as you know, that year featured the Oakland A's and the San Francisco Giants.
The rivalry was hot, the language fierce and the energy electric. But in 15 seconds, baseball became a second priority because on Oct. 17, 1989 Game 3 was interrupted by the Quake of '89.
I was immediately diverted to San Francisco for the next six months to help house and feed people from all of the neighborhoods affected by the earthquake.
People with A's baseball caps worked alongside others in Giants caps because they recognized their common need and realized no one was as dedicated to getting the work done as people with skin in the game, no matter what cap they wore. Let us use that example in our own community, starting now, regardless of whether we are LGBT people or allies.
I'd like to focus on the letter T in LGBT. Why? For one thing, we are excluded from the first wave of ENDA legislation while our rate of job demotions or loss is documentable and rising. Congress tells us that we are less than human when they tell us to let a bill for employment non-discrimination ride only with sexual orientation. We feel left behind because we are left behind, but fingers are too often pointed at influencers, not decision-makers. There's no reason for anyone to feel good about that. HRC wishes it wasn't so. We wish it were different. But we need to play the hand we were dealt to move forward.
Until there's an ENDA that protects us all, there is still the desperate need to work. And that's where people like you who contribute to HRC get to see multiple arenas in which money supports programs that help us navigate reality ... until our dreams of inclusion can be true. And we all want that to be true as soon as it can be.
We have greater opportunities ahead with a new President and hopefully a more pro-equality Senate and House, come January 2009. HRC has endorsed Senator Obama who, if elected, has already expressed his support for a fully inclusive ENDA... one bill with everybody. That is how we get to an appropriate ENDA, leaving no one behind. Not me, not you and not my friends, brothers and sisters across the street.
That is the message of my family members across the street, and I am saddened that I have to be in once place and not another. This commitment is to you and to my community, all of us in this community.
Just last month, I was honored to testify before Congress in an historic hearing about the need for gender identity and expression inclusion in federal non-discrimination employment laws. When I testified, I needed the whole team - ACLU, HRC, NCLR, NCTE, and The Task Force, - to be connected, prepared, rehearsed and successful.
In my testimony, I talked about my friend and brother Ethan St. Pierre, an extremely qualified employee whose lost his job for no other reason than because he identified as transgender and was brave and honest enough to disclose it. There are countless other stories of transgender people like my brother, Ethan. These people are real. Their lives matter. And yet, transgender people have to negotiate for inclusion while our lives are at highest risk in our community.
If that reality is going to change, it's going to take every one of us. And that is why in an op-ed in this week's Bay Area Reporter, I asked readers who have jobs to donate one quarter of vacation time to contacting members of Congress about gender identity and expression in ENDA. I'm asking you to do that, too. And I'm asking you to ask your friends in other states across the country to do that. If we all help, we can have ENDA and other fairness protections that recognize gender identity and expression sooner.
Despite what you might see sometimes, Joe Solmonese is helping do his part to pass a fully inclusive ENDA. He is dedicating his expertise and mobilizing his staff to help us in every way that HRC can. For example, The Corporate Equality Index today is not a tool for trans people like me to know if an employer will provide full medical and health benefits. That has to change, too.
I know that Joe has taken some licks, and I want to make clear that all of the gains I just cited have been on his watch. Things mentioned as needing improvement are things already on Joe's radar. And it's under his command that HRC recently hired Allyson Robinson, a transgender woman, as Associate Director of Diversity to focus on trans issues for HRC. She has already had key meetings and involvement in trans issues and with transpeople nationally and in local markets, and she just completed her second week. That is real progress thanks to Joe's leadership.
It's not just about the public leadership, but it is also in whom I know Joe to be. He's a person, not just a president. He the kind of person who participated here in the AIDSLifeCycle from San Fran to LA, and took a break to participate on the LGBT conference call for Obama with 100 miles left to ride. I would have needed a nap - but not Joe. And that is the kind of determination we need leading the fight for our community, for all of us in this community.