Study shows high rate of discrimination against transgender people in Texas

Mara Keisling

Transgender Texans generally face even higher levels of discrimination than transgender people nationwide, according to a state-level breakout from a national study conducted last year.

Equality Texas and the Transgender Education Network of Texas released the state-level figures Tuesday from the study by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality. The full national study is available online, and results from the Texas study are below. The national study included 266 Texas respondents.

In Texas, transgender people faced higher rates of harassment and assault in school. Nationally, 78 percent reported being harassed, but in Texas 85 percent faced harassment. Physical assault was also higher in the state at 46 percent compared to 35 percent nationally. Sexual assault in school was comparable at 12 percent nationally and 9 percent in Texas.

Texas doesn’t have LGBT-inclusive employment nondiscrimination or anti-bullying laws. The state’s hate crimes law covers gays and lesbians but not transgender people.

Equality Texas called the rates of workplace discrimination in the state “alarming.” Chuck Smith, Equality Texas interim executive director, said the report graphically demonstrates the discrimination faced by transgender Texans.

“In our state, where the right of self-determination is so valued, it is unconscionable that anyone would be denied the ability to earn a living, to live where they choose or to be educated,” Smith said. “Equality Texas calls on the members of the Texas Legislature to join us in working to ensure that all Texans are given the ability to live as their authentic selves.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said some states have made a lot of progress toward ensuring safety, jobs and homes for transgender people. But she said “this research points out persistent gaps in the fair and equal treatment of transgender people.”

According to the report:

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Anti-gay Congressman Louie Gohmert calls ENDA part of Obama’s ‘war on religion’

Louie Gohmert

Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert told a conservative radio show Tuesday that he thinks ENDA is a continuation of the Obama administration’s “war on religion.”

Gohmert spoke with Today’s Issues host Tony Perkins, Family Research Council president, saying the federal legislation that would ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is “a part of this administration’s ongoing war on religion, on particularly Judeo-Christian values,” Right Wing Watch reports. FRC has been labeled as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

A Senate committee began a hearing on ENDA on Tuesday.

Gohmert went on to criticize religious groups that accept homosexuality and also said that ENDA’s passage would require Christian schools to hire LGBT people, a misguided theory as religious institutions would be exempt from the bill. He said it would be “kind of tough to teach biblical principles in Romans 1 in a school if you are of the persuasion of being homosexual.”

From the video:

Perkins: Today, in the Senate they are having a hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act…. What this would do is give special employment benefits and protections based upon their sexual behavior and orientation. What do you see as the outcome of this? I mean, are you concerned increasingly that this is a way to essentially punish religious freedom in the business environment, in the business sector?

Gohmert: It continues to be part of this administration’s ongoing war on religion, on particularly Judeo-Christian values. But of course this is one that even is extremely contrary to the Muslim religion as well. I mean, Islam, Judaism, although there are plenty of people in Judaism and Christianity who think despite the plumbing that God created, that as the Iowa Supreme Court said, there is no biological evidence of a preference for a man and a woman being married as opposed to a man and a man.

Watch the clip below.

—  Dallasvoice

BREAKING: ExxonMobil shareholders again reject LGBT employment protections (with photos)

ExxonMobil shareholders have again voted down a proposal to add gay and transgender employees to the Irving-based corporation’s nondiscrimination policy.

Meeting at the Meyerson Symphony Center in the Dallas Arts District, the ExxonMobil shareholders voted 80 percent to 20 percent Wednesday morning against a resolution asking the corporation to amend “its written equal employment opportunity policy to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to substantially implement the policy.”

The proposal has been introduced each year since Mobil and Exxon merged in 1999. The highest level of support came in 2008 at nearly 40 percent.

“It’s disappointing, but this isn’t the end of the issue for us,” said Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell, who has lobbied the company on the issue. “We’re going to continue to reach out and engage them. … I think the White House needs to go back and revisit this executive order.”

The proposed executive order would require contractors to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies if they do business with the federal government, which Exxon does. However, President Barack Obama’s administration indicated earlier this year that he doesn’t plan to sign the proposed order anytime soon.

Mobil was one of the first companies in the world to include sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy and offer benefits to the same-sex partners of gay employees. But ExxonMobil rescinded those policies after the merger.

Outside the meeting, dozens of protesters lined Flora Street in front of the Meyerson on Wednesday. About 50 people with organizations including Code Pink, United Steel Workers and Occupy Dallas joined GetEQUAL protesters to shout for equality and ending discrimination, while a handful of protesters parodied the CEOs that make the choices and profit from ExxonMobil.

Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, who helped organized the protest, said he wouldn’t be surprised by the vote regardless of the result.

“The people that are against it seem very against it. The people who are for it really done a good job of pushing it this year,” he said. “We’ve got a better shot than in the past.”

As for Exxon not voting in favor of adding the protections in the past, Cates said the company had not learned to change and be more inclusive, which would ultimately hurt business.

