Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Right Trans Candidate For Office is NOT A Right-Wing One

I am a huge advocate of qualified transpeople running for and getting elected to public office, and I want to see more run for office and win.

That doesn't extend to right-wing trans candidates for public office.

Karen Kerin ran for Congress in 2000 as a Republican in Vermont and is now making a fourth run for attorney general after failed runs in 2004, 2006 and 2008.

Donna Milo is running in Florida's 20th Congressional District against two other Republicans for the GOP nomination to oppose incumbent Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

The best way I can describe my thinking on this is by looking back to the time in my own people's history when you could count the number of African American House representatives on one hand. They also didn't wield the kind of power they do in the early 21st century.

The early 20th century African American congressmembers at that time like Arthur W. Mitchell, Oscar De Priest, William Dawson, and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. were elected from districts in New York City and Chicago, but became by default the de facto representatives of ALL African Americans irregardless of our zipcodes. The legislation they sponsored and passed reflected that expansive worldview.

The same dynamic is true of any African American that happens to get elected to the US Senate. He or she has a constituency beyond just the state they represent.

It was the combination of the Great Migration, the work of those early African American congressmembers and the implementation of the Voting Rights Act that sowed the seeds for the muscular 43 member Congressional Black Caucus you see today.

And that dynamic is what the first open trans member of Congress is facing. He or she will not only have the weight of history on them, but media attention that belies their status as a freshman member of Congress. Whether they like it or not, they will also be seen as a representative of the trans community and be considered the de facto expert by their fellow congressmembers on trans issues.

The last person I want becoming the first trans person in Congress is one that is hostile to, clueless, or ashamed to embrace the label of trans American. I also don't want that first trans congressmember being someone who is clueless, in denial, indifferent, or openly hostile to how societal issues impact the lives of transpeople, especially transpeople of color.

Some of those issues may require governmental regulation or laws such as ENDA to fix, and you know how conservatives are all about letting 'bidness' run roughshod over people.

Right wingers also tend to be rigidly doctrinaire, selfish, more concerned with 'me' than 'we' and will spend more time kissing up to and siding with our oppressors than using that position and historic opportunity to speak truth to power and fight for the community.

Karen Kerin not only leans Libertarian in some instances in terms of her policy stances, but promises if elected as Vermont's attorney general, she would join in a lawsuit to kill the just passed health care bill. Never mind the fact that health care bill would help transpeople who don't have insurance coverage right now and like her GOP buddies, have no answer to what to do to fix the problem of 40 plus million Americans without health insurance other than 'Kill Obamacare'.

Donna Milo is a 'proud conservative'. If by some miracle she gets the GOP nomination on August 24, then upsets Wasserman Schultz, how hard would a Congresswoman Milo fight to pass ENDA since she 'doesn't believe in government handouts'? And how much of a drum major for trans justice would she be as a trans Latina who 'doesn't believe in labels', but didn't hesitate to claim the teabagger or conservative one?

Yes, I would love to see qualified trans candidates as soon as possible occupying as many statewide and national offices as we can get them elected to.

But the key quantifying point is that they have to be the right candidates for the job, not RIGHT wing.

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