Monday, February 25, 2008

Love Ya! Mean It!

“These vagabond shoes
Are longing to stray
And make a brand new start of it
New York, New York!” — New York, New York, Frank Sinatra

You gotta love New York!

Seriously, these folks know how to speak out against what is wrong, organize and create a disturbance that’s worthy of the biggest city in the nation. I’m writing in response to the Gay City report coming from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Banquet in the Big Apple. They organized not just street protests, but even support from their political friends to boycott the chi-chi event in solidarity with the trans community over HRC’s support for a non-inclusive ENDA bill pushed by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA).

Yes, Sylvia Rivera and Bob Kohler would be duly proud of their community’s progeny.

Most of the article dealt with the notable absentees from the banquet, most especially the politicos (one of which was to present an award at the event). A few did offer the ENDA and HRC’s threats of keeping score of those voting against a gay-only ENDA in principle (due to it’s incomplete coverage).

One statement from Marriage Equality New York (MENY) about its award noted that "HRC's stance on ENDA is clearly not in-line with our inclusive mission and disappoints those who believe we cannot leave anyone behind" and that the group "has ALWAYS been trans-inclusive and has always stood on the right side of this civil rights fight."

In accepting their award at the HRC banquet, the group's deputy executive director, Ron Zacchi, said, "MENY feels for our transgender brothers and sisters protesting outside, as we have often been the people protesting outside because incremental changes were accepted on our road to marriage equality.”

That’s a very powerful statement, and I applaud MENY for taking such a bold stance.

Then I got to thinking about who the statement was from. When you think about it, there’s not much of a limb they have to go out on with that beyond risk of possible funding from HRC. It would be pretty hard to push through any legislation for marriage equality for gays and lesbians without have it being inclusive of transgenders – or anyone else. On the inclusive part, I don’t know about their staff or board of directors but I wonder how many of them are transgender?

Conventional wisdom and demonstrated history have shown (most exemplary with the employment rights game) that those who’ve been closest to succeeding are the ones leading the charge. In HRC and other national organizations as well as state and local organizations, gays and lesbians have easily been the most successful at being hired, treated as equivalents in the workplace and even changing policy on this issue.

Consequently they have also been the sole leaders and the overwhelming majority of both staff and boards directing these organizations and their efforts. Understandably, it was logic I could see back in the late 90’s when HRC’s former Exec. Dir, Elizabeth Birch explained to me that they had made many inroads in the workplace and in congress. She also impressed upon me that she didn’t want us jumping the gun before the education groundwork was laid and risking the benefits and gains their community had already made. Even with the most pressing need for jobs being on the T side of the GLBT amalgam, clearly they (read the G&L side) had to take lead in order to succeed.

Keep in mind that MENY is from New York State, which passed SONDA (Sexual Orientation Non Discrimination Act) in 2002. After the victory, then Exec. Dir, Matt Foreman of the victorious Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA) made a promise that GENDA (Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act) for those who were left behind would be the top priority of the group. Soon after, Foreman departed for NGLTF’s top spot, and the following year, marriage for gays and lesbians became the instantaneous top priority.

“I would not be just a nuffin'
My head all full of stuffin'
My heart all full of pain.
I would dance and be merry,
Life would be a ding-a-derry
If I only had a brain.” — the Scarecrow, the Wizard of Oz

In fact, in 2002 gay and lesbian marriage wasn’t even on anyone’s radar screen. Truth be told, that came after one court decision in Massachusetts in favor of marriage.

Meanwhile, the trans community has enjoyed success at achieving marriage post-surgery as far back as 1964 in Illinois (pushed by Republican pols, no less!) Since then, court cases and state and local jurisdictions have cobbled together a series of unique views on full marriage for transsexuals, even in places as seemingly implausible as Kentucky (see Christie Lee Littleton). When that marriage was reversed in Texas’ 5th district court, even that helped bolster marriage between two same-genital partners.

Yet even during the high profile Littleton case or even since the one victory in Massachusetts, I don’t know that the trans community has ever been consulted, much less been a significant part, much, much less the lead role. There’s no Shannon Minter, no Phyllis Frye, no Alyson Meiselman nor a Randi Barnabee in this latest movement. How about any other number of trans attorneys capable of working effectively at this? So much for the conventional wisdom a la Birch.

Sure, we don’t say anything about this. Guess that means we don’t notice, huh? We’re too stereotypically shrill, petty and obnoxious to let anything like that slide, right? Just listen to Joe Solmonese: "I have to ask myself: When did we all become so impatient?”

Gotta admit, I’m a newbie at this compared to old Joe – I’ve only been at this rights game since 1996 – hell, only twelve years. And those who were pushing this before me only got started four years prior. Marriage has been around for four and a half long years. And after the initial 2003 summer victory, look how long it took before progress started moving on this? It took almost a full year to get to the attention of 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry ….

“Yeah, it's sad, believe me missy,
When you're born to be a sissy,
Without the vim and verve.
But I could show my prowess,
Be a lion not a mow-ess,
If I only had the nerve.” — Cowardly Lion, the Wizard of Oz

Yes, I was being sardonic. It helps blunt the edge of the dual standards a little bit.

It’s noted that in 2004 there were twelve states that turned out the “values vote” and enacted law to ensure no more “same-sex” marriage – even for transgenders in previously acceptable places like Kentucky or Michigan. Perhaps trans people should’ve been leading those fights, but that wasn’t to be – not as things roll currently. Transgenders can’t be valued team-players or employees, much less leaders. Look at our frequent calls for incrementalism. Sardonic again – sorry ‘bout that. Who knows … maybe we’d take our leadership cues from the likes of Barney Frank or HRC or even the Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA) or Mass Equality? Yeah, that’s gotta be scary ….

The thing is, it seems trans folk are supposed to accept our perpetual role in society as contentedly oblivious and good-naturedly unemployed naifs. Even if we do crane our necks at the car-crash obvious inequity, we’re still expected to feign the ignorance and make it look real. Why? Silence Equals Death was a slogan that’s proven an effectively battle cry for the gay and lesbian movement. So why is it expected that Silence Is Golden when it comes to transgenders noticing disparities, especially those within GLBT?