“They clinging to antiquated business practices,” he said. “It’s a matter of really learning that this is good for business.”

This year, the resolution was initiated by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, who wants the company to not only amend the nondiscrimination policy, but also to begin offering health benefits to the spouses of employees married in the Empire State.

The comptroller controls the state’s pension funds. As of May 18, New York’s pension fund held more than 16 million shares of ExxonMobil worth more than $1 billion.

ExxonMobil has called the measure unnecessary. It says the company is a “meritocracy” for its 82,000 workers worldwide, and that it already prohibits all forms of discrimination.

This is also the first year ExxonMobil appealed to the Securities and Exchange Commission to have the shareholder resolution thrown out. The company based its claim on a nondiscrimination statement in its Corporate Careers publication.

The SEC refused to allow ExxonMobil to throw out the resolution, saying the publication doesn’t have the weight of a corporate nondiscrimination policy.

Meanwhile, ExxonMobil maintains the lowest possible rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, with a minus-25.

In response to Wednesday’s vote, the Human Rights Campaign issued a statement noting that as of 2012, 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies include sexual orientation in their EEO policy and 50 percent include gender identity.

“The shareholder resolution to add sexual orientation and gender identity to ExxonMobil’s EEO policy was a non-binding referendum and the company still has the chance to do the right thing,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “As perhaps the largest corporation in the country, ExxonMobil has a responsibility to be a good corporate citizen; sadly they have fallen far short. The company has resisted offering basic employment protections for their LGBT workers for years and it’s time they treat all of their employees like the valuable assets they are.”

—  John Wright

NYT allows Republican to twist debate over nondiscrimination for federal contractors

Linda Chavez

The New York Times ran an editorial today by Linda Chavez, a Reagan White House adviser. In it, she praised President Barack Obama for not signing an executive order that would prevent employment discrimination by federal contractors.

With the Employment Non-Discriminiation Act stalled in Congress, LGBT rights leaders have been pressing the White House to issue an executive order that would require federal contractors to have nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Chavez misrepresents the executive order. She wrote:

When it comes to granting gays special preference, however, such as in the awarding of government contracts, most people draw the line.

Gays would not be granted preference. The executive order LGBT organizations want Obama to sign is about companies having nondiscrimination policies. It is not about the federal government adding quotas or requiring a certain number of contracts be written with LGBT companies.

She continues:

Anyone who has studied the issue of racial, ethnic and gender preferences in government contracting knows that such executive orders go far beyond simple nondiscrimination. Their purpose is to encourage preferences for certain underrepresented groups.

And concludes with this piece that sums up her totally irrelevant editorial:

There is little evidence that gays are being denied the right to compete fairly for government contracts now — and no reason to give them special preference.

No one has suggested anything like this. No one in the LGBT community wants the billion dollars of federal money that has gone to Exxon in the past few years to go to a gay-owned oil company. The LGBT community simply wants Exxon to stop discriminating against its own employees.

The Washington Post got it right on the executive order. Fox News simply ignored the issue. Does the New York Times suddenly feel the need to be so “fair and balanced” that it allows its editorial writers to lie?

—  David Taffet

Poll shows majority believe trans people should have equal rights

Encouraging poll results published Wednesday, Nov. 3, on the Public Religion Research Institute‘s website indicate that more than two-thirds of Americans are able to adequately explain what transgender means, and that an “overwhelming majority” of Americans across the political and religious spectrum believe that transgender people should have the same legal rights and protections as anyone else.

What’s unfortunate, however, is that results of a poll published back in June by the Center for American Progress shows most Americans already think there is a federal law giving transgender — and LGB — people protections against discrimination in the workplace. I say it’s unfortunate because as long as they think LGBTs have federal protections against workplace discrimination, they don’t see any reason to push for passage of such protections either at the federal or the state levels.

The Center for American Progress poll, conducted in the first two weeks of April, showed that 73 percent of the likely 2012 voters who were asked believe that LGBT people should be federally protected against workplace discrimination. It’s nice to see the Ts included with the LGBs in that data, since transgenders have previously been left out of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act legislation that has been considered (though not passed) by Congress.

The Ts keep getting left out because supporters of the bill think that including them will somehow torpedo the chances for getting protections for the LGBs. It’s been a “Well, let’s get what we can now for everybody else then come back later and pick up the Ts” situation. Funny thing though, those who would have voted against the bill if it had included transgenders voted against it anyway because it included lesbians and gays.

—  admin

BUSINESS BRIEFS: AA endorses ENDA, Allstate recognizes Long

AA endorses ENDA

FORT WORTH — American Airlines has again advocated the passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The airline supported the bill in 2008 and 2009 in correspondence with congressional leaders. In its current letter of endorsement, American Airlines wrote:

“On behalf of our 80,000 employees, American Airlines is proud to express our strong support for S. 811 and H.R. 1397, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would extend basic job protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. We are proud to have been the first major airline to implement same-sex domestic partner benefits, first to implement both sexual orientation and gender identity in our workplace non-discrimination policies, and first to have a recognized LGBT employee resource group — GLEAM.

