Last week I received an email from the Human Rights Campaign informing me that Joe Biden will be speaking at the the Human Rights Campaign National Dinner on October 4th, 2008. Since that time I’ve expected to hear about an organized protest of this event from the transgender activist community in Washington D.C. Protests have already happened from coast to coast (and everywhere in between). Last Feburary the New York City protest caused many prominent local politicians to boycott the New York City HRC Dinner. In July the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, Pride at Work, And Castro For All, the Lou Sullian Society (FTM SF), and the Trans March came together to boycott the Human Rights Campaign Dinner. Such a strong presence of organized labor was especially important. The key note speaker for the San Francisco dinner, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, dropped out of the event because of labor’s involvement.

I recently recieved an email alert from NCTE about a fully inclusive ENDA. Mara Keisling said:

Dear Friends,

I have no doubt we can pass a transgender-inclusive ENDA next year if we all do the work now to educate Congress and the public. In a recent interview Rep Barney Frank (D-MA) agreed saying:

“The more Democrats we have, and obviously, not every Democrat votes with us, the better we’ll do. If we can pick up 15 Democratic seats, then I think we are in good position to pass a transgender-inclusive ENDA.” (http://www.365gay.com/features/interview-with-barney-frank)

Of course he’s right, not every Democrat votes with us and not every Republican votes against us. That’s why the best work we can be doing now to get us in position for winning our rights in 2009 is the work of building relationships and educating all of our lawmakers – whoever they are, where ever they are.

When I’m visiting lawmakers on Capitol Hill one thing I hear far too often is that lawmakers don’t think they have transgender people in their districts. You and I know that is impossible – we are every where. I can visit your representatives everyday up on the Hill, but they really need to hear from you and to meet you face to face.

mara12

Is one of the key players in the United ENDA movement, Mara Keisling, signaling its death? Recently Keisling said:

‘We have to show Barney Frank 220 votes,’ she said. ‘If we show him 220 votes, nobody is going to work harder on this. The same with HRC… It’s going to happen again next year. ‘- After ENDA, the Fighter’s Resilient

According to Donna Rose’s blog :

3/1/2008 – They’re currently planning to hold hearings in Congress specifically about transgender workplace issues in April. Whereas original plans were to tightly control those hearings, Rep. Frank has largely turned over control of gathering the stories to NCTE/Mara Keisling (who’s home in DC with pneumonia). Mara has been diligently working with many of us to identify potential speakers who can come to Washington DC to speak and I expect she’ll be finalizing that to give to Barney shortly.

“So I get on my knees and pray … we won’t get fooled again!” — the Who

Fresh on the heels of Southern Comfort Conference (SCC), many of the transgender community reveled in what seemed a penultimate victory: HRC – yes, the Human Rights Campaign – was actually appearing to take the transgender community as equals. (Obviously the ultimate victory would be equal rights for us all, jobs and all.) All of the years of HRC’s historic missteps seemed to magically disappear. We’re now a welcome, if amnesiac community for the Equal Sign people.

During the speeches there was much congratulation and self-congratulation, and plenty of high spirits about the impending bills in Congress awaiting votes: Hate Crimes (already passed inclusively in the House) currently awaiting Senate approval, and the all-important Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) approaching the House vote. All seemed right with the world in Trans America’s focus point that weekend at SCC in Atlanta. All seemed eerily right to some of us long-timers with memories intact as well. Eerily too right.

After the speech, everyone clapped, ate, enjoyed the rest of SCC and went home. Most of us waited with baited anticipation. Myself, I couldn’t get over how this reminded me of 2002.

At the SCC in 2002, HRC came down and made the big presentation again, and ushered in the coming out of a brand new national activist on the scene, Mara Keisling formerly of then-disbanded WGTE – the group name under which a study in concert with HRC was conducted. She was planning to open shop with an org of her own. No more WGTE, now NATE or NOTE was the names she was hashing over at the time (later settling on NCTE).

HRC was not going to deal with the existing trans orgs — NTAC nor IFGE, while GenderPAC left the trans fold to focus on “gender.” So Mara’s sudden emergence fit them to a T, literally, and was welcomed in the HRC fold.

However, it wasn’t just HRC’s king or queen-making within the trans community that was the draw of this presentation. This was more about the study findings, ballyhooed as changing the minds of HRC about trans inclusion in legislation. Word went out, there at that conference, that HRC was behind transgender inclusion and would begin such a push immediately.

The question from the skeptical among us was posed as to what would happen if this ran up the HRC flagpole, and they instead decided “Nah!” and let Mara twist in the wind. Mara responded that they wouldn’t dare try, “and if they did, [she’d] rip them a new asshole for publicly trashing her political credibility.” I’ll never forget the look on David Smith’s face at her answer … curious.