Oh yeah, I forgot … ignorance.

Guess we’re blissful. Too blissful to notice that the New York State org points fingers at HRC for not supporting fully inclusive legislation … which HRC can then easily turn around and point their hoary finger right back, noting that they couldn’t even pass a trans inclusive bill themselves!

Hell, that puts New York in the same category as broke-dick, holy-yokel, rednecked, peckerwood Texas whose legislature couldn’t pass fully inclusive bill on a death bet. It’s my own state, and I’ll let you know that on humanitarian issues it’s not one to emulate – where our state slogan is “Hang ‘Em High” and gun-totin’ violence is considered recreation.

It’s not good company. But then again, I’m not noticing. Obliv … ya know?

Who knows, maybe someday we’ll actually get to work shoulder-to-shoulder as contemporaries? Sounds crazy, but this is the era of crazy happenings ….

“To win this vote (ENDA), we need to get the votes of people who beat Republican incumbents last year in districts that voted for George Bush, and we’re going to yell at them because they only vote to protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and are not yet ready to include transgender? These are people who are with us if a marriage amendment came up again, and they’ll be with us on gays in the military.” — Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)

“If any demonstrator ever lays down in front of my car, it'll be the last car he'll ever lay down in front of.” — former Alabama governor, George Wallace

Sunday, February 24, 2008

“These Republicans Will Self Destruct In 10 Seconds ….”

“In the attic, lies.
Voices scream.
Nothing’s seen.
Real’s a dream.” — Toys In The Attic, Aerosmith

Is it just me, or does the Republican Party seem to be doing everything possible to self-destruct right before everyone’s eyes? Sex scandals, crossdressing judges, financial improprieties, lobbyist influences, dissension amongst their ranks, duplicity and a seeming obliviousness to reality all seem to be the mode of the day in what’s become the legacy of the so-called Reagan Revolution.

This week saw (of all things) innuendo of possible extra-marital relations from presidential front-runner John McCain with (of all people) a lead lobbyist for the telecommunications industry. Apparently this was based upon speculation … but it was speculation by his own senate and former campaign staff – not from Democratic Party insiders.

Could it be the revenge of the conservatives – the Coulter, Limbaugh & Dobson wing of the party? It’s certainly possible. Currently the party and the McCain campaign are trying to deflect the spotlight and force it to the New York Times who broke the story. Unsurprisingly there’s been nothing but outrage coming in concert from the entire GOP party ranks (though I can’t help but think there’s a vengeful smirk on the faces of some of those McCain-haters in hardcore conservative-land).

But before you rush to judge the New York Times for putting the hater-ade on McCain, keep in mind that this is the same New York Times who also endorsed McCain as the best candidate for president over even home-state girl, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Yes the timing of this seems suspicious and the automatic presumption that it was a liberal sneak-attack may well be overlooking obvious saboteurs from within. As I write, it appears there may be some cracks in McCain’s solid denials as other publications such as Newsweek are inspecting this closer.

Beyond the top-level it seems the hits just keep on coming in sanctimonious GOPperville. Arizona Rep. Rick Renzi is now charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering from a land deal he pushed in his congressional committee for a business partner and other which netted him $733,000 at a time his insurance business was strapped for cash. He allegedly worked to conceal the transaction as well, failing to disclose it on that year’s financial disclosure statement. I’m sure the excuse will be “mere oversight … it’s hard to keep track of all these insignificant amounts of money….”

But there’s more! Renzi was also charged with insurance fraud and embezzling from the trust account of Patriot Insurance Agency, his family-owned business in his home district. It seems he raided the business cookie jar and left nothing but crumbs in order to fund his successful election to Congress in the Bush/Cheney coattail elections in 2000. Shades of Tom “the Hammerhead” Delay – or as he’s more commonly known in Texas: BugBoy. DeLay did the same thing by timing his entry to Congress on the Reagan coattails and did so by bankrupting his former exterminating business (slogan: “DDT is healthy!”) to finance his successful ascent to U.S. Congress. Oh – and he left his former partners holding the bag. At least Renzi tried to go back and help his former bagmen. Too bad it’s going to backfire on them.

Then there’s the ongoing saga Idaho Sen. Larry Craig in what was a busy news month (thankfully allowing very little press attention for the senator!) The Senate Ethics Committee gave ol’ Sen. Larry a soft slap-down (admonished, not censured) for his indiscretion. True-to-form he’s going down swinging, saying he was “disappointed” and that he “strongly disagree[s] with the conclusions reached” by the committee. Sen. Larry feels he got the shaft. But hey, he at least had use of a couple-hundred grand from his campaign fund to help him fight to overturn his initial guilty plea! Yep, life’s so unfair to the senate’s top toilet tapdancer.

“I will tell you that the Senate certainly can bring about a censure reslution and it's a slap on the wrist. It's a, "Bad boy, Bill Clinton. You're a naughty boy. The American people already know that Bill Clinton is a bad boy, a naughty boy. I'm going to speak out for the citizens of my state, who in the majority think that Bill Clinton is probably even a nasty, bad, naughty boy.” — Sen. Larry Craig, remarking on Bill Clinton’s sexual indiscretions with Monica Lewinsky.

Not to be outqueered, there was a Bush appointee to the federal bankruptcy court bench, Robert Somma. It seems the good judge was arrested on a driving-while-intoxicated charge after a minor rear-ender (not the queer part, this was the vehicular variety) in neighboring New Hampshire. It seems Judge Somma was pulled over following a visit to a gay bar while in heels, fishnet hose and a black evening gown.

For Judge Somma, I feel sorry: he hasn’t made a career of being a red-meat, mouth-frothing social conservative – it’s more a guilty by party affiliation situation. Of course that party affiliation will cease immediately now that he’s been found to be trans while driving drunk. DWI by itself is assailable, heterosexual adultery (a la Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana) is excusable in family-values conservative-land. But being undeniably queer? Kiss of death.