“Our endorsement of ENDA is consistent with our longstanding ‘Statement of Equal Opportunity.’ The principles fostered by ENDA are consistent with our corporate principles in treating all employees with fairness and respect.”

Allstate recognizes Long

Allstate Insurance Company has recognized Alex Long, one of its gay agency owners, with the Chairman’s Award for high standards in customer satisfaction, customer retention and financial services sales.

Alex Long Agency is one of about 14 percent of Allstate agency owners and personal financial representatives in Texas to reach this level of achievement.

Long participates in the Lone Star Ride, is a member of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce and volunteers with Resource Center Dallas. His agency is at 2700 N. O’Connor Road in Irving.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Rick Perry deluded; Okla. sees big jump in gay couples; American backs ENDA

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Gov. Rick Perry is apparently operating under the delusion that he’s a minister and the state of Texas is his church, according to the transcript of a speech Perry made to East Texas business leaders in May to raise money for his “day of prayer and fasting” in Houston on Aug. 6. “At 27 years old, I knew that I had been called to the ministry,” Perry said, according to the transcript obtained by the Houston Chronicle. “I’ve just always been really stunned by how big a pulpit I was gonna have. I still am. I truly believe with all my heart that God has put me in this place at this time to do his will.”

2. New Census data released today shows a big increase in the number of same-sex couples in Oklahoma. Anti-gay State Rep. Sally Kern says she isn’t surprised but finds the situation “regrettable”: “I think the influence of the church plays a factor here, we have more churches today … that are saying homosexuality does not go against biblical truth,” Kern said. “Another factor is homosexuality is being taught in our schools as a normal and acceptable lifestyle, so when that happens, you are going to have more young people coming out of school who have a more favorable attitude towards homosexuality.”

3. Fort Worth-based American Airlines has again expressed support for the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban workplace discrimination against LGBT people. In a letter to members of Congress, the airline writes: “On behalf of our 80,000 employees, American Airlines is proud to express our strong support for S. 811 and H.R. 1397, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would extend basic job protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. We are proud to have been the first major airline to implement same-sex domestic partner benefits, first to implement both sexual orientation and gender identity in our workplace non-discrimination policies, and first to have a recognized LGBT employee resource group – GLEAM. Our endorsement of ENDA is consistent with our longstanding ‘Statement of Equal Opportunity.’ The principles fostered by ENDA are consistent with our corporate principles in treating all employees with fairness and respect.”

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Gay Marine from N. Texas reacts to court’s order halting DADT enforcement

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. In the wake of Wednesday’s order from a federal appeals court halting enforcmeent of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” we checked in with a gay active-duty Marine from North Texas whom we profiled last year to see what the development means to him. Here’s what he said:

“I was VERY happy to hear that. I’m not really sure about what will happen next. I hope that the president and justice department will leave it at this and not push it to the Supreme Court. This law has gone on entirely too long already. Why keep something hanging on by a thread that we know is so close to being over? It wouldn’t make any sense. But like I said before, I will not be satisfied until there is a full repeal. I have came out to most people in my unit. So I don’t think there will be too much of a change for me except that I won’t have the thought of discharge lingering over my head, and I won’t have to hide my partner (he isn’t currently open with his unit).”

2. New York City will open clerk’s offices in all five boroughs on a Sunday — July 24 — so same-sex couples can marry on the first day it’s legal, The New York Times reports. We kept waiting for the quote from some tea party homophobe about wasting tax dollars and defiling the Lord’s Day, but it never came.

3. Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy signed a bill prohibiting workplace discrimination based on gender identity and expression on Wednesday, making Connecticut the 15th state to do so, Raw Story reports. As you can see from the map below, Texas remains one of about 30 states where you can still be legally fired for being gay or transgender. And let’s face it, that will never change until the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act is passed. Speaking of which, where the hell is ENDA?

—  John Wright

LISTEN: Gov. Beebe tells Stonewall Dems that Arkansas shouldn’t recognize their relationships


Gov. Mike Beebe became the first governor of Arkansas to address an LGBT group on Tuesday night, speaking to the Stonewall Democratic Caucus of Arkansas. Audio of Beebe’s speech is above.

Gov. Mike Beebe

On the question of relationship recognition, Beebe told the group he isn’t in favor of same-sex marriage or civil unions for Arkansas. Stonewall Arkansas President Eric McDaniel thanked the governor for his honesty.

The governor said he doesn’t believe employers should discirminatio based on sexual orientation, but he stopped short of endorsing a state law prohibiting it.

Someone also asked about a recent case of a family listing a same-sex partner in an obituary in an Arkansas newspaper. The paper removed the partner’s name before printing it. Beebe said he didn’t think a newspaper should be forced to print the name of a partner, even though obituaries in daily newspapers are paid advertisements.

