Friday, September 12, 2008

The Best Defense Is a Good Offense

TransGriot Note: This is one of my latest posts from the Bilerico Project.

The Montgomery County trans law finally being implemented is wonderful news to all of us working toward and looking forward to the day that all transgender people, no matter where we reside have civil rights coverage. Congratulations to all of you in Maryland who worked your butts off to make it happen.

Now that this battle is won, our friends in Hamtramck, MI, and Gainesville, FL, need our help to fight off the Forces of Intolerance. But before we gird our loins for the next fight, we need to analyze what went right, what went wrong, make the necessary corrections and pass that hard won intelligence to our friends now on the front lines of this next civil rights battlefront.

What we also need to do in the GLBT community is come up with a coordinated strategy for beating back these right-wing attempts to roll back our civil rights, and I'm about to tell you how we do that.

So as we say in football country, the best defense is a good offense.

While I'm not gonna give all my ideas away in this post, since our enemies do read The Project, I will offer some general thoughts on what we proactively have to do to send these referendums to crushing defeat.

1- Get the public to focus on the fact that our opponents want them to take away people's civil rights.

The Forces of Intolerance know that there's irrefutable evidence that transgender people need civil rights protection and public sentiment turning in our direction. They can't throw that "special rights" shade as often as they used to because it's as played out as an 8 track tape. They only have fear to use, and thanks to Barney, their fear-mongering weapon du jour is the "showers and bathroom" argument.

Reasonable people do not want to be put in a position where they are taking away someone's rights. We have to constantly remind them that's precisely what our opponents are asking them to do. The Californians did that brilliantly by changing the title of Proposition 8 to make it clear voting for it would take away people rights.

2-Rewrite their referenda

One of the things the Reichers do well is when they put together these recall referendums, they use deceptive Orwellian language to do so. Ward Connerly's anti-affirmative action ones are prime examples of it. They claim to be protecting affirmative action programs and are confusingly worded or titled. They're designed to deceive you into thinking a yes vote means you're protecting the programs when in fact you are actually voting to eliminate them.

The way we beat Connerly in Houston was force changes in his ballot initiative language to a straightforward yes or no question. It was what I was suggesting the Maryland peeps do as a fallback position if they'd lost the court battle.

3-Make them look like the mean spirited, intolerant jerks they are.

While you're debunking and utterly destroying their arguments, you also want to use humor as a weapon to make them look like the buffoonish, bigoted, mean spirited jerks they are. Think the "Righteous Flock" from the Porky's 2 movie.

Fundies hate to be made fun of, and if you tweak them enough, you can knock them off their game to where they'll make a mistake you can pounce on. Fortunately that isn't hard, because most of the time they'll shoot themselves in the foot. But if they don't, you'll have to do the smart legwork and bury their arguments in an avalanche of facts that will make them overreact.

4- Propose our own ballot initiatives.

Nothing's stopping us from proposing our own ballot initiatives. The initiative process works both ways, people. Let's force them to react and burn up money trying to kill one of our initiatives for a change and bring our progressive voters to the polls at the same time.

These are just four suggestions that I hope will get us to start thinking offensively on these issues instead of defensively. We have the moral high ground on this issue of transgender civil rights, they don't. The public is on our side. 110 plus jurisdictions have transgender rights protections.

So lets go out there and win a few for the civil rights team!


Evan Ravitz said...

You're right! I'm sorry that gays have been targeted by intolerant abusers of the initiative process. But don't throw out the baby with the bathwater!

Here in Colorado, my gay friend Jared Polis won the Democratic primary forCongress (, and was the single greatest force turning Colorado from "red" to "blue" since 2000. He's used his wealth to fund Dem campaigns, but also to sponsor 2 very successful ballot initiatives, Colorado Amendments 23 (raising school funding) and 41 (preventing lobbyists from giving "gifts" to legislators). He joined in sponsoring 37, which mandates renewables for electric companies.

Ballot initiatives are the origin of most reforms, such as women's suffrage (passed in 13 states before Congress went along), direct election of Senators (in 4 states), publicly financed elections (passed by initiative in 6 of 7 states with them), medical marijuana (in 8 of 13 states) and increasing minimum wages (in all 6 states that tried in 2006).

Jared also supports NATIONAL ballot initiatives, with which we could stop the Feds from abridging medical marijuana rights, stop illegal wars, torture, etc., and get national health care, which Congress has dithered over since the '40s, while all other 1st world countries got it.

Voters on initiatives need what legislators get: public hearings, expert testimony, amendments, reports, etc. The best project for better and national initiatives is the National Initiative for Democracy, led by former Sen. Mike Gravel:

Zoe Brain said...

Monica, how do we get Trans* friendly legislation in place when a substantial and influential minority in the GLB(t) conglomerate believe the guff the Fundies are peddling?

I sound so negative, so bitter and twisted, and I don't want to be. I want to move on. But so much of the opposition is coming from within.

The great majority of GLBT is on our side. That was the one good thing to come from the ENDA debacle, and we should not forget that. We have a great degree of unity.

We are fighting on 5 fronts though, not 4. In Spain, Franco's propaganda said that he had 4 columns converging on Madrid, one each from North, South, East and West. Plus a fifth column from within (hence the phrase).

It's a minority. But one we can't ignore, as despite the small numbers, the influence is disproportionate.

Tactics we use against the Bathroom Nuts outside can be used on the ones inside too, and we should.

It's a bit difficult though when we're being white-anted (as we say in Australia). Worse, if we even mention the problem, it causes counter-productive division that weakens us all.