It’s not necessarily the press’ fault this time. The conservative papers in New Hampshire only mentioned the drunk driving and had nothing about Somma’s dress – oddly a rather progressive take on it considering it was his DWI arrest that should’ve been the the highlight, not crossdressing. Expectedly, the bloggers – progressive and conservative alike – picked up on the crossdressing part. Now it’s all about the judge’s “perversions” of being caught in drag. On the liberal blogs it’s expected considering this was conservative Bush’s pick and considering the in-your-face conservative hypocrisy displayed this millennium. But conservative blogs? Gotta admire that Good-Ol’-Party loyalty a la Schrock and Foley….

“And does it matter who is right or wrong?
I look for something before I go insane.” — I Feel Insane, Daisy Chainsaw

On the topic of perversion, moving down to the state level there’s also the case of Republican State Delegate (State Rep) Robert McKee from Hagerstown MD. It appears that Delegate McKee recently resigned his longtime delegate seat after authorities obtained a search warrant and seized his computers and files. It appears the delegate, sponsor of bills on child abduction and protecting children from sexual predators had child pornography on his computer.

Even more troubling was the resume outside of politics from the family values Republican: Washington County Foster Care Review Board, 1989-95; Western Maryland Children's Center Advisory Board, 2005-Executive Director, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Washington County, Little League of Halfway, Inc., 1980-85, Secretary, Parent and Child Center Advisory Committee, 1985-88, Staff, Maryland District I Little League, 1986-. Chair, Maryland State Association of Big Brothers and Big Sisters Agencies, 1986-. Vice-President, Hagerstown Junior Basketball League as well as a member in good stead of First Christian Church in Hagerstown. McKee called the incident “deeply embarrassing” and added that, “it reflects poorly on my service to the community.” You reckon?

Want something local? Here in Harris County / Houston, Texas we’ve got our own red-meat conservative in deep doo-doo. It seems our District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal got into trouble for Email indiscretions (including shared racial cartoons and videos), then after his communications were subpoenaed, he committed obstruction of justice by deleting the evidence. His initial Email trail exposed little love notes to his administrative assistant: things like “every time I fly I think of you” and “I bet I could help you sleep” and “I want to kiss you behind your ear.” When it was just those claims, he attempted to put on the innocent face, claiming it wasn’t what people were thinking they were. Then came the racially-biased cartoons and shared videos depicting African Americans that came to light with much more heat. This from our county, which sentences more people to death row than any other county in the nation in a state that executes more convicts than any other in the nation – the overwhelming majority are minority with African-Americans comprising the highest individual number.

So what does our top legal beagle in the county do when the state’s closing in and orders him to turn over all communication transcripts? Why, what any other good law-and-order Republican would do: delete the Emails. If the White House can do it, why can’t he … right? Meanwhile one of the instant candidates (someone deep in the closet, no less) who swarmed in from the GOP side like vultures on a fresh carcass began the call for Rosenthal to step aside “for the good of the party.” Yeah. Someone’s wearing their ambition a bit too prominently on their sleeve, it seems. And who better to elect than another closeted Republican, eh? Bush redux, or Schrock or Foley or Craig et. al.

Finally, DA Rosenthal resigned this week, claiming his decision-making was clouded due to his prescription drugs. And, oh yeah – the dog ate his homework too. Certainly it makes you wonder about this obscured judgment from the top legal authority in the county that he would even attempt the claim (not to mention all the convictions now lying in the balance considering this impairment). But maybe there’s some merit to this claim (implausible as it seems). On the Bennett & blog noting Rosenthal’s departure and claims about prescription drugs, Mark Bennett notes that Rosenthal’s prescribing physician was Dr. Sam Siegler … husband of Kelly Siegler … assistant prosecutor in the DA’s office and one of the loudest voices calling for Rosenthal’s resignation and herself one of those instant candidates filing for Rosenthal’s seat in the 24-period between the Rosenthal scandal hitting the air and the deadline to make the upcoming primary elections. This is the kind of intrigue and curious maneuvering you typically only see in soap operas.

“Although I have enjoyed excellent medical and pharmacological treatment, I have come to learn that the particular combination of drugs prescribed for me in the past has caused some impairment in my judgment.” — Harris County District Attorney, Chuck Rosenthal

Think this kind of backroom strategizing doesn’t occur in real life? Just tonight I watched as 60 minutes broke the story on former Alabama governor Don Siegelman, a democrat, being apparently railroaded and convicted on bribery charges and sentenced to seven years last summer. It appears that Siegelman was specifically targeted being the only democrat as governor of the bank of states in the Deep South. This rubbed the Bush Administration raw, and none other than master-of-chaos Karl Rove began a search to have someone find a way to frame the governor (for lack of a better word). Currently 52 current and former state attorneys general of both parties – conservative and liberal alike – have called for a congressional investigation into what they feel was a blatant miscarriage of justice. Apparently the entire scheme was plotted to keep Alabama’s governor a Republican. And apparently they can concoct such a plot, find the devotees to carry the case to fruition and lock someone up merely for a political agenda.

This was ordered from the White House administration!

“Leaving the things that are real behind.
Leaving the things that you love from mind.
All of the things you learned from fears.
Nothing is left for the years ….
Toys! Toys! Toys … in the attic!” — Toys In The Attic, Aerosmith

Yes, this Grand Old Party has shown its rotten core from the top to the bottom. Think the GOPpers are slinking away? From presidential frontrunner McCain, it was damn the torpedoes and blast away at Obama, calling the senator’s campaign “an eloquent but empty call for change.” At the local level, I watched nine of the ten GOP candidates running for Tom DeLay’s old seat, all of whom were completely making no bones about their desire to retake his seat and America with a return to “true conservative values,” as candidate Patricia Dunbar put it. All of the assembled on this morning’s local were trying mightily to out-froth-at-the-mouth the others candidates, and in fact the debate was great for a few great belly laughs (which I may write about later). These GOP folk are so clueless they may as well be from another galaxy!

Who needs the “call for change” when, as McCain would infer, we’re doing just great with the past eight years of conservative reign? And they think transgenders are crazy?