It’s interesting to look at how news outlets in Arkansas treated Beebe’s speech in their headlines. The NPR affiliate referred to the governor speaking to a gay group. The more conservative newspapers touted the governor’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

—  David Taffet

ENDA: An 800-Pound Transgender Elephant – With Issues – In The Room

An 800-Pound Transgender Elephant Who Doesn’t Trust LGBT Congressmembers, Their Congressional Aides, And LGBT Civil Rights Organizations’ Policy Teams

Kerry Eleveld recently wrote a piece for Equality Matters — crossposted to Pam’s House Blend — entitled The False Choice: ENDA v. Marriage Equality. I read it, and had a visceral reaction when I read these paragraphs (no emphasis added):

[A]lthough I have asked a good number of questions about [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)] and its prospects for a vote, I still can’t tell you why it never happened. Meanwhile, I can recall with decent clarity nearly every twist and turn of the battle to pass “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) repeal. This is not due to a bias on my part, but is rather indicative of the fact that no one seemed willing to talk with any specificity about what was or wasn’t happening with ENDA.

And here is where our community’s analysis must begin — we need to have an honest conversation about our inability to discuss ENDA and transgender issues. Last year, when I asked people in our advocacy groups, staffers on the Hill, and lawmakers about the prospects for passing ENDA, I most commonly got no information or misinformation. As the bill continued to languish and the House committee vote was continually delayed, my questions were increasingly met with indignation and wholesale assurances that all was going according to plan. But ultimately, all I found was a brick wall when it came to identifying the hurdles.

I stopped reading the article when I read that, and just seethed.

My visceral reaction was this: I heard “It’s time to open up the discussion again as to whether gender identity should be part of ENDA” when I read the phrase “we need to have an honest conversation about our inability to discuss ENDA and transgender issues.” That’s my filter; that’s my problem.

But let me set the WABAC (pronounced “wayback”) Machine back to 2004 to discuss some background history on transgender people and ENDA — the reason I (and I assume many other transgender people) have that filter. Transgender community history on ENDA starts significantly earlier than that (see Monica Roberts’ Transgriot post Why The Transgender Community Hates HRC for more history than I’ll include here), but to keep the long story relatively short I’ll start there.

By August of 2004, pretty much every LGBT community civil rights organization had came out with a statement to the effect of “We won’t support any version of ENDA unless it includes gender identity language for transgender people.” Well, every organization except the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

On August 3, 2004, the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC) release a press statement, entitled Transexual Menace, Others to Protest HRC, which began this way:

A handful of organizations will be demonstrating outside of the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) at their Washington DC headquarters during its upcoming board meeting. Transsexual Menace is organizing the Unity Rally for Transgender Rights joined by other GLBT organizations to protest the HRC’s dubious efforts  on behalf of transgender inclusion in federal legislation. Members of groups such as the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC), Pride at Work (PAW) and Parents, Friends & Families of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG) will be


The demonstration will take place on Saturday, August 7, when the HRC boards convene to discuss whether to vote on supporting only transgender-inclusive federal legislation including the federal hate crime bill (LLEEA) and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

“In a climate where the GOP is using scare tactics to erase the GLBT people from gaining civil rights, we believe that for the largest GLBT organization in our country to be playing these kinds of political games is not only divisive to our community but unconscionable,” said Ethan St. Pierre, organizer of the Transsexual Menace Event. “HRC is the largest GLBT national organization and when they support non-inclusive language in what should be trans-inclusive legislation it sends a clear message to Congress that we [transgenders] don’t matter and that our lives mean nothing!”

The HRC knew the Transexual Menace and allies were coming, and on August 7, 2004, the Gay City News reported the following in their article HRC Embraces Transgender Rights; Board vote signals more inclusive Capitol Hill strategy:

[More below the fold.]

On August 7, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a national lobby for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, reversed its prior stance and announced it would support the main piece of congressional legislation addressing the needs of LGBT Americans only if the bill included protections for transgender people. The legislation, known as the Employment and Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), has lingered in Congress without significant consideration for years. Officials at the Washington-based HRC announced their policy change after meeting with several transgender leaders during an annual board meeting.

“The Human Rights Campaign adopts a policy that we will only support ENDA if it is inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression,” a statement from HRC said.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, who spoke at Saturday’s pivotal board meeting, immediately hailed the HRC board’s decision. “We are now one big community,” Keisling said.

“When members of Congress see HRC’s resolve on this, they will know transgender protections must be part of ENDA,” Keisling said. “This will also empower the victims of discrimination to come forward, and give us the chance to educate the public on transgender issues,” she added.

The HRC’s then legislative director Christopher Labonte stated the following:

This is definitely a sea change. We are now moving forward with a united front, and the LGBT community will no longer be fractured as a result of ENDA.

