Sunday, October 28, 2007

ENDA Insanity

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results."

That was a quote by Benjamin Franklin, one of our Founding Fathers. It seems as though some people in the GLBT community have forgotten that when it comes to transgender inclusion in civil rights laws such as ENDA.

In jurisdiction after jurisdiction from the local to the federal level, GLB people have repeatedly cut transgender people out of civil rights bills only to see them fail. Their transgender-free ENDA bill in 1994 passed the House but failed to pass the Senate.

You would think that if it failed without transgender inclusion, and local and state measures have passed WITH transgender inclusion, that the federal powers that be would at least run an inclusive ENDA at the federal level and see what will happen with it, especially if this is supposed to be a symbolic bill that Bush isn't going to sign anyway.

But nooo, Barney and his Mattachine clones stubbornly plod on, spewing the spin that if we add transgender peeps, the bill will fail. They berate us and call us 'selfish' for doing our jobs and lobbying for legislation that our community desperately needs. They deviously work behind the scenes to browbeat members into not voting for inclusive legislation in order to make their dire predictions come true.

Talk about insanity.

Obviously these peeps don't want their rights badly enough. If the overwhelming evidence is that close to 70% of the US population supports expanding civil rights protection for transgender people and 31 states now have inclusive laws at the state and local level, a GLBT legal organization tells you that adding transgender people improves the bill, and you've failed to pass GLB only protection at the federal level, wouldn't it make sense to add transgender people to your bill and not only improve coverage for your group but enhance its chances of passing?

Barney keeps saying that people on the Hill need 'more education', but when you point blank ask him who are the legislators that need education, he refuses to divulge that list of names. That makes me question whether or not there are members that 'need education on transgender issues'. Maybe there are, but his arrogance, history of transphobia, lack of candor and the duplicitous way he has conducted this push for ENDA passage in the 110th Congress causes me to question his integrity. It's also insane to trust and think that a person who hates your group will write solid legislation that will cover you.

The insanity on the transgender community's part is repeatedly trusting an organization with large segments of it that not only hate transpeople, but has a long history of leading the charge against transgender inclusion in GLBT rights legislation.

Some elements of the transgender community have also acquiesced to HRC's arrogant demand that we have ONE organization and ONE leader for them to negotiate with. That's stupid.

The African-American community for example has multiple organizations that handle our community business such as the NAACP, the Urban League, SCLC, et cetera. Even the gay community has multiple organizations that speak for it such as Lambda legal and the Task Force.

So why should the transgender community meekly submit to a program that even the gay community doesn't follow because a organization that has worked to retard your progress demands it? The other advantage of spreading your community leadership among multiple organizations is that if one becomes corrupted, you have another one ready and able to assume the mantle of leadership and keep your civil rights drive moving forward.

The other insane thing in the transgender community is turning a blind eye to people who sell us out. To my white transgender brothers and sisters, frankly you are newbies at operating in the political world as a minority. You not only needed people of color involved in your organzations from the outset because we have intimate knowledge of the coalition politics necessary to operate in this environment, we're used to it. Transsexuality cuts across all cultural, racial, economic and demographic lines and the leadership in the community needs to reflect that reality.

You can no longer think and act the way you did when you were part of the majority group. You have to have morally principled leaders as the heads of your organizations. Selling out cannot be tolerated or rewarded. If these sellouts prioritize their personal ambitions over advancing the group as a whole and are going to act as facilitators in concert with our oppressors to divide and conquer us and cripple our community, then they need to be isolated and expunged from further political activity on behalf of that group they have betrayed.

Dr. Ron Walters of the University of Maryland once stated that "the task of Black leadership is to provide the vision, resources, tactics, and strategies that facilitate the achievement of the objectives of Black people.

These objectives have been variously described as freedom, integration, equality, liberation, or defined in the terms of specific public policies. It is a role that often requires disturbing the peace. And we constantly carry on a dialogue about the fitness of various leaders and the qualities they bring to the table to fulfill this mission.

Substitute transgender for Black, and you have an analogy for what transgender leadership is striving to achieve in a nutshell. Criticizing people for not living up to those principles is NOT 'horizontal hostility' as some people call it, it is a critical dialogue needed to determine whether someone has the qualities necessary to lead.

It's time for sanity, clear thinking, reason and logic to reign once again for all parties not only in this ENDA debate, but all public policy debates in the United States, period.


planet trans said...

Amen Monica, this coming from a white M-f T. Its a honor to feel kinship to a struggle that has seen so many couragous leaders. We have a opportunity. And no better people than GLBT community to further intergration. Yes intergration. For all the talk of racial equality I am frequently embarrased by white bigotry. We can work towards uniting in a just cause and get to know each other. I have made friends with people with skin color other than my own becuse as I got to know them I begain to admire personality traits I did not have, and maybe never will! I grew to admire and trust them and they became my family.
Great Job of putting it out there.

Monica Roberts said...

This is not just an American struggle, this a worldwide movement.

Unknown said...


Great post! I have to tell you, you've been really writing some great stuff lately and I hope you continue. Our community desperately needs more well-considered and written opinion pieces like this one. More please!

Also, I'm curious about something. When you write, I notice that you capitalize the word "Black" when you use it to describe African-Americans, but not the word "transgender" when you use it to describe transpeople. I'm making absolutely no judgment one way or the other here, this is simply the Associate Editor and writer in me wondering because this kind of thing is one I've given some thought to myself in my own writing and when I edit the work of others. Is this merely a stylistic preference or do you have a specific rationale for doing so? Just wondering...

Keep up the great work!

Peace and Power,

Becky Juro

Monica Roberts said...

Thanks. It's nice to see that the writing is appreciated. I know there are some folks inside and outside the transgender community that DON'T like truth tellers and people who 'tell-it-like-it-is'.

I lied to myself about my
gender issues for 20 plus years and as a result I have a low
tolerance for bull, duplicitous behavior or liars.

I capitalize Black for personal reasons. If I'm using the word like you'd use 'African-American' to describe someone, I think it should be capitalized.

As a matter of fact, it's one of the reasons the African-American community started referring to
ourselves as African-Americans because it was a mild irritant to many African-Americans that the use of 'black' to describe us was very often NOT capitalized and seen as a slight.

As far as transgender, haven't really thought about how best to use it other than I prefer to use
transgender as the inclusive, descriptive umbrella term that many of us correctly see it as to describe our diverse community.

Maybe I should probably for the sake of consistency start capitalizing 'transgender' if I'm using it similarly to describe the group like 'African-American'.