“I'm getting (fucking) older but still I'm hanging on.
The world gets weirder – or maybe I'm insane.” — I Feel Insane, Daisy Chainsaw

"There is a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line." — TV personality, Oscar Levant

Friday, February 15, 2008

Remembering Tom Lantos

“Love cannot be defeated.” as said to rock vocalist, Bono by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA)

The political group I belong to – the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC) – noted the passing of longtime Rep. Tom Lantos in a press release on Monday from complications due to esophageal cancer. Chances are, most of the transgender community was unfamiliar with congressman Lantos – but they should’ve been. Our press release characterized him as a “hero for the oppressed and voiceless of the world” and a hero specifically for the transgender community.

Those superlatives were not merely rhetoric.

The San Francisco-area congressman was honored in a memorial service on Capitol Hill yesterday, with an emotional farewell that encompassed both conservatives and liberals, from the U.S. Sec. Of State, Condolleeza Rice, to Sec. Gen. Of the United Nations, Ban-Ki Moon to ambassador of goodwill, rock group vocalist, Bono (Paul Hewson) of U2. Holocaust Survivor, Death Camp Escapee, a Penniless Émigré from Hungary to the United States, Congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives, champion for human rights causes around the world.

''Tom Lantos was a true American hero. He was the embodiment of what it meant to have one's freedom denied and then to find it and to insist that America stand for spreading freedom and prosperity to others,'' — Sec. Of State Condolleeza Rice.

Indeed I was blessed to have had the opportunity to lobby Lantos’ office on a couple of occasions. Unlike some supposedly trans-supportive offices, they were more than merely perfunctory. The staff always exhibited concern that felt genuine, even being candid with us (something that doesn’t happen as frequently as one might presume). This year’s visit was a perfect example as Lantos was not signed on as co-sponsor for the inclusive version of ENDA (HR 2015), to which I questioned his Judiciary Committee Asst, Michael Beard. Merely an oversight, was his response – and sure enough, Lantos was shortly thereafter a co-sponsor. They “walked the walk.”

In 1999, shortly after our decision to form what would soon be named NTAC, Sarah Fox (also an NTAC co-founder) and I lobbied – both together and separately to maximize coverage – for a proposed bill still in the works at that point. During the previous session and again in that session, Rep. Tom Lantos noted us specifically – using both transgendered and gender identity – on the floor of the House of Representatives when discuss the need to condemn human rights abuses occurring around the globe.

My involvement in this was purely accidental. Sarah and I had met up for the first time via a mutual friend and yet another NTAC co-founder, Anne Casebeer, during the 1997 GenderPAC (GPAC) Lobby Days. Again, the same group of us who attended both transgender lobbying forays in 1997 ended up right back on Capitol Hill in 1999 – again for a GPAC event.

After two days of lobbying, I was originally scheduled to fly out of Baltimore on a Southwest Airlines flight that Wednesday morning, and stayed with Sarah that Tuesday night as she would provide me a ride to the airport from our hotel in suburban DC. It turned out that we overslept, and I was going to miss that flight. After a quick phone call to Southwest, they said I could reschedule for free – but I would have to fly out on the same flight two days later.

Normally, this wouldn’t be amenable. But I had a decent enough job that allowed me an extra two days off, and my sister was around to water and feed my dog, Bad Bertha. So I had an extra two days in DC, and Sarah had already planned to stay the rest of the week after she discovered Lantos’ comments on the floor. Oddly, neither the staff and organizers at GPAC, nor anyone else attending appeared to be aware of the Lantos statements.

"Chairman Lantos will be remembered as a man of uncommon integrity and sincere moral conviction -- and a public servant who never wavered in his pursuit of a better, freer and more religiously tolerant world," — statement from House Minority Whip, Roy Blunt (R-MO)

So, off we went … back onto Capitol Hill for another day of lobbying, post-GPAC. It was to be our private little coup for this new fledgling group if we could actually make something of this. It would be the first legislation that was inclusive of transgender – and a bill that was international in scope at that!

Sarah Fox remembered it as follows: “In 1999, [House Representatives] Lantos, [Bill] Delahunt (D-MA), and [Barney] Frank (D-MA) were the three primary supporters of the inclusion of anti-GLBT incidents in the State Dept's annual report to Congress on international human rights abuses. Of these, Lantos was squarely behind inclusion of the T, and not just the GLB. At that time (and I believe still), the State Dept. had been directed by Congress to prepare an annual human rights abuse report, which would document abuses based on many attributes not including sexual orientation or gender identity. Although the State Department did report many anti-GLBT incidents voluntarily, their coverage was very spotty, as they were under no direct mandate to include this class of abuses.

“At that time, Lantos was the ranking (D) member of the International Operations and Human Rights Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee. Of the above-mentioned three (Lantos, Delahunt, and Frank), he was the only one serving on the International Relations Committee at all. Thus you could easily say that he was far and away Congress' strongest and most vocal proponent of mandating T* and GLBT international human rights abuse reporting by the State Dept..”

“Congressman Lantos went about his work with a dignity and a seriousness that transcended politics … California and the entire nation have lost a remarkable leader today.” — statement from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

With the GPAC throng departed, there was a distinctly different feel to that day’s visits. There was more of a professional tone from the office staffs, and (at least to me) it felt like we were getting a lot more traction. For as little time as we spent up there on that one day, it actually felt much more productive.

After a visit with Lantos’ office, we hit a surprising number of offices individually. I can’t recall all of the offices we visited, but I do recall stopping in at Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe’s office (even briefly speaking with him in passing). As it turns out, once the bill was submitted, I believe Kolbe was the only Republican co-sponsor – albeit an openly gay Republican. I also got chance to revisit my congressional office, Bill Archer (R-TX), who disappointingly stated they wouldn’t support it as Archer breezed through the reception area and glared at me. But then, Sarah herself was irked by a rejection from William Jefferson, a democrat from New Orleans. We both had wins and losses.