Then HRC executive director Cheryl Jacques made this statement:

Cheryl JacquesPassing ENDA without gender identity and expression is like passing a copyright law that covers books and television shows but doesn’t cover digital music or videos. But ENDA is about people’s lives, not MP3s or DVDs. That’s why it’s so important that we have the strongest and most comprehensive bill possible.

She also stated this:

In early August [2004], HRC’s Board of Directors took the historic step of adopting a policy that HRC would not support a version of ENDA that doesn’t include gender identity or expression.

This isn’t only the right thing to do; it’s the pragmatic thing to do. We’re supporting a modernized and comprehensive bill that gives full protection to all of our community.

Fast forward to the Southern Comfort Conference in September 14, 2007, and HRC executive director Joe Solmonese made the following comment (emphasis added):

We try to walk a thin line in terms of keeping everything in play, and making sure that we move forward but always being clear that we absolutely do not support and in fact oppose any legislation that is not absolutely inclusive, and we have sent that message loud and clear to the Hill.

Apparently without the HRC Board’s approval, Joe Solmonese got ahead of where the HRC was at on ENDA: whereas the HRC’s official policy was that they would not support any version of ENDA that didn’t include gender identity, Joe Solmonese publicly stated that the HRC would oppose any version of ENDA that didn’t include gender identity.

Then on September 27, 2007, House Democrats removed transgender employment protections from the main ENDA bill. On October 1, 2007, the HRC released the following statement:

Last night, the Human Rights Campaign’s Board of Directors voted to reaffirm the 2004 policy supporting a fully inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Therefore, HRC will not support the newly introduced sexual orientation only bill. The board’s position articulates a process for continued dialogue with House leaders about strategies that have been put forth to, in the end, achieve passage of a fully inclusive ENDA.

“We are now faced with definitive Congressional action to move forward a version of the bill stripping gender identity. Though we support a fully inclusive ENDA, we acknowledge the legislative strategy put forth by Congressman Frank and the Democratic leadership to obtain a clear path towards an inclusive bill in the future,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “We look forward to working with them to accomplish the goal all of us share – ending workplace discrimination against the entire GLBT community.”

“Since 2004, HRC has had in place a policy that supports only a fully inclusive version of ENDA and the Board of Directors voted to reaffirm that position,” Solmonese continued. “Therefore, we are not able to support, nor will we encourage Members of Congress to vote against, the newly introduced sexual orientation only bill. And will continue working with our allies in Congress to support a comprehensive, legislative strategy to achieve passage of a fully inclusive ENDA as quickly as possible.”

But of course — as most LGBT activists no doubt remember — even that position changed. On November 06, 2007, the HRC put out a press release that stated the following it its text:

“Since 2004, HRC has had in place a policy that supports only a fully inclusive version of ENDA and the Board of Directors voted to reaffirm that position,” Solmonese [said]. “Therefore, we are not able to support, nor will we encourage Members of Congress to vote against, the newly introduced sexual orientation only bill.”

The Leadership Conference On Civil Rights (LCCR) — the nation’s oldest, and largest, and civil and human rights coalition, to which the HRC is a key member organization — released this statement at roughly the same point in time as the 2007 HRC press release on ENDA. The LCCR statement said this in part:

As civil rights organizations, however, we are no strangers to painful compromise in the quest for equal protection of the law for all Americans. From the Civil Rights Act of 1957 through the almost-passed District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2007, legislative progress in the area of civil and human rights has almost always been incremental in nature. With each significant step toward progress, the civil rights community has also faced difficult and sometimes even agonizing tradeoffs. We have always recognized, however, that each legislative breakthrough has paved the way for additional progress in the future. With respect to ENDA, we take the same view.

While we are greatly disappointed that the current version of ENDA is not fully inclusive, our sense of frustration in this case is directed at those who would clearly prefer to see no one from the gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender community protected at all. We know the decision to pursue a narrower strategy was a very difficult one, and we appreciate the steadfast efforts of our Congressional allies over the years to advance the rights of all Americans – even when they are forced at times to make progress that is measured by inches rather than yards.

As such, we urge you to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and to oppose any floor amendments or motions that would undermine its protections.

And as most of us know, the sexual orientation only version of ENDA passed the House in early 2008, but the Senate never took up the bill — so ENDA died. ENDA was never sent to President Bush’s desk for veto.

Fast-forwarding yet again — this time to late March of 2009 — the HRC released a one more statement regarding the ENDA — this time in reference to the last Congress:

HRC Board ENDA Policy

It’s the policy of HRC that the organization will only support an inclusive ENDA. In 2007 House leadership informed us that there were insufficient votes to pass an inclusive bill, so they decided to vote on a sexual orientation only bill. We made a one time exception to our policy in 2007 because we strongly believed that supporting this vote would do more to advance inclusive legislation. We will not support such a strategy again. We look forward to Congress sending President Obama a fully inclusive ENDA for his signature.

Let’s be honest. Not very many trans people believe that March 2009 statement — it reads like unadulterated spin.

