WATCH: HISD Board gets earful on anti-gay flier

Manuel Rodriguez

Trustee Manuel Rodriguez in the hot seat as public condemns his homophobia

A standing-room-only crowd greeted the Houston Independent School Board last night. While the board’s monthly meetings often attract an assortment of parents, community members and gadflies many in the crowd were there with a decidedly non-educational issue on their minds: the anti-gay flier distributed by Trustee Manuel Rodriguez during his recent reelection campaign. As previously reported by Houstini, the flier encouraged Houstonians to vote against Rodriquez’s opponent, Ramiro Fonseca. because of his sexual orientation.

The first to address the issue were Rodriquez’s fellow trustees, Anna Eastman and Juliet Stipeche. Eastman spoke passionately of the importance of HISD’s anti-bullying policy which “protects people from harassment and bullying based on attributes we all have,” and said that she felt Rodriguez’s actions violated the spirit of that policy. Stipeche, near tears, read the names of teens who had committed suicide after enduring anti-LGBT bullying.

The board had planned to vote on a new ethics policy at the meeting that covered behavior by trustees. At the encouragement of two speakers, and the motion of Eastman, the board decided to delay that vote until December so that a policy stating that encouraging discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression could be added.

After three and a half hours the crowd in the board’s chambers had dwindled, with most of those who had come to confront Rodriquez still waiting. When Board President Paula Harris finally opened the floor for public comment the first person to step up was Houston GLBT Political Caucus President Noel Freeman. Freeman told the board that the extant of Rodriquez’s homophobic campaigning was far greater than the flier which had drawn so much media attention. “What you all might not know is that he also went on television and said that he just couldn’t understand why a 54 year old unmarried man would want, quote ‘access to children,'” said Freeman. “That statement in and of itself, and the implications made therein is reprehensible and simply disgusting.”

Freeman asked that the Board remove Rodriquez as their representative on the Texas Council of School Boards, and as the board’s vice president. He went on to criticize the apology issued by Rodriquez after the election, saying that it did not address the concerns of the GLBT community, nor was it delivered to the community but rather to the press. “You cannot simply say ‘oops, I’m sorry’ and this all goes away,” said Freeman. “We will never forget what you did!”

Board President Harris had made frequent reference throughout the meeting to a group of students from HISD’s Milby High School, letting them know that their time to speak would come. As the students’ designated speaker stepped to the podium his hands visibly shook in nervousness. “When I first heard about [Rodriquez’s flier] I did not agree with it because I believe that the message was that a gay person could not be as successful as a straight person and that really hurt me,” said the student. “My question to you is are you going to help us stop the bullying, or are you going to be a bully yourself?”

Perhaps the strongest response from the board was garnered by Paul Gonzales, who choked back tears as he described the challenges he faces as a gay man and parent of an HISD student. “I have a kid, and I have a kid that I have enrolled in HISD, and I love her. Me and my partner every single day are trying to show her that there’s nothing wrong, there’s nothing wrong with our family. So for a board member to say that my family is reprehensible to him… I have to explain [to her] that there are still people who consider us not the kind of family that deserve respect,” said Paul to the board, who were fighting back tears of their own. “GLBT parents like myself trust HISD to give us that haven for our children, that they’re not going to be looked at any differently. But the words that we saw on this flier just made me cringe to think that this isn’t the place that I thought that it was.”

After the jump, watch some of the eighteen people who spoke to the board.

—  admin

Drawing Dallas

Texas native Zjon Roberts returns to his home state — hot (Van) Damme!

MARK STOKES  | Illustrator

Name and age: Zjon Roberts, 19

Spotted at: Buli

Virginia slim: With his sparkling eyes, lithe frame, and smooth gait, it’s hard to miss gorgeous Virgo, Zjon Roberts. Born in Fort Hood, Texas, Zjon spent most of his formative years in Virginia Beach, Va. A few months ago he followed some friends to Dallas and is now settling in and making Big D his new home.