We took Thursday off and did the tourist thing: visiting some of the sights in Washington and even taking a tour of the White House. I actually had a lot of fun palling around with Sarah that day, but we probably missed an opportunity to make a bigger impact on what became a historic proposal, though sadly never voted upon.

As fate turned out, shortly before NTAC’s inaugural seating of its board of directors, the Lantos-authored bill was submitted and referred to the International Relations Committee. It must be noted that even with the gender identity inclusive language (which neither Barney Frank, nor the Human Rights Campaign supported in domestic legislation), that one of the co-sponsors was Frank himself, and one of the organizations endorsing this bill was HRC! It didn’t go unnoticed by NTAC.

It was something I made points with in an NTAC / HRC meeting back in March of 2000 with myself, Michael Gray and Alex Fox visiting Nancy Buermeyer, Tony Varona and Kevin Layton. After the initial board meeting with NTAC in May, both Kathy Padilla and I went up to the Hill and used it in passing as reasoning for gender identity inclusion in the Hate Crimes Bill in office visits with staff of Senators Hatch, Smith, Thurmond, Kennedy and a most frustrating visit with Jeffords' legislative director (who referred us back to HRC to work with them on this).

“Mr. Speaker, I would like to call the attention of my colleagues to the global persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation. Yesterday, I chaired a briefing of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on this alarming situation. Mr. Speaker, I am especially grateful for the support and the participation of our distinguished colleagues, Congressman Benjamin Gilman, Congressman Barney Frank, Congressman William Delahunt, and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. I initiated yesterday's Caucus briefing because of alarming reports about the ongoing persecution of individuals based solely on their sexual orientation. These unacceptable violations of human rights have included arbitrary arrests, rape, torture, imprisonment, extortion and even execution. Mr. Speaker, yesterday's briefing was not a discussion of our own nation's laws relating to homosexuality, transsexuality, or bisexuality. I have my own well known views on this issue, which I have clearly stated a number of times in the last couple of weeks when the domestic legal implications of these issues have been considered by the House of Representatives….

If a government denies human rights to one group, then it is possible for that government to deny rights to any other group or every group. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people in communities all around the world have been brutally punished both physically and mentally for exercising their fundamental human rights to freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of belief. Mr. Speaker, these violations fall squarely within the scope of international human rights laws.” — Record of 105th Congress of a presentation on the floor of the House of Representatives, Aug. 7, 1998 by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA)

In retrospect, we would’ve been better served lobbying directly for the Lantos-authored legislation over in the House instead of using it as leverage for inclusion in other bills. The Lantos proposal died in sub-committee, never came to public light and nothing ever came of the effort. It was hopeful but also too aggressive of me to think that we could make that immediate leap as I (and many of us) have now learned: the Washington process moves exceedingly slow.

It must be said that Rep. Tom Lantos took a very bold step for the transgender community and demonstrated to many others, both in Congress and even in the GLB political realm, how principle is paramount. Even though it was still the Clinton Administration, it was certainly not a transgender friendly environment at that time. Rep. Lantos was the leader, of whom others would follow. And if not widely missed from other trans folk, Sarah Fox and I will surely miss him.

Thank you Tom Lantos for putting protections for transgenders on the congressional map – and for being a hero.

“Character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking.” — African American former congressman, J. C. Watts (R-OK)

"If you knew how happy I was, you would not be sad. I am completely at peace with what I have achieved for my country and my family." — Rep. Tom Lantos to his family from his deathbed.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Economic Stimulus To The Rescue? Not Buying It.

“Hey you, Whitehouse. Ha ha charade you are….
You're trying to keep our feelings off the street.
You're nearly a real treat,
All tight lips and cold feet.
And do you feel abused?” — Pig (Three different ones), Pink Floyd

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s official; President George W. Bush signed the bill allowing a one-time $600 rebate to each of us today. Don’t worry – they’ll borrow the money from China to pay for it. Who cares about that national debt thing when we’ve got hurting businesses needing us to spend money at their establishments? And how better to do this than give it to these cash-strapped folks all over the country with the intent that we will go out and immediately give it to these companies to help give a temporary little spike in their sales.

So this is supposed to help the nation’s pandemic economic blues … how…? Oh! That’s right – cosmetically! Who cares about the real thing when we can simply paint it over and not be required to pay attention to (much less address) the real problem, right? It’s the good guy cowboys riding in to the rescue on their white sawhorses.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the folks who’ve been standing on the precipice of financial disaster are still right there next to the abyss. The companies receiving the government funded windfall will note a slight uptick in sales for a bit, only to recede back to stagnant and sub-stagnant levels. And the businesses who’ve been pained by the economic downturn – as well as those simply watching the market trends looking to cushion their positions – are preparing layoffs to help boost their profit margin in the coming quarter. Isn’t that tremendously helpful? More people getting pink slips, meaning more people tightening belts! Pretty effective, huh?

“The inflation of war cuts the pay of the employed, the pension check of the retired and the savings of almost everyone…. Working people feel the double impact of inflation and unemployment immediately. But Negroes feel its impact with crushing severity because they live on the margin in all respects and have no reserve to cushion shock. There is a great deal of debate about the nation's ability to maintain war and commit the billions required to attack poverty.” — “The Domestic Impact of War In America” speech, Martin Luther King Jr.

Yesterday both Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson started on the media and congressional circuit, giving us the hard sell on this new action, and even going so far as pronouncing the economy “fundamentally sound” (shades of the ever-so-insular W). Not only that, they declare this $600 will single-handedly pull the economy up and we will have no recession.

And here in unemployed-tranny-land, I’m not buying that for half a second! How daft do they assume we are? Sure, I may come across as pretty dumb to these Washington elitists – but I’m not stupid.

Apparently neither are folks in the U.S. Senate, as reported after Paulson’s visit. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) – a conservative at that! – likened it to “pouring a glass of water into the ocean.” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) commented that when alarm bells should’ve gone off last year, that Paulson and Bernanke instead “hit the snooze button,” also noting the need for honest assessments instead of “hiding [their] head in the sand.”