And too, let’s be very clear here on substance: in comparison to the statements of other LGBT civil rights non-profits on ENDA, the HRC’s policy statement is designed to be more weakly worded. Other LGBT civil rights non-profits have stated they’d oppose ENDA without the inclusion of gender identity or expression language while the HRC’s language of not support means that the HRC will theoretically be neutral on any ENDA that doesn’t include gender identity and expression language — not opposed opposed to any version of ENDA that isn’t fully inclusive.

The return to the HRC’s 2004-to-2007 ENDA policy, verses their 2007/2008 ENDA policy, certainly was an improvement. But, going back to the 2004-to-2007 policy really isn’t exactly a great place to start honest dialog about ENDA and transgender issues. And, their big presence on LGBT issues is touted on their About Us webpage:

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

And too, there is the matter of the HRC’s flawed scorecard for the 110th Congress.

It matters that the organization is still sending the message that issues regarding gender identity and gender expression are not equal to issues to that of sexual orientation. And since the HRC is still a sizable presence in the beltway backrooms where discussions with legislators and legislative staff on ENDA occurs…well, for many reasons, including their transgender fail on ENDA 2007/2008, means that the vast majority of transgender community activists don’t trust the HRC to be an honest broker for transgender people and issues. In fact, many consider the HRC — and especially Joe Solmonese — to be a liar.

And beyond the HRC, the transgender community still stings over John Aravosis’ commentary on AmericaBlog regarding ENDA 2007/2008. Aravosis compared LGBT community organizations that opposed removal of gender identity from ENDA 2007/2008 to religious right bigots in his piece House Committee Passes ENDA, 27-21:

This is a historic vote (this is the GLB ENDA, the one we actually have the votes for, the one we’ve been working on for 30 years). All Republican amendments were defeated. Four Dems sided with Pat Robertson and the men at the Concerned Women for America and voted no (including Kucinich, Holt, Clark and Sanchez – ostensibly because they feel we should hold 25 million gays and lesbians hostage until America is ready to pass civil rights laws for somewhere between tens of thousands and a few hundred thousand transgender people), and three Rs voted yes (Castle, Biggert and Platts).

That wasn’t an single, isolated comment. For example, another statement that repeated this comparison is found in JUST IN: Pelosi agrees to hold vote on trans-inclusive ENDA when it has the votes, will move ahead with GLB ENDA next week:

What remains to be seen is whether the NGLTF and its allies will join James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Lou Sheldon and Pat Robertson in trying to kill ENDA.

Here we have a gay blogger with readership in the tens of thousands who argued — in loaded language — against transgender inclusion in ENDA.

And too, it’s not as if our gay representatives in Congress have been kind to transgender people. Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) hasn’t engendered the trust of transgender community regarding ENDA over the years either.

Image: Integrated Male and Female Restroom Sign; Link: Pam's House Blend tag: 'Bathroom'Rep. Frank made this telephone statement for that Gay City News article referenced above prior to the HRC announcing its 2004 change of policy:

[ENDA] will never pass with trans-inclusive language while the Republicans are in control of Congress. They always scare people with stories about people with penises going into women’s showers.”

Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality quoted Barney Frank as stating this in his piece Homosexual-Transgender Alliance Tested as ‘Trans’-Inclusive ENDA Falters on Capitol Hill:

There are workplace situations — communal showers, for example — when the demands of the transgender community fly in the face of conventional norms and therefore would not pass in any Congress. I’ve talked with transgender activists and what they want — and what we will be forced to defend — is for people with penises who identify as women to be able to shower with other women.

Rep. Frank gave people on the religious right, such as Peter LaBarbera, quotables regarding transgender people and public restrooms/public showers.

Just Out - Frankly Speaking Page 1In the Just Out article Frankly Speaking (subtitled U.S. Rep. Barney Frank to trans community: Get your own train, May 2, 2008), Representative Barney Frank spoke about ENDA 2007/2008. One of his “stir the pot” comments from the article was:

Part of the problem, I have to say, is this: I’ve never seen a worse job of lobbying done by the transgender community. They seem to think that all they had to do was to get the gay and lesbian community to say “OK.” I think they thought that this was a train, and that they were a car on the train. I said to them, “You’ve got to work this, you’ve got to lobby people.” They did a terrible job of lobbying, and so we didn’t have the votes.

I’ve talked to my transgender peers and other activists over during 2007 and 2008, and no activist had ever reported that Rep. Frank gave any such warning to him, her, or hir — the only ones I’m aware of who sounded any alarm to the transgender community regarding ENDA/hate crimes legislation was the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC). In May of 2007 — during their NTAC Transgender Lobby Days of May, 2007 — in some of the congressional offices had lobbied in they heard rumors that had apparently been floating around the Beltway since April, 2007: NTAC heard that gender identity and expression was going to be dropped from the main ENDA/hate crimes legislation bill . NTAC in turn mentioned that possibility to some transgender community e-groups that same month.

