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Friday, November 9, 2007

What They Said…

posted by on November 9 at 9:39 AM

The NYT today on the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act by the U.S. House of Representatives:

Winning a majority in the House required a painful decision by the billís sponsors to jettison language extending the prohibition against employment discrimination to transgender individuals. As a result, some gay rights groups opposed the final bill.

We sympathize with the groupsí sense of injustice, but disagree heartily as to strategy. Transgender people should be protected from discrimination, and we hope they soon will be. It would have been regrettable, however, had the sponsors refused to compromise, and as a result, lost the chance to extend basic civil rights to the millions of Americans who would be covered by the current bill.

Throughout American history, civil rights have been achieved in incremental steps. The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, for example, barred race discrimination in public accommodations, an enormous step forward at the time. It wasnít until the next year that Congress protected voting rights in a separate bill.

RSS icon Comments

1

Was it worth the pain for a bill that will surely be vetoed?

Posted by davidLBC | November 9, 2007 10:00 AM
2


Opponents of ENDA, primarily Republicans, don't care if they're on the wrong side of history since large numbers of the public happen to agree with them. As hard as this may be for us to believe, most members of Congress on both sides of the isle don't really give a shit about us or our issues.

By dropping the T from LGBT, they've simply done what American politicians always do: Turn minorities against each other to break their movements.

The downright nasty hostility to the trans community is eerily similar to the language so-called "progressives" used against gay people after the 2004 election which many blame us for "losing" because we want marriage rights.

There is no chance ENDA will become law this year, but we have shown that we canít trust each other, canít keep a coalition together, nor prevent one group from being thrown under the bus because theyíre politically expendable. That's not a recipe for long-term success.

Posted by Original Andrew | November 9, 2007 10:05 AM
3

The comparison to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 doesn't hold. The primary difference being that the Civil Rights Act actually passed and was signed into law, while ENDA merely passed a House vote. It hasn't been brought up in the Senate yet, and there is zero chance that Bush will sign it. ENDA has no chance of becoming law in 2007 or in 2008, and everyone knows it.

So, since ENDA has no chance of actually becoming law until at least 2009 at the most optimistic, right now it is just a symbolic gesture. It is a set up for potential future law at best.

Sure, civil rights have been achieved in incremental steps. But ENDA isn't even an incremental step. It is a gesture towards a potential future incremental step.

The backers of this bill, including Holy Barney Frank, were wimps for throwing the trannies under the bus. If there was any chance ENDA would actually pass into law, and transexuals were the deal breaker, then maybe I'd consider it politically expedient to drop them and try again another day. But if this is just a symbolic gesture of what we hope future legislation should be, then transexuals should have been included.

Now we are left with a half a gesture, a divided community, and nothing to bargain with.

Posted by SDA in SEA | November 9, 2007 10:17 AM
4

I was all set to agree with you Dan, but then Original Andrew and SDA in SEA convinced me.

Posted by arduous | November 9, 2007 10:22 AM
5

It was another cowardly action by the Dem leadership in Congress. ENDA passed 235 to 184, in other words by a margin of 51 votes. Are the Dems claiming that including Trans workers would have cost them 52 votes, to defeat the bill? Or that including Trans workers would have lost them seats next year?

Posted by mike | November 9, 2007 10:25 AM
6

Wow. According to that logic, let's pass a bill to give married couples a $5000 tax credit. That must be an "incremental step" to gay marriage.

How in the world are trans people supposed to gain employment protection on their own? The trans population is far smaller than the gay/lesbian population, and they don't have nearly as much money, likely due to rampant employment discrimination.

Posted by jamier | November 9, 2007 10:35 AM
7

If it really had to be done in order to pass ENDA then I could see it as being a step in the right direction. You are not really saying that trannies don't deserve protection they are just not included yet. Again I am not sure about the whole veto thing either.
Trans people includes a lot of different kinds of people. For example, many are very straight identified (men attracted to women) but also indentify themselves as females (so I guess technically they are lesbians). For this reason it does not surprise me that they would try to sabotage ENDA since I think the sympathy for Gays and Lesbians is not as deep as it would appear.

Posted by Touring | November 9, 2007 10:37 AM
8

Dan's argument sounds logical, but only if you don't look too closely at just how connected homophobia and transphobia are. I'm going to borrow Kate Sheppard's words on this because she said it so much better than I could:

"When there is discrimination against, or recoil from, lesbians and gay men, itís not just because we fall in love with others of the same sex. Itís because we donít neatly fit our gender identities; weíre often "genderqueer" as well. Our girls tend to be boyish; our boys tend to be girly. Not always, and not all of us. But gay men and lesbians who "pass"ó who are "straight-acting," in the terminology, who more closely fit sex stereotypes-órun into the least trouble on the job. Itís the fey men (and, depending on the situation, the butch women) who run into trouble. And thatís the ground on which they need the most protection: gender identity."