This quiet, unassuming, brown-eyed beauty hails from a large family; his mother named him Zjon after her favorite actor, Jean-Claude Van Damme. His hobbies include music, dining (vegetarian dishes are a favorite), socializing and when the mood strikes, dancing (he can stop a room when he gyrates).

He enjoys an active social life here in his new hometown; and you may occasionally spot him at the Drama Room, and occasionally at the Tin Room. Wherever he goes you can be sure he won’t blend in with the crowd!

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 26, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Deborah Vial and Jane Doe tonight at HOB

Homecoming queen
VialThis week’s cover story focuses on the reunion of Jane Doe, but let’s not forget that it’s a big night for Deborah Vial too. The singer returns to Dallas to host the CD release of Stages and Stones. It’s gonna be like a vintage night out at Sue Ellen’s in the ’90s but like huge. Yeah. They’re even playing the big room at HOB.

DEETS: House of Blues, 2200 N. Lamar St. 7:30 p.m. $10.

—  Rich Lopez

Ro2’s ‘Synclines’ art show closes tonight

Conover in sync


We’re used to seeing the bold and colorful Pop art of Robb Conover depicting comic book icons of late. Whether he’s giving his take on Wonder Woman or exploring a queer element to Batman and Robin as they kiss, Conover adds a definite punch to the local arts scene. His work has been seen in the gayborhood at Buli, Drama Room and Lucky’s.

He goes in a different direction, above, in Ro2 Art’s exhibit Synclines. Conover joins local artists Cabe Booth and Kevin Obregon, to present, what the gallery calls, new and unexpected works. The show closes tonight with a reception.

DEETS: Ro2 Art Downtown, 110 N. Akard St. 6 p.m.

—  Rich Lopez

Local Briefs

GAIN holding monthly meeting

GAIN, the GLBT aging interest network that is a program of Resource Center Dallas, will meet Thursday, April 28, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Resource Center, 2701 Reagan.
Educator, public speaker and writer Deneen Robinson, BSW, will present the program on Alzheimer’s and dementia in the aging LGBT community.
Hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be served.

Students seeks study participants

Cindy Chwalik, a clinical psychology student at Walden University who is interning with Youth First Texas, is looking for natal females (those who were born biologically female) who were born in the South and came out as lesbians while living in the South to participate in a research project she is conducting. She is particularly looking for women born in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina.

Participation involves a 60-to-90-minute interview. Chwalik said there is no compensation for participating, but the information will help those who come out in the future.
Contact her via email at cindychwalik

TDWCC to hear from candidates

Texas Democratic Women of Collin County will hold their next general meeting Monday, April 25, at 6:45 p.m. at the Preston Ridge Campus of Collin College, 9700 Wade Blvd. in Frisco, Founders Hall, Shawnee Room F148.

The program will feature a forum of candidates in the upcoming non-partisan municipal elections. Confirmed thus far from Plano are Judy Drotman, campaign manager for City Council Place 3 candidate Andre Davidson; City Council Place 5 candidate Matt Lagos; City Council Place 5 candidate Jim Duggan, and City Council Place 7 candidate Pat Gallagher.

Candidates in the Frisco elections who have confirmed so far are Mayor Maher Maso, City Council Place 5 candidate Bart Crowder, and Frisco ISD candidated Anne McCausland and Dody Brigadier.

—  John Wright

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

Another Privately Owned British Hotel, Another Gay Couple Refused A Room

Oh this is just rich: Intent on appealing the ,700 discrimination judgment against them after denying gay couple Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy a room at their Chymorvah Private Hotel, owners Peter and Hazelmary Bull might have a new friend.


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Do You Have Room In Your Wallet for a Diversity Platinum Card?

