November 10, 2007

Guest Post: Two Wrongs Don't Make Trans Rights

Give a warm welcome to our new guest poster EmilyInfinity, who shares her views on HRC and the non-trans-inclusive ENDA below.


As many of you are already aware, there has recently been a lot of debate in the GLBT community about the best national lobbying strategy for GLBT rights. It's clear now that HRC and the Democratic House leadership are in the "take what you can get now and that'll pave the road for more progress" camp, and most other GLBT organizations want to keep the community united because otherwise transgender people will almost certainly be left behind for decades to come. Both of these strategies have advantages and disadvantages and while I'd personally prefer the latter approach, I can at least understand where those in the HRC camp are coming from in their choice of lobbying strategy.

However, just because I accept the HRC's choice not to lobby for what I consider to be the best interests of the transgender community, I'm still quite upset at them. What's so disappointing isn't their strategy, but rather the deception the HRC (and their president Joe Solmonese in particular) has done in order to get what they want. On September 14th, Joe spoke at the Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta, one of the largest transgender conferences in the US.

Speaking on behalf of the HRC, he said there that "we absolutely do not support, and in fact oppose, any legislation that is not absolutely [transgender] inclusive". But two weeks later on September 28, after it became apparent to the HRC that an inclusive ENDA bill wouldn't have the votes to pass in the House, Joe issued an official statement on behalf of the HRC edging away from his earlier pledge by saying "Passing an inclusive ENDA is the right thing to do for our community, our economy and our country. However, we're facing a stark reality." This apparent flip-flop caused the transgender community and allied GLBT organizations to become upset at the HRC for backing off of their earlier position and settling for non-inclusive legislation. This backlash prompted the HRC to revert to its original strategy of supporting only inclusive legislation and sign onto a letter dated October 1 telling the House leadership that "we believe the process and strategy that has been adopted [to support a non-inclusive bill] is a mistake."

Okay, so the HRC's only supporting inclusive legislation again and the GLBT community is united in its quest for equality again, right? Oh wait! Then on November 6th as the bill came up for a vote in the full House of Representatives, the HRC changed strategies again to support non-inclusive legislation, saying on it's website that "while it is not the inclusive bill we wanted, if passed by the House, HR 3685 would be the largest and most prominent step Congress has ever taken in protecting gay rights".

So in summary, the HRC has gone from promising to oppose any version of ENDA that does not include protection for transgender people to supporting HR 3685 (a bill that does not include protection for transgender people) to correcting themselves by saying that the earlier change in strategy was a mistake to then back away from their correction by going forward full steam ahead lobbying for HR 3685 and then boasting about the historical passage of HR 3685 in the House. Yes, that's right, the HRC has changed their mind about supporting a non-inclusive bill three times in the course of only about six weeks.

It's also worth noting that the timing of these changes, flip-flops, or whatever you'd like to call them seem very intentionally timed to maximize the amount of time the HRC purported to be supporting the strategy preferred by most transgender activism groups and other major GLBT groups. While it is possible that the HRC really did change its strategy three times in six weeks, the more likely explanation is that the HRC had its strategy set from the outset but then lied about it publicly in order to maintain the backing of the entire GLBT community for as long as possible. And if this is true, this means that Joe Solmonese lied to us in order to pull a lobbying strategy bait and switch on the GLBT community.

I believe that if Joe and the HRC had just decided on a strategy in advance, publicly announced what that strategy was, and then stuck with it, I doubt there would be the level of resentment that they currently have from the community they lobby for even if people didn't fully agree with them. Perhaps the greatest tragedy that came out of this fiasco is that GLBT people apparently need to play the same political games as straight people do in Washington in order for us to get the same rights as straight people have.


Sources:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_GhTiBO8Cw

http://www.hrcbackstory.org/2007/09/statement-from-.html

http://www.hrcbackstory.org/2007/10/headline-ending.html

http://www.hrcbackstory.org/2007/11/hrc-civil-right.html

2 comments:

icarus said...

welcome, EmilyInfinity! thank you for your awesome post! i have more extensive comments, but i need to go to bed right now. i'll try to write more tomorrow. :-)

Anonymous said...

I believe that if Joe and the HRC had just decided on a strategy in advance, publicly announced what that strategy was, and then stuck with it, I doubt there would be the level of resentment that they currently have from the community they lobby for even if people didn't fully agree with them.

I wish I could believe that was because HRC didn't make their decisions just based on avoiding resentment, but I can't.

I appreciate your analysis because you look into what HRC could possibly have been trying to do without just saying what some apologizers have said which is "they are working really hard and trying to do the right thing - you have to give them credit."

HRC doesn't get excuses but looking into how and why it went down the way it did will perhaps help us to figure out what we need to do to use them as a better tool next time.

WTTO