Rep. Frank also stated in that Just Out piece:

I understand the problem of having [transgender protections] put in the bill and taking it out. It would have been better not to have put it in the bill in the first place and to have two separate bills in the beginning…. Unfortunately, people in the trans community and their allies didn’t want to accept reality.


Was it a mistake not to push for gay rights in the ’50s and ’60s? No, it just hadn’t occurred to people. Movements take time. There was not a lot of self-awareness of people being transgender in the ’80s and ’90s. You can’t artificially create these things; they come up. The transgender community organized and came forward, but it’s only been less than 10 years.

Let me make a note here: transgender people were in large part thrown out of the gay liberation movement in the early seventies by people of Rep. Frank’s generation. From History Professor Susan Stryker’s Know Your Transgender History:

1973 was a watershed year. Sentiments against transgender people participating in gay and feminist work reached a fever pitch. Sylvia Rivera was physically prevented from speaking at the Stonewall commemoration in New York. Beth Elliot, a lesbian transsexual woman who had once been vice president of the San Francisco chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis lesbian organization in San Francisco was ejected from the West Coast Lesbian Conference in Los Angeles, by vehemently anti-transgender feminist Robin Morgan, who divided the crowd on the transgender issue in much the same way that the issue is threatening to divide the LGBT community today. With the war in Viet Nam winding down for the United States, the androgynous hippy style of the “Freakin’ Fag Revolution” was replaced with the new macho of the “clone look.” With the successful removal of homosexuality as a psychopathology list in the psychiatric bible, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, gender-normative gay and lesbian people could say that they were healthy and transgender people were sick. And repression continued from the outside, too. Police planted narcotics in the office of the National Transsexual Counseling Unit, framed them, and sent some of them to jail. It was a perfect storm, in which many progressive-minded people, self-righteously thinking they were being so advanced in their condemnation of transgender people, unwittingly marched in lock step with truly reactionary social forces.

Thirty years of advancing gay and feminist causes through solidarity with conservative definitions of gender and by trashing transgender people is what produces the seeming paradox of the right-wing Christian hate groups like Americans For Truth About Homosexuality actually quoting Barney Frank’s phobic attitudes about transgender people on the front page of their website.

You can watch highlights of Rep. Frank’s comments about transgender inclusion in his October 10, 2007 ENDA/Transgender Press Conference:

With his commentary on transgender people and ENDA made in May of 2008 and earlier, it was literally no surprise to me to read statements by Rep. Frank in Chris Geidner’s Metro Weekly piece Employment bill started strong, but is barely breathing at the close of the 111th Congress. Rep. Frank put the burden of the unpassed ENDA 2009/2010 bill on the backs of transgender people:

…Frank had a message for LGBT advocates, saying, ”In the interim what the community needs to do is educate on the transgender issue.”

The point was echoed by the Democratic leadership aide, who said ”there has not been the work done by the community in the Senate” to ensure the passage of an inclusive ENDA.

As Frank said, ”I would point out to you that they still have not been able to get transgender protections in liberal places. If you can’t do it in Massachusetts, New York and Maryland, it doesn’t get easier when you add in South Dakota, Oklahoma and Utah.”

Frankly, after so many promises by Rep. Frank and other congressmembers in 2009 and 2010 about how ENDA was going to be marked up “soon,” at the end of the month, next February (2010) — well, you can read about the long history of broken promises on ENDA here. It didn’t appear to be an issue that would definitely kill the bill until the postmortem at the end of the 111th Congress., unless you consider this comment from Rep. Frank found in a January 13, 2010 piece in The Advocate:

“There continues to be concerns on the part of many members about the transgender issue, particularly about the question of places where people are without their clothes — showers, bathrooms, locker rooms, etc.,” said Frank. “We still have this issue about what happens when people who present themselves as one sex but have the physical characteristics of the other sex, what rules govern what happens in locker rooms, showers, etc.”

*Sigh.* Always the bathrooms; always the locker room showers.

And by the way, Representative Jared Polis (D-CO) hasn’t exactly been a superior ENDA friend to transgender people either. Just after GetEQUAL protested last April 21st in an attempt to highlight that ENDA 2009/2010 hadn’t as yet been marked up in the House Health Education and Labor Committee, Rep. Polis gave the GetEQUAL protesters — including GetEQUAL executive director Robin McGehee — a false choice argument. In the hallway outside the room where the committee was meeting, Rep. Polis told the protesters if they wanted ENDA marked up then it would be without gender identity protections — and then asked if that’s what the GetEQUAL activists wanted.

Which leads me back to the quote from by Kerry Eleveld I highlighted at the beginning of this piece:

[A]lthough I have asked a good number of questions about [the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)] and its prospects for a vote, I still can’t tell you why it never happened. Meanwhile, I can recall with decent clarity nearly every twist and turn of the battle to pass “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) repeal. This is not due to a bias on my part, but is rather indicative of the fact that no one seemed willing to talk with any specificity about what was or wasn’t happening with ENDA.