Unlike the Human Rights Campaign's Visa card, carrying around the Diversity Platinum card isn't an invitation to rack up debt. That's because it's not even a credit card, but rather a "rewards card" where, for /year ( of which goes toward a charity like the Trevor Project), you can get a "membership to GLAAD, an email newsletter, and oh yeah, some discounts at hotels like Klmpton and retailers like Macy's. Who's behind this thing? Steve Harris, the editor of A Bear's Life magazine, who says he wanted "to think what would support the community, what could we do to support the charities and organizations that were feeling the brunt of the economic downturn. We wanted to reach out to the entire gay community. I created it as a platinum card because I feel that we have moved forward from rainbow cards and rainbow colors. I really wanted to create something that people would be proud of to take out of their wallet and show that they were a part of such an important community." Let me carry it in an iPhone app, and I'll consider.

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Media Matters starts Equality Matters, ‘war room for gay equality,’ run by Socarides and Eleveld

Breaking, exciting news on the activism front via Sheryl Gay Stolberg at the New York Times. Media Matters is creating a new entity focusing on LGBT equality called Equality Matters. The really big news is that the organization will be run by our good friends, Richard Socarides and Kerry Eleveld:

As gay people around the country reveled on Sunday in the historic Senate vote to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a liberal media watchdog group said it planned to announce on Monday that it was setting up a “communications war room for gay equality” in an effort to win the movement’s next and biggest battle: for a right to same-sex marriage.

The new group, Equality Matters, grew out of Media Matters, an organization backed by wealthy liberal donors — including prominent gay philanthropists — that has staked its claim in Washington punditry with aggressive attacks on Fox News and conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

It will be run by Richard Socarides, a former domestic policy adviser to President Bill Clinton who has been deeply critical of President Obama’s record on gay rights. A well-known gay journalist, Kerry Eleveld, the Washington correspondent for The Advocate, will leave that newspaper in January to edit the new group’s Web site,, which is to go online Monday morning.

Both Richard and Kerry are already important voices for equality. Having them in these new roles is going to be an amazing asset.

I have to give a very special shout out to Kerry, who has become one of my best friends. Having her in the White House press briefing room for the past two years has been incredibly important. She’s obviously an excellent journalist:

“I’ve spent the past two years with a front-row seat to history, and the longer I sat there the more I felt drawn to participating,” Ms. Eleveld said in an interview.

Next month, when she makes the transition to activism, she can participate. And, we’ll have an excellent new advocate.

Petey loves her and the feeling is mutual:


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Media Matters to Launch New ‘War Room’ for LGBT Equality

Media Matters is launching a new division of its organization devoted to LGBT equality called 'Equality Matters' which will be run by former Clinton adviser Richard Socarides (pictured) and edited by Advocate reporter Kerry Eleveld, who is leaving that publication in January, the NYT reports:

Socarides While a range of groups are working to advance gay rights, the movement has lacked a national rapid-response war room of the sort that can push back against homophobic messages in the media and the political arena and keep the pressure on elected officials, said David Mixner, a gay author and activist.

“I think the lesson we have learned over the last two years is that you’ve got to be tough,” Mr. Mixner said, “and you’ve got to keep people’s feet to the fire.”

The organizers of Equality Matters say that is their intent. Mr. Socarides and the founder of Media Matters, David Brock, said they began planning Equality Matters several months ago. They quickly persuaded Ms. Eleveld, who covered the Obama campaign and has covered Washington for the last two years, to join them.

“I’ve spent the past two years with a front-row seat to history, and the longer I sat there the more I felt drawn to participating,” Ms. Eleveld said in an interview.

Mr. Brock, a former conservative journalist who is gay — and who broke with the right in the 1990s — has lately been expanding the Media Matters organization. He said in an interview that he had raised million in the last year for the group, which has an operating budget of million. His backers include George Soros, the liberal donor; the Hollywood producer Steve Bing; and gay philanthropists like James Hormel, an ambassador to Luxembourg under Mr. Clinton.

The group's website,, will go live Monday morning.

One Battle Won, Activists Shift Sights [new york times]

Towleroad News #gay

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