Dan, as it turns out, is a butch guy who's never been mistaken for a women even when he's been dressed up like one. That may affect his stance on this...

Posted by Sandy Hereld | November 9, 2007 10:53 AM
9

Trans folks bear the brunt of violence against the LGBT community - are more likely to be discriminated against, are mroe likely to be killed. Why? Because our opponents lump us all into the same boat. Do we really think there are folks out there in the world (let alone members of congress) that think "well, I guess allowing the fags to keep their jobs is okay, but damn it - those trannies are a step too far- them we should be able to fire." The folks who discriminate against LGB people are the same folks that discriminate against T folks - and they do it for the same reasons. That LGBT folks scare them & their narrow sense of what acceptable forms and actions of male and female are.

We lost something important when we allowed this bill to go forward without trans protections. And please do not try to argue that we gained 51 votes by doing it - it would have passed anyway, but now our community is divided.

I remember at last year's Creating Change Conference, Matt Foreman of the Taskforce lead a standing ovation for the idea that we would never again leave behind our trans brothers and sisters - how sad that mighty agreement has been broken after so short a period of time.

Posted by Allie | November 9, 2007 11:09 AM
10

The one question that no one from the "political pragmatic" side sems to be able to answer is the following:

If trans discrimination should be parsed out of ENDA in order to allow for it to pass now, when would be the right time to pursue trans rights?

I don't mean this questions as a rhetorical device. I really want to know. If we're using pragmatism as the basis of this decision to remove, when would be a good time to pursue trans rights? Five years from now? Ten? Thirty?

If you're able to come up with an answer, let me know. Because my next questions will be "Is it worth denying a small segment of a population civil rights for the next x amount of years, just so that the homosexuals get theirs?"

If you can answer yes to THAT question without feeling even the smallest amount of guilt, then your no better than those for whom this bill is meant to dissuade.

And if you do feel guilt, will you do anything to assuage it? Will you help the trans activists get this done?

My guess here...and granted it's a cynical one... is that when ENDA passes (without trans inclusion), a fair amount of gays who said that they felt it necessary to cut out the trans will do nothing to help the trans community afterwards. I hope I'm wrong.

Posted by Kate | November 9, 2007 11:16 AM
11

Dan is right.

Pass whatever you can.

Adding protections for something that is irrelevant to job performance is never wrong.

Should we repeal protections against job discrimination based on sex, religion, ethnicity, etc., until it's inclusive of gay and trans people?

If we could only eliminate anti-trans job discrimination for now, do that.

If we could only eliminate anti-gay job discrimination for now, do that.

If we could only eliminate anti-lesbian job discrimination for now, do that.

In Iran and many other Muslim countries, transsexuals have rights but gay people can be executed. I'm glad for the transsexuals there. If it happens to be the case that in the USA transphobia is greater than homophobia, let's not get hung up on it, but try to bring as many people as possible under an umbrella of protection NOW.

http://www.truthout.org/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi/35/15513

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/4115535.stm

Posted by chicagogaydude | November 9, 2007 11:17 AM
12

Ok, now I've read Rex Wockner's and (against my own better judgment) Andrew Sullivan's reasons for supporting ENDA without the protections for transgender people, and I just feel sick.


From Wockner:

http://wockner.blogspot.com/

"What do I have in common with a guy who wants to remove his willy, grow breasts, become a woman and get married to a man? From where did this relatively new concept of Ďthe LGBT communityí come?"


While it is interesting from a psychological perspective to see gay men spout the same ignorant, intolerant bullshit about another disadvantaged group that regularly gets thrown at us--kind of like when black Americans bash gays--their opinions aren't really about anything noble like civil rights, but speak volumes about the sexism and misogyny that's widespread but rarely openly discussed among white gay men.

Posted by Original Andrew | November 9, 2007 11:47 AM
13

Black men got the right to vote decades before Black women did. Then the Black community had to fight for decades to be allowed actually to exercise that vote. Things don't happen overnight, in one feld swoop.

If the Queer/Trans political community doesn't want to compromise, why didnt they demand FULL equal rights (marriage equality, guarantee of adoption rights, etc) in the bill? Why? Because in this 51% wins and 2/3rds is needed to override a veto, we are forced to do things in steps. It's shitty, but it's the system... until we change it.

Posted by andy niable | November 9, 2007 12:02 PM
14

@12 Actually, I thought there is a lot of good stuff in Wockner's full post.

http://wockner.blogspot.com/2007/11/trans-wars-doin-it-for-themselves.html

Also see

http://www.advocate.com/news_detail_ektid50347.asp

Original Andrew, I don't see what is intolerant or bashing of trans folk in Wockner's post - in fact he says he recognizes that trans people need protection. Maybe you're talking about Sullivan - I don't read him, as a rule.

