November 23, 2007

So ... now what?

So, we - by which I mean trans people and allies - have spent the past couple of months being outspoken and politically active and noticed to a really unprecedented extent. We rallied together against H.R. 3685, and even - briefly, oh so briefly - had enough of an effect to persuade the bill's sponsors to reconsider an inclusive ENDA.

We have spent the past couple of weeks - the 16 days that have passed since non-inclusive ENDA passed the House - feeling angry, betrayed, perhaps even a little hopeless. After all the contributions of trans folk to what is perhaps euphemistically known as the LGB'T' movement, and with all the things that the people under the queer umbrella have in common, it has nonetheless become clear that not only does the HRC not genuinely stand behind the whole community, but neither do our politicians and many of our gay brethren. (A brilliantly snarky response from Nadine Smith at the Bilerico Project.)

We have spent the past couple of days, as another Day of Remembrance passed without the feeling that much has changed, in reflection and mourning and the attempt to find hope and determination where it seems we only have reason to be demoralized. We have looked for ways to turn grief and heartbreak and anger into action, with or without the allies we had previously taken for granted.

So, now what? The day Frank and Pelosi announced that they would hold off on "bad ENDA," we told ourselves that this was a watershed day for trans people and allies - for trans issues. We celebrated our ability to make ourselves heard and proclaimed that people had "underestimated" our power. The day "bad ENDA" passed anyway, we shared the sense that this, too, was some sort of turning point. We couldn't pretend any longer that trans issues could hold up in the minds of "mainstream" gay and lesbian political activism when they were pitted against expediency. So, if this is a turning point, what are we turning towards?

I admit, I had a grand vision on the day after ENDA. I thought, "well, those of us who care about trans rights don't have to keep lending our support to those who don't. If they don't want trans people and anyone else who could be considered embarassing (like, y'know, mouthy bi-queer femme SOFFAs) in their movement - let's pack up our political capital and go home." Ok, so this "grand vision" is somewhere on the pouty-three-year-old level of political discourse. But damn, it was compelling. What if we stopped working on other people's issues for a change and started working on the issues that the HRC and its constituents never seemed to get around to?

Thing is, I don't know if that's practical. I don't even know if it's fair. Whoever "we" are, we include a lot of people - even trans people - who stand to gain from even the most narrowly-construed, upper-middle-class-white-suburban-gay-oriented reforms. And for every snotty "who put the 'T' in LGB" gay person, there are damn good LGB allies who need rights, too. (I should point out that I would be pleased as punch to be considered in this category.) Would it be a case of cutting off our communal nose to spite somebody else's face?

I don't know where to go from here, politically. I don't know what to keep fighting for, and who to fight beside. I don't know what will be best for the trans community, and for all our communities.

And so, like all issues of importance, I'm leaving it up to Quench to tell me.


Gunner said...

I say work on local state projects that are transgender specific, like policies that are trans welcoming at homeless shelters or other services, state and local non-discrimination laws, inclusion of transgender women (and sometimes lesbian and bi women) in larger women's organization.

It is also time to bring the B and T up to a level in our LGbt organizations, this means pushing them to have staff and boards that are at least 10% B & T. I think that is part of the reason we had the ENDA crisis... it is time to do some power shifting within our own communities, we can't shift power in larger society until we do it at home - so to speak.

I think we all need to look at the positive things that came out of the ENDA crisis and build on them. There has been a definite shift in the community conversation about transgender rights, something that did not happen in 2005 when ENDA and Hate Crimes was being introduced before. There were very few allied groups standing up for transgender inclusion nor were there any legislators talking about it on the floor of the house.

Yes the fight is long and hard and this is a set back...but we need to pick ourselves up and keep an eye on what is happening in the Senate with the Hate crimes bill and the Senate version of ENDA.

The other big piece is mentoring and supporting our LGBT youth, particularly in not making the same mistakes we have done in the past, such splitting the community across identity lines. It is time to support and mentor new young activists. Lets get some teach in going... and learn from each other.

On another note... thanks for this blog and the those who contribute.

Anonymous said...

One thing I find interesting is looking at what effect most of us usually have on national issues. I mean honestly, what do we do? Suddenly during that ENDA crisis, a bunch of us were doing a lot, but mostly what we do is talk about stuff and that's about it. If the question is "is there a good alternative to HRC on that front?" the obvious answer I see on that front is NGLTF.

That said, most people I know are a lot more active locally, as they should be. Hence the "think globally, act locally," ridiculously cliche and yet relevant phrase about getting involved.

I'm a little confused as to what question you are asking. I hope that this crisis has inspired more people to get more involved in the good work that is going on all around us.

I am confused about how this part:
Whoever "we" are, we include a lot of people - even trans people - who stand to gain from even the most narrowly-construed, upper-middle-class-white-suburban-gay-oriented reforms.
fits into the rest of your questions. So what? I think the point is not to push for reform that benefits privileged people at the expense of others. That includes using funding, time, and energy in ways that are inconsistent with a broader vision of social justice. For example, if we form organizations that only look at the concerns of gay white men, then we are missing a lot and we can't pretend that organization represents the whole LGBT community or even all gay men. Some of this is just honesty. Don't talk about Rita Hester and Gwen Araujo when your work will only benefit Barney Frank and Andrew Sullivan.

Personally, I have the most energy for work that helps LGBT youth, LGBT homeless folks including youth, and un(der)employed trans folks. That doesn't mean you have to do the same. We all have energy to do different things, but hopefully we will find the time, distance, and resources to support each others' work in solidarity. If you want to push for domestic partner benefits for rich executives, fine. However, if you're sacrificing funding for an LGBT youth shelter in order to advocate for domestic partner benefits for rich executives, don't expect me to be on your side.


PS ("you" here is not directed specifically at you, M.E., I meant it generally)