“You gotta stem the evil tide,
And keep it all on the inside….
Mary you're nearly a treat
But you're really a cry.” — Pig (Three different ones), Pink Floyd

All the “fixes” the President and his cabinet, and an arm-twisted Congress pass are geared primarily to benefit business. Yet, throughout this post 9/11 administration, it’s been business raking in the record profits. American workforce productivity has increased over the past quarter century, most dramatically even since the millennium. Yet since that time, most notably in the Bush Administration, it’s been fueling the record profits in a greed-fest fashion.

Meanwhile, the typical worker is making the same wage – even with the rising costs of all necessities – and is still fearful enough of being downsized or offshored out of a job that they remain financially paralyzed. This means real wage growth has dropped for the first time has dropped for the first time while business continues padding their capital base.

Now that home prices are declining (the only source of wealth increase for most Americans) and everyone’s lost faith in the economic future, business feels pinched and gets immediate help. They dress it up as being a boon for the populace, but nothing’s addressing the root cause – income and opportunity disparity. It’s bullshit.

In 2003, Business week estimated that 24% of the employed workforce in the U.S. earned below poverty-level wages. (

“A pig is a pig, and that’s that!” — Wendy O. Williams of the Plasmatics

Bush ballyhooed a plan, and sent Bernanke around the country trying to play up a new concept: providing an avenue for regular Americans to get into startup business and become entrepreneurs. It’s a great plan, actually, as workers are nothing but machine parts to Corporate America – easily and blithely discarded – while putting us in direct competition with winnowing competitors for the American dollar will provide real competition (and hopefully a way to stanch the rising price tags of everything lately.) It also gives historically employment-disparate groups – especially groups like the transgender community – some hope and chance for job security. It was a great plan … and unfortunately that’s all it was: a great PLAN. Nothing but empty words, what a surprise ….

You could toss that plan in the same trash can with Bush’s promises on “leveling the playing field” for small business, and working to find affordable group insurance by consolidating a policy for pools of small employers. Nice thoughts, no follow through … you gotta love that Republican work ethic, eh?

Here’s a message to Washington and Corporate America: how about providing some hope via jobs with income enough to actually pay for something beyond the bare necessities? How about a winner-take-all mindset of “what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine”? We’ve moved most of the way there, and that upper –two percentile doesn’t seem to be consuming anywhere near the level of what the lower-ninety percentile used to comprise (and can no longer afford to do so).

Do you want a real way to make this happen and truly put “more money into the people’s hands” as these empty-hearted politicos are so fond of repeating? Don’t do it the way Glenn “Give-It-All-Away-To-The-Rich-Tycoons” Beck suggested by reducing all taxes on business. Sure they’ll produce more – especially the biggest of the bigs. And with no impediments, they’ll be more than happy to continue doing it with the cheapest possible labor and maximize their ongoing bottom line greed fest a la Exxon, Halliburton or Microsoft.

Find methods to force things into smaller more entrepreneurial-sized so the competition exists to keep these prices truly down and to give folks both opportunity and a sense of job security. And if the mega-sized companies want to remain so, then they either need to pay their employees hugely enough to match their profits – or face a commensurately ramped up tax level based upon the wage disparity between the highest paid officers (wage, bonus and benefits) to the lowest level employees they employ. If these CEO’s and owners wish to make more than 25 times the profit of their low-level grunt employees, then these companies should be happy to pay a price for that – escalating as their compensation multiplier rises.

And the money raised from these new corporate taxes? Why, let’s use that to pay for these economic stimulus rescue plans rather than raising the national debt to do it! After all, someone’s got to pay for it. Why not the ones who benefit from this disparate system the most?

“Oh I'm out here trying to make it, baby can't you see?
It takes a lot of money to make it – let's talk truthfully.
So keep your love light burning and a little food hot in my plate.
You might as well get used to me coming home a little late.
Oh, Oo-ooh, I got work to do, I got work baby.” — Work To Do, the Isley Brothers

“Congress appropriates military funds with alacrity and generosity. It appropriates poverty funds with miserliness and grudging reluctance. The government is emotionally committed to the war. It is emotionally hostile to the needs of the poor.” — “The Domestic Impact of War In America” speech, Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Embarrassing Fall of the GOP Empire

“Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call.
Don't stand in the doorway, don't block up the hall.
For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside and it's ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.” — The Times They Are A Changin’, Bob Dylan

“A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward.” — Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt

My friends in progressive GLBT circles are going to think I’ve gone over the wall but I’ve really got to feel for GLBT or moderate Republicans and, to a much lesser extent, even Sen. John McCain these days. As one not really built for schadenfreude, it’s tough to watch this really sad self-dismantling by the Grand Old Party.

Two of my friends – co-founders with me of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC) – are (or rather were) devoted Republicans. To be sure, they were the moderates who were in it more for the pay-as-you-go, balanced-budget, less-government aspects. One is even African-American (party of Lincoln and all.)

Yet watching this slow-motion train wreck is akin to sitting at a NASCAR race and watching a horrific wreck with a driver strapped in, burning alive, and using the last of his energy to flip the rod out of the car window and scream “f*#k you, pansies!”

It’s been no secret the GOPpers have been in a funk about their political fortunes, much less their less-than-stellar choices to replace W. The only true conservative the red-meat folks had – Fred Thompson – never won a state, and fizzled out early due to a puzzlingly coy late entry. Rather than being craved and drooled over as would a homecoming beauty queen, he was welcomed like a slab of rancid meat in beach-bunny land.

Soon to follow was the image-queen, Rudy Giuliani – no conservative, but at least image-inducing enough (thanks to 9/11) to make people overlook it. His even-more mystifying campaign – up for the duration with the early lead, yet not even bothering to participate until mid-election – made history, albeit inauspiciously.

Finally the last best choice for conservatives, a died-in-the-wool, supply-side, rich-for-the-rich corporate bedmate, Willard “Mitt” Romney, met his political demise. He was hampered due to his fundamentalism for something other than mainstream Christianity. Evangelicals weren’t wasting a vote for a conservative who wasn’t one of them – and indeed showed they’d vote in opposition to the corporate, fiscal types if he wasn’t one of their own. Either that, or they couldn’t handle voting for a man who was named after a kitchen glove used to pull casserole dishes out of a hot oven.

