Don’t forget who brought you to dance

Posted on 04 Jan 2007 at 7:14pm
By David Webb The Rare Reporter

Doing what’s right should be preferable to expediency



David Webb: The Rare Reporter

When it comes to solidarity in the LGBT rights movement, some gay and lesbian leaders apparently still don’t get it they’ve forgotten who brought them to the dance.

Just last week, gay Congressman Barney Frank, of Massachusetts, goofed when he decided to remove protections for transgender people from the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act he is sponsoring in an effort to get it passed more easily. The obvious theory: the general public would be more accepting of gay men and lesbians than they are of transgender people, and congressional representatives would be more willing to stick their necks out on a vote.

But even if that is true, it doesn’t make it right.

As I recall, this thing we call the gay rights movement got started in large part by the efforts of transgender people specifically drag queens. They and a few other scrappy characters were the ones who decided enough was enough when the Stonewall Riots broke out in 1969, giving the gay rights movement the jump-start it needed to get rolling when they fought back against anti-gay police action.

It was also the drag queens, again accompanied by a few other hardy souls, who showed up in force in Downtown Dallas in 1972 to ride in old convertibles and launch the first gay rights parade in this city. For some reason, it always seems to take drag queens or butch lesbians to get gay men’s asses in gear.

So when we start talking about moving forward without transgender people, it makes me think of the Shania Twain recording, “Dance With the One That Brought You.” One of the lines in the lyrics goes like this, “Dance with the one that brought you, and you can’t go wrong.”

That was demonstrated in 2002 when the Dallas City Council passed an anti-discrimination ordinance that included sexual orientation and gender identity.

What some people may not realize is that the first draft excluded gender identity. It was written by the city attorney’s office to add only sexual orientation to the list of protected classes. When then Dallas Transgender Alliance President Tylana Coop called me to complain, I asked a representative of the city attorney’s office why it excluded gender identity.

He said that’s the way the group of gay rights leaders and City Council members forging the proposed ordinance wanted it, and that’s the way it would be. Again, I assume the rationale was, “This will work; the other won’t,” or perhaps it was merely an oversight as was suggested by some at the time.

Whatever the reason for the exclusion, it took just two phone calls to alter the course of the city’s history on LGBT rights. One went to then-Mayor Laura Miller, and the other went to then City Councilwoman Veletta Forsythe Lill to inquire why gender identity was left out of the ordinance.

They weren’t sure, they said, but they were quick to act no doubt horrified by the thought of the ensuing clamor in the media by Coop and her cohorts.

Quicker than you could say “I told you so,” the ordinance was amended to include gender identity as well as sexual orientation. It passed the City Council by a 13-2 vote, with the only dissenting council members being people who wouldn’t have voted for it if it had only included sexual orientation.

The lesson here is that the people who oppose transgender people are more than likely going to judge gay, lesbian and bisexual people just as harshly they view all of us as the spawn of Satan.

It’s time for all LGBT people to remember that and to demand that their congressional representatives pass an all-inclusive Employment Non Discrimination Ordinance. Every law-abiding citizen has a right to a job and to join the dance.

And if that’s not enough to convince you, what’s the big deal anyway? We all know George W. will veto whatever gets passed.

E-mail webb@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 5, 2007

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