Please explain.

Posted by chicagogaydude | November 9, 2007 12:06 PM
15

Again The GLBT community seems to be running with its tail between its legs. This won't become law, it's a gesture of little meaning. And what do GLBTQ Americans do? We Blog. We rant we rave. We stomp our verbal feet and pout. Tough guy talk there all around, while the real tough guys beat us up on a legal and social level. Maybe a time will come again when we push back (1969), but for most GLBT folks it's just not that bad. If it were that bad, they'd put on their heels and push back.

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | November 9, 2007 12:07 PM
16

The words the House leaders used are code for "we expect the Senate to kill this and we won't fight any more on it, since that avoids a veto fight on an issue we won't fight over since it will lose us votes we weren't going to get anyways but we're too clueless to realize that".

In case you wondered.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 9, 2007 12:12 PM
17

I just think it is shameful that we have to make a law that says you can't fire someone because they're gay or trans.

I know, stating the obvious.

Posted by Mike in MO | November 9, 2007 12:28 PM
18

I agree with Original Andrew @12.

There is no position one can take on this issue that doesn't hurt someone. But the anti-trans-inclusion argument has definitely pulled out the ugliest weapons. Here's John Aravosis:

"I would argue that the gay community never collectively and overwhelmingly decided to include the T in LGB (or GLB). It happened because a few groups like NGLTF and GLAAD starting using it, and they and a handful of vocal activists and transgender leaders pretty much shamed everyone else into doing it."

I guess trans participation in the Stonewall riots counts for nothing.

There is deep bigotry beneath this point of view, and yes, we've seen all this before. Arguing for the politically pragmatic position is one thing, but slagging trans people for "shaming" the community that is now cutting them out? That's not shame, that's your conscience talking.

Posted by Irena | November 9, 2007 12:36 PM
19

@18 I think language like "anti-trans-inclusion" and "cutting them out", not to mention "throwing people under the bus", which I've heard a lot of elsewhere, is an intentional appeal to conscience, or shaming.

By this logic, if you vote against a bill keeping gay people from getting fired just because they are gay, are you not throwing gay people under the bus?

Posted by chicagogaydude | November 9, 2007 1:18 PM
20

In New York LGB workplace discrimination protection was only added about 5 years ago when the Republican Governor George Pataki agreed to finally back it in order to get the endorsement of the main LGBT lobby organization in New York, The Empire State Pride Agenda. Gender Identity inclusion was dropped for the same reasons that they were with ENDA. GENDA, which would add gender expression was introduced the next year and has gone nowhere, even in the overwhelminingly Democratic Assembly where the speaker's office told my local Stonewall club "we're happy with how things are now." There are enough Co-sponsors for the bill to pass the assembly, but the speaker won't bring it to a vote. I think that if gender expression had not been dropped and the community here had continued to lobby for it, we would have a fully inclusive SONDA in New York State today.

Trannies are the least powerful and most voiceless segments of our community. They are also probably the most disciminated against of our community. If we abandon them, they may never be added once an exclusionary version of the bill is passed. The fact that every major LGBT organization except HRC, and over 300 minor ones, said they would only support an inclusive ENDA speaks volumes.

In 1998 over the objections of New Yorkers on their own Board of Directors, HRC endorsed pro-life Repug Senator Al D'Amato for reelection over Rep. Chuck Schumer (who obviously won) because D'Amato had slightly improved on his stances on gay rights (and they thought he was going to narrowly win); they were as wrong then as they are now.

HRC had to get a coation of non-LGBT organizations behind them this week because every other LGBT organization was united against this hatefully exclusive law.

I'm a gay man who lives in a state with LGB protection and city that also protects the Ts, but I think this symbolic vote on a bill going no where was a big mistake.

The next question is will HRC punish Anthony Weiner, Nydia Valasquez, Jerry Nadler, Yvette Clark (all of whom I know) and the few others, because they voted on principal against an exclusionary ENDA, by giving them a negative rating on their score cards, when every other major, and 300 minor, LGBT organization urged them to vote that way?

One more thing Dan. All you're getting is the mainstream media's treatment on this. Those of us in the grassroots have been following it's trials and tribulations for a month. You might be surprised to know that HRC had at least 5 distinctly different postions on whether ENDA should be supported without trans inclusion. Their leadership has been atrocious. HRC has never had a genuine victory for LGBT Americans (and a symbolic one house vote ain't an exception), and I can see why.

Posted by MatthewBrooklyn | November 9, 2007 2:58 PM
21

As I read the papers, I see an increasing pressure to ban trans-fatties in all aspects of life.

It makes me ashamed to call myself an American.

