lgbcardWith passage of The Matthew Shepard Act in the Senate on Thursday, it should have been a time for celebration. But on the heels of the victory came the news that gender identity could possibly be stripped of from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The Advocate confirmed the story tonight saying:

“The Democratic House leadership is considering stripping protections for transgender people from ENDA after a preliminary vote count found the measure would not pass if it had trans-inclusive language. ‘The fact of the matter is, we’ve been canvassing this — the votes just are not there for a trans-inclusive bill,’ said Steven Adamske, spokesman for Rep. Barney Frank, sponsor of the original bill. Reps. Frank and Tammy Baldwin, the only openly gay members of Congress, called for the count after they learned House speaker Nancy Pelosi feared the measure lacked enough support to pass.”

Matt Foreman took the bold step this morning by posting to Bilerico.com “A non-transgender-inclusive ENDA? No way!” Around the same time, a statement was put out by the Executive Directors of nine national LGBT organizations saying:

Our collective position remains clear and consistent regarding the status of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act. Our organizations oppose the removal of protections for transgender people from ENDA. We would also oppose any bill that did not protect transgender people. We are shocked and upset that, according to the Washington Blade, influential members of the House of Representatives have apparently made a decision to remove protections for transgender people from the bill. If true, this decision was made without consultation with leaders of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

While we don’t doubt the sincerity of Congressional leadership’s intent to take action and be helpful to the LGBT community, we cannot disagree more with this strategy. We will continue to work with LGBT supportive members of Congress to urge their colleagues to immediately drop this strategy.

Jody Huckaby, Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays
Matt Foreman, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Inc.
Mara Keisling, National Center for Transgender Equality
Kate Kendell, National Center for Lesbian Rights
Jon Hoadley, National Stonewall Democrats
Rebecca Fox, National Coalition for LGBT Health
Jeremy Bishop, Pride At Work, AFL-CIO
Clarence Patton, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects
Andrea Densham, Mautner Project

“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.