With that last red-meat fiscal conservative out of the race, GOP folks were left with the eager-to-please but untrusted John McCain, and the evangelical-but-anti-avarice, socially conscious Mike Huckabee. They woke up with the same post-political-parting depression I had when John Edwards dropped out.

But rather than reading the handwriting on the wall and moving forward, the mainstream conservative power-mongers decided instead to blast the wall to smithereens.

“This is the house we used to live in
Where I thought I could always go.” — House That We Used To Live In, the Smithereens

These conservative power-makers who have an indelibly elephantine memory chose to show their true colors to the world by public petulance and tantrum throwing. Talk show types like Laura Ingraham and Glen Beck called for the party to get a taste of what GOPpers call compassionate conservatism (more widely known as “tough love”): just lose, get pissed and rebuild anew. Oxycontin Head-Rush Limbaugh called McCain everything but a traitor and threatened to stay home and sulk come election time. Conservative moré arbiter, Bill “The Gambler” Bennett, outright demanded that the party leadership sit with the conservative wing of the party and accommodate them. Even Ann Coulter (who makes pre-operative, pre-FFS transsexuals everywhere feel inspired and much better about themselves every time she hits the TV screen) declared she’d never vote for McCain and would instead cast her vote for Hillary Clinton – the “more conservative” of the two!

James “Megabucks” Dobson of Focus on the Family was a bit more restrained. At least his Baptist preacher candidate was still in the race, though far behind Sen. McCain. Yet Dobson also warned he’d never vote for McCain.

And to think, all these desperate histrionics coming from the same folks who’ve enjoyed nothing but privilege and opportunity seen by precious few if any other Americans during one of the toughest economies ever! Amazing ….

Think back over the past years of this Bush Presidency. The continuous Rovian mantra was that Democrats were completely incapable of compromising, even when some Dems were crossing lines and voting with some of these ultra-partisan bills and nominees. Years of conservative leadership has brought a significantly higher national debt, a stagflated and sinking stock market, a mortgage crisis rivaling elder-Bush’s years, an open-border policy mostly rescinded after much acrimony, an unpopular, deceitfully-marketed and un productive war with no end in the middle east, cronyism, scandal, record-levels of pork spending and the lowest public opinion since the Nixon resignation era.

Now we have the successor to this Bush legacy coming in. Moderates are beyond fed up with this unprecedented conservative mismanagement in all phases. Their Rove-cobbled coalition of evangelical trans- and homophobes, fervent war hawks, poor and duped rednecks, Leona Helmsleyian tax-averters, opportunistic lobbyists and sharp-eyed corporate raiders is coming apart at the seams. And yet, faced with possibility of irreparably shattering the neo-con GOP dream and destroying themselves, all conservative camps absolutely refuse to compromise.

All this time while they’ve spent whining like spoiled children over Democrats’ uncompromising stances, conservatives’ own blatant hypocrisy came back to bite them in the ass before God and the world.

Yet even with seven years of archconservative blitzkrieg, and further publicly reducing their credibility value to zero with this recent display, the conservative camps still insist on having their needs – and theirs alone – satisfactorily met!

To this end, President Bush himself (perhaps sensing the mess he’s made of the GOP) has begun trying to collectivize the Republicans while endorsing Sen. McCain as a “true conservative.” McCain may well have drunken the Kool-Aid and turned his soul over to the Republican National Committee (RNC), but conservatives are having none of it. In the past, a George W. Bush endorsement would have been tantamount to finding the Holy Grail. These days it’s more the kiss of death.

Not to let Bush allow McCain to get off the hook, former House Maj. Leader Tom DeLay did NBC's Meet The Press and reiterated demands that the Presidential front-runner (who’s blown away his competition without conservative help, mind you) must meet with them and fulfill their needs. DeLay of course had his own hand in getting the Republicans into their mess with his K Street Project, unbridled greed, disdain for law or convention, and strong magnetism for controversy and scandal. His arguments were not only ridiculous, but he seemed verbally disjointed – not all there. (Perhaps BugBoy’s been partaking in too much of his precious DDT)

"The Arizona senator, long the bane of the GOP establishment, showed in Florida that he could begin cobbling together a new Republican coalition -- attracting enough support from all corners of the party base to give him a plurality….” — LA Times article on John McCain’s Florida primary victory.

He may be able to work between the seams in the primary races and forge victories, but John McCain has a much more ominous task than any other Republican in American history. Karl Rove – love him or hate him – was a mastermind at propaganda and media manipulation. Through selective messaging and deft attention-diversion he was able to hold these sometimes-agreeing, sometimes-opposed parties together long enough for an election victory. With no more Rove, and worse, a populace that’s finally caught on to the patterns of this puppetry, McCain faces a tough crowd wanting a magic show and receiving a two-bit comedy act instead.

It’s odd that today’s Republican leadership seem to believe the only part of their party is the conservatives and that there have never been GOP moderates – selective amnesia it seems. Anyone who is independent or libertarian is expected to give their vote, then shut the hell up and go away. Nobody counts in Republican-land except for the red-meat zealots in the various camps holding to their own values with a death-grip.

Evangelicals want to banish all queers and illegalize abortion and have the nation sanction theirs alone as the “official” religion, but are not keen on killing and war making. They’re more forgiving on social issues for the working class and poor and are starting to get testy with the unbridled corporate greed.

The Wealth set wants all taxes done away with, absolutely no entitlements or concern for social issues outside of their elite realm. They want to ensure their kids don’t serve in war and are there to fully inherit their estates and keep it in the family. They also want very limited immigration (only housekeepers, nannies and fieldworkers) and are slightly milder than evangelicals on social things like abortions and queers.

The Corporate leaders want zero taxes, and also want zero business restrictions with fully open borders to exploit cheap labor to maximize profits and a winner-take-all, money-grab, oligarchic society. They also seek a hegemonic, expansionistic military agenda to expand their domain over other lands and to protect while these corporations exploit the resources. They also don’t give much attention to social issues (they may themselves even partake in them discreetly) and disdaining any “official” religion, as they’re pluralistic as a whole.

