The Gill Foundation & NCTE choose money over trans lives

November 1, 2016 ·

By Kelley Winters

The National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling responded[1]to sharp criticism[2of the recent strategy by NCTE and other nonprofits funded by the Gill Foundation to back a Pennsylvania state nondiscrimination bill that included LGBT employment and housing protection but excluded public accommodation protections. Ms. Keisling explained that trans people “really need” housing and employment protections, “desperately, and can’t wait any longer.” She urged support of bills without public accommodation protection, not as a general strategy but limited to “specific situations where comprehensive bills have already failed repeatedly.” She emphasized that “NCTE has in no way given up on the ‘bathroom fight.'” Mara also stated that “NCTE never has and never will let another organization, including any funder, dictate our policy positions.”

I’ve known and admired Mara for many years and am grateful for her tireless advocacy for the trans community, but I disagree with the position she’s taken on this issue. Here are my concerns with Mara’s response and the NCTE position on reducing public accommodation human rights to a bargaining chip in LGBT anti-discrimination legislation:

(1) Reassurance that NCTE policy positions are not influenced by major funders would be more comforting if NCTE were not substantially supported by the primary force behind the public accommodation compromise: the Gill Foundation, founded in 1994 by software millionaire and gay rights activist Tim Gill to oppose Colorado Amendment 2. Most troubling, Buzzfeed reported that the Gill Foundation cut support for the ACLU National LGBT Project in retaliation for publicly opposing the Pennsylvania bill without public accommodation protection. In 2015, NCTE received grants totaling $75,000 from the Gill Foundation. This was 7% of NCTE’s total 2015 contributions and grants.

(2) This compromise strategy is not a neutral decision with respect to balancing cis-GLB vs trans rights. Surrendering public accommodation protection disproportionately harms transgender Americans, particularly at-risk trans youth at the moment that their fundamental human rights are under unprecedented attack by nationally coordinated theo-political hate groups. The social and political context around transgender civil rights have been rewritten by these attacks in recent months. For the most vulnerable homeless trans youth who may not survive to cash a paycheck or sign a mortgage, it erases space for them to exist in American society– to use a restroom or attend to the most basic personal hygiene. This compromise strategy has been defended as “incrementalism;” but it’s more like horizontal minority scapegoating. The ACLU said it best in their June 10 memo:

“…dropping public accommodations now, in the midst of the current in-state and national conversation surrounding transgender people and restrooms/locker rooms, is compromising on critical protections because they are controversial…now is the time to vociferously defend the right of transgender people to use sex-segregated facilities in accordance with their gender identity.”

(3) Acquiescence to Trans-crow public accommodation discrimination in human rights legislation is acquiescence to the horrendous false, sexualized stereotypes that underlie it. This weakens the case for employment, housing and all other rights for trans and other LGBQ people as well. As the ACLU put it:

“…passing a bill with a limited scope sends a message that public accommodations for LGBT people is politically toxic, and perhaps most troubling, that LGBT advocates are willing to compromise away public accommodations protections that are perhaps most acutely needed by the transgender community. This could cause a domino-effect of similar bills advancing in other states modeled after the ‘Pennsylvania Compromise’. Similarly, this could negatively impact federal strategies to pass explicit protections for LGBT people in employment, housing, and public accommodations.”

(4) This strategy triggers painful memories of the exclusion of trans people from the federal 2007 Employment Non-Discrimination Act. In both cases, transgender human rights were sacrificed by powerful cisgender kingmakers when politically expedient; and in both cases defamatory Raymondian stereotypes demonizing transgender women as posing “risk” to cisgender women in public spaces were in play. In fact, Mr. Gill’s strategy today bears striking resemblance to U.S. Representative Barney Frank’s 2011 advice for excluding public accommodations in future legislation to “break through” the “issue of transgender inclusion.” Mr. Frank boasted of passing a Massachusetts bill that:

“…does not include public accommodations. It avoids the whole issue of what happens in locker rooms and bathrooms.”

It’s said that those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. One difference between 2007 and today is that the Human Rights Campaign is rejecting the public accommodation compromise this time around, and that’s a bit of incremental progress I can celebrate.

Further Reading

The Politics of Transphobia

 

 

  1. Keisling, M (2016). Response to BuzzFeed Article. Blog, National Center for Transgender Equality, Oct. 28. http://www.transequality.org/blog/response-to-buzzfeed-article
  2. Holden, D. (2016). Top LGBT Leaders Are Divided Over Compromising On The Bathroom Fight. BuzzFeed News, Oct. 25. https://www.buzzfeed.com/dominicholden/lgbt-leaders-divided-bathroom-fight
Next Post

Owning Endosex Privilege and Supporting the Intersex Community: WPATH, Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM), and Sex Variant Bodies

E-Book Version Listen to an audio version of this article:   By Margo Schulter The presentation of a poster session advocating Intersex Genital Mutilation (IGM) at the recent Amsterdam meeting of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) has heightened a…
Read
Previous Post

The Politics of Transphobia

Bathroom Bills & The Dialectic of Oppression: From the KKK to anti-feminism: examining the Southern roots of the anti-trans "bathroom bill" movement. By Cristan Williams @cristanwilliams While Republican delegates dutifully cheered their presidential nominee for promising to keep queer citizens of the…
Read
Random Post

Trans Exclusionary Radical "Feminists"

Via Manic Pixie Nightmare Girls  
Read
Random Post

Transgender woman Chloie Jönsson sues Crossfit for 2.5 Million after being told she had to compete with men

Who has the problem with her competing with cisgender woman? Chloie Jönsson is suing Rebox CrossFit for 2.5 Million dollars after receiving a letter reeking of cisgenderism and transphobia telling her she could not participate with other women in the March Cross…
Read
Random Post

Sex Essentialism: TERF patriarchy and smelly vaginas

TERFs battle over who has the correct vaginal odor in order to determine female validity. I've noted many times that while Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) like to speak on behalf of Radical Feminism, the type of so-called "gender critical feminism"…
Read
Random Post

McLaurin Apologizes for "Circus Freak" Comment

I received this from Mark  McLaurin this morning: "As an advocate and activist with a fifteen year history of working for equality in the LGBT community, I know that words not only matter, but they are powerful.  Last week, I carelessly used…
Read