And here is where our community’s analysis must begin — we need to have an honest conversation about our inability to discuss ENDA and transgender issues. Last year, when I asked people in our advocacy groups, staffers on the Hill, and lawmakers about the prospects for passing ENDA, I most commonly got no information or misinformation. As the bill continued to languish and the House committee vote was continually delayed, my questions were increasingly met with indignation and wholesale assurances that all was going according to plan. But ultimately, all I found was a brick wall when it came to identifying the hurdles.

Transgender people don’t trust that an honest conversation about ENDA can occur with the people who work on policy that are currently in place in congressional offices and LGBT civil rights non-profits. The HRC’s executive director Joe Solmonese has zero credibility with transgender community activists after ENDA 2007/2008, but he’s still the HRC’s executive director. Rep. Barney Frank is the lead sponsor for ENDA, and he has a history of saying problematic things about transgender community members, and legislation that includes transgender community members.

And because of the issues with the leaders who work on LGBT policy within the beltway, many in transgender community feel gender identity and gender expression are not treated as equal issues — The “T” in “LGBT” is perceived by a majority of transgender community members as being a small “t” to congressmembers, congressmember office staffers and the people who work on policy at LGBT civil rights non-profits. Transgender community members perceive they’ve been lied to, and perceive they’ve been frequently scapegoated by lesbian and gay community members in positions of power.

The feeling of many in transgender community is that this perceived lying and this perceived scapegoating is ongoing issue. If transgender community leaders were to agree to an honest conversation beginning on ENDA and transgender people, I know I’m not alone in feeling that we transgender community members are again going to hear that question posed regarding whether or not transgender people should even being included in ENDA. Many of us in transgender community are tired of having that discussion about whether or not we should be included in ENDA over and over again — especially when we know, after ENDA 2007/2008, that it’s not tenable for congress or LGBT civil rights non-profits to drop gender identity from ENDA.

Transgender people just want our friends to actually be our friends.

My reaction was to those paragraphs written by Kerry Eleveld were visceral. I heard “It’s time to open up the discussion again as to whether gender identity should be part of ENDA” when I read the phrase “we need to have an honest conversation about our inability to discuss ENDA and transgender issues” in her piece. That’s my filter; that’s my problem.

And, I’m sorry lesbian and gay people seem to all get painted with a broad brush. Transgender community members often feel so angry about those who in LGBT community who treat them badly that lashing out at almost all non-transgender people in LGBT community is an almost instinctive response. That almost instinctive anger is often directed at any in community who are even moderately insensitive — or those who unintentionally use inappropriate language to describe us. In other words, we don’t always hit the right target for our anger with our anger.

Transgender community members have many, many lesbian and gay intra-community allies, and I actually knew beforehand that Kerry Eleveld was one of them. But unfortunately, sometimes anger at broader LGBT community is that reflexive response because of the behavior of players like Solmonese, Aravosis, and Frank — and more sad still, that reflexive anger directed at many LGB people in community is often justified. Just look at the comment threads for Joe.My.God, Towleroad, and GLAAD whenever any of these post on transgender people or on transgender issues. Transgender people know about those ongoing thread comments on those sites, and these feed destructive transgender narratives about “gay white cisgender men.”

The reflexive anger expressed by transgender people no doubt will impact any honest conversation LGBT community will engage in regarding transgender people and ENDA.

I emailed back and forth a bit with Pam about this, and she wrote this response back:

I think what [Kerry Eleveld] is doing is stating the obvious – LGBs simply have done what often happens with race – if you can’t comfortably discuss it for fear of defensive backlash, the larger community will ignore, dodge, avoid or be silent.

Yup — I couldn’t agree more.

So all that said, community history between the lesbian and gay subcommunity members of the LGBT community and the transgender subcommunity members of the LGBT community is a significant reason for why honest conversation on ENDA and transgender people.

But, lesbian and gay people in LGBT community are going to need to have a discussion about community history with transgender people if we want to move forward together on ENDA. It’s going to be an extremely difficult conversation to have when there is such credibility related and scapegoating issues that have yet to be adequately addressed; when there is so much heat and anger that transgender people feel about how they’ve been treated within LGBT community.

I have some suggestions on some immediate action items regarding the HRC though: the HRC Board needs to look at its executive director and its senior staff, as well as look at its policy statement on ENDA. They need to make some weighty, possibly painful decisions. If the HRC wishes to appear credible to the transgender community (an LGBT subcommunity that they state they work on behalf of), they need to focus like a laser beam on how to appear to be honest brokers regarding ENDA and full inclusion.

Transgender community members are going to have a difficult time entering into honest discussions about ENDA if the HRC Board doesn’t meaningfully address the organization’s past transgender fails — very directly, and very publicly.

And, that’s just a starting point for discussion with the 800-pound transgender elephant — with issues — in the room. We also need to begin a discussion about bathrooms.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

—  David Taffet