Posted by NapoleonXIV | November 9, 2007 2:59 PM
22

@19,

It's an appeal to conscience, for sure, but it's not bigotry. For gays to label this as "shaming" strikes me as painfully ironic. Gays are a lot more accepted by the wider culture; to imply they are being victimized by trans people, who are in a weaker position, is unfair.

Trans people need the support of the gay community (they helped to build it!). Without its support, they are really screwed. Be pragmatic if you must, but don't blame your guilty conscience on trans people when part of your pragmatism is a strategic betrayal of them. You can't have your cake and eat it, too.

Posted by Irena | November 9, 2007 3:02 PM
23

Ok, kids...here's a bit of a lesson.

The citing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is completely valid in this case, especially when viewed with regard to Title VII of that act which prohibits discrimination within employment based solely upon sex. In early cases regarding transgendered individuals, the court took a strict view on the word "sex" and took it to mean solely the biological differences between males and females. This meant that transgendered individuals were not covered because the term "transgendered" was not contained within.

In 1985, there was a dynamic shift with Hopkins -vs- Price-Waterhouse. A woman was a senior manager and had been with the company for 5 years. She secured a major government contract for the accounting firm for $25 million dollars. She was then put up for consideration for partnership. She was one of 87 candidates and the only woman. 47 of the candidates were promoted despite the finding of the court that none of those considered had any comparable record to Mrs. Hopkins. When she was informed of not making partner (though she and 19 others were held for consideration the following year), she was told to walk, talk, and dress more femininely, have her hair styled, and wear jewelry. The court found that Title VII did apply and the judgement was in favor of Mrs. Hopkins. This is important due to the fact that the court set a precendent that discrimination under Title VII could be on the basis that one did not conform to gender stereotypes...i.e. - she was not "feminine enough" to make partner.

This has since been utilized in other cases of discrimination against transgendered individuals (I can go on if you want examples but this is already long as hell) and consistently been upheld.

Great news...but here's where it gets tricky for gays and lesbians. Since all gay males are not stereotypically effeminate nor are all lesbian females stereotypically masculine, their claims under Title VII do not apply because they still fit the stereotypical view of "male" or "female" regardless of their sexual orientation. Thus, any discrimination suit does not apply unless it is a direct result of non-stereotypical gender-specific behavior.

In short, Title VII has consistently held protection for transsexuals which gays and lesbians do not have. Beyond that, seven states have passed legislation specifically protecting transgender people from employment discrimination. ENDA addresses that lapse for homosexuals and tries to address the disparity.

I'm not saying that transgendered should not be included within ENDA. I think it probably should but ENDA really is filling a gap within the law.

Anyway...let me step off this soapbox.

Carry on, sloggers...carry on.

Posted by cunei4m | November 9, 2007 3:22 PM
24

I think there is one key difference between cutting trans folk from this bill and incremental civil rights legislation. Civil rights bills tackled equal rights and protections in one arena at a time: protections against discrimination in public accomodations first, voting rights later, as cited in the NYT above. By removing transgendered people from ENDA's protection, we are limiting not the area of protection but WHO deserves those protections. In my mind, it's like passing a law prohibiting discrimination based on race that only protects some races.

Posted by raindance | November 9, 2007 4:23 PM
25

@23: Yes, transgendered people should be protected under Title VII and IX as they stand now. However, some courts, in either cowardice or abdication of their duty, refuse to properly apply it. Congressional clarification is in order.

To everyone: Given that there is ZERO chance of Bush signing ENDA, there was no pragmatism here.

Posted by Matt | November 9, 2007 6:07 PM
26

@22 You might have a guilty conscience, but I don't. What I do feel is ticked off at anyone - gay, straight, bi, queer, or trans - including Nadler etc. from @20, who would vote against a law keeping people from getting fired for reasons having nothing to do with their job performance.

Posted by chicagogaydude | November 10, 2007 4:38 AM
27

this shit DOES NOT MATTER. it's pretty useless at this point. there aren't that many people that are getting fired for being gay or lesbian, and--if they have been--prosecution of the employer under the law would still require an almost prohibitively heavy burden of proof by the employee. private enterprise has already taken this issue up anyways. the proportion of fortune 500 companies with gay inclusive non-discrimination policies is strong and growing each year. this bill might have been useful back when barney frank first introduced it. now it's just a sop.

and, as others have pointed out, it will get vetoed anyways.

these are the tiny fucking crumbs that democrats throw at us instead of tackling the two most important gay rights issues: military service and marriage. and, what's worse, both of those issues took major blows from laws signed by the last democratic president. ENDA and hate crimes are so peripheral and useless.

i do actually think a bill like this could help transgendered people, though. the discrimination that they would face in employment prospects is WAY more likely than for gay or lesbian ppl. shame the democrats don't really give a fuck.

Posted by jayk | November 11, 2007 6:36 PM

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