The Military set want an aggressive, protective stance including closing the borders immediately. They understand and agree that everyone should pay their fair share of bare-bones taxes (as that pays their paychecks and buys their supplies.) and serve their country equally. They abhor civilian or business interference in their daily decision-making, and do not like being exploited simply to run cover for corporate designs on profit.

The Rednecked dupes? They “just wanna have a beer, do whatever I want and git everyone the hell offa my back!” Meanwhile, the Republican moderates are rapidly becoming extinct, with even McCain moving away from them.

As America increasingly views compromise as weak-kneed loss – especially in conservative circles – we may be watching the last of the major two-party election system. It appears that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.

“The line it is drawn, the curse it is cast,
The slow one now will later be fast
As the present now will later be past.
The order is rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.” — The Times They Are A Changin’, Bob Dylan

Sunday, February 10, 2008

HRC3 ≠ Bright Future For Transgenders

“This is a story of the lives and loves, and hopes and dreams, of young Batswana [sic] in the context of the changing cultural norms and values of modern times. Each of the dancers are shaped and challenged by the forces upon them: love, power, money, lust, and authority. They must choose their destiny by making difficult choices and search for what they truly believe in.” — plot summary for the documentary, Re Bina Mmogo (2004)

It’s been a really blue funky week and a half for me. Seeing John Edwards drop out of the race just over a week ago, I’m left with nothing but second choices for the upcoming presidential election. I feel as if I’m wakening from a really bad hangover.

My personal preference was for a presidential candidate who would address the rampant inequities, to eliminate poverty and end the disenfranchisement and disparity in this entitlement-oriented society. The last thing I wanted was a choice of gatekeepers for the corporate power stranglehold status quo.

With my last best hope for that out of the campaign at virtually the same time my job ended, it’s been consideration time over the two primary candidates who are left.

Sen. Barack Obama seems like a decent enough selection, but then the sublime (and not-so-sublime) race baiting started up from the Clinton campaign – specifically by Bill Clinton himself. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s closeness to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is bad enough, but this was a further turnoff. Soon that was followed by the opposition in the guise of Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) and others turning it into tit-for-tat mud war with the two campaigns voting blocs breaking into race vs. gender lines.

So much for us unifying.

To Obama’s credit, he’s been mostly above this fray and has done a remarkable job keeping this from being a “black presidency” / race-oriented campaign. While it’s been toned down a bit from the supporters on both sides, it feels more like a volcanic dome for now with a still volatile magma bubbling underneath awaiting catalyst.

More baffling is why Obama has not tried to capture the elemental message of Edwards’ campaigns (both ’04 and current) and indeed Martin Luther King Jr’s. dream in this, Black History month: to give voice to the ills that currently wrack this nation’s economy. The rhetoric of wanting to work with and negotiate compromise with Corporate America – the very parties who’ve overwhelmingly benefited from and by-produced this avariciously stagflated malaise – is troubling. These guys are pros at business negotiation, and they never go to the table with intention of losing anything, period. To break even or gain are they’re only options. Negotiating with them means the workforce stands to break even at best, or worse, lose even more. Neither option is palatable.

Sen. Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama also caused me to step back for a second look. Kennedy’s great on most social issues, but is about as intransigent on opposing transgender rights as it gets in Democratic circles.

While I haven’t particularly cared for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s politics heretofore (most especially her “working with the system” approach mirroring Obama’s rhetoric), I also had to consider the fact that she’s the hopes and dreams of the Women’s Movement, personified by the National Organization for Women (NOW). That’s no small consideration as NOW has stood by the transgender community through thick and thin in recent years. Understandably I have a good deal of respect for them.

Meanwhile, the African American organizational leadership has done precious little for the transgender community – even for the African American trans community – recently. It would’ve been nice to have a prominent organization chime in during this session’s House ENDA debacle where Barney Frank (seemingly in concert with the High Impact Coalition) managed to pull a number of significant African American legislators in the House into a bloc opposing transgender inclusion in ENDA. Rep. Clyburn himself was one of the chiefs among those.

Then again, none of the above occurring should necessarily read anything into the Obama campaign as they’re disconnected incidents. Similarly NOW’s desire for a Hillary Clinton presidency shouldn’t be read as saying Hillary and NOW are on the exact same wavelength. Lord knows that the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has sunk their hooks eye-deep into Clinton as well, which also doesn’t bode well but may similarly be discounted as completely unconnected.

So now that Super Tuesday’s come and gone, and both candidates are close in delegate count – with an recent slight shift in momentum towards Clinton, I began giving both campaigns a serious look. Meanwhile, a friend of mine who knew of my transgender status and I believe knew I was an Edwards supporter sent me a statement from Sen. Hillary Clinton to the LGBT community via the Bilerico Blog, title of which was “I Want To Be Your President.” This was doubtlessly an attempt to sell me on supporting the Clinton campaign.

The statement started off impressively enough. Clinton noted that “[f]or seven long years, the Bush Administration has tried to divide us - only seeing people who matter to them. It's been a government of the few, by the few, and for the few. And no community has been more invisible to this administration than the LGBT community.” At prima facie it’s powerful statement with a very cohesive quality.

Then I caught myself and read it again. Indeed it does say LGBT. However, what we’re seeing play out currently in Congress on Employment Rights is about sexual orientation only, and the Transgender community is still completely inconsequential (if not outright invisible) to this effort. It’s not simply the Bush Administration trying to divide us. It’s Democrats – worse, gay Democrats. Kinda renders the good senator’s moving statement rather inert.

A little later, she follows it up with “I am proud to be a co-sponsor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act ….” Really? So maybe, Sen. Clinton, when you were saying LGBT, it was one of those statements you just blurt out from habit, without really thinking about what LGBT (specifically the T part) infers?

Nope. Near the end of the same statement Hillary proudly claims “[w]e're going to expand our federal hate crimes legislation and pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and assure that they are both fully inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.”

So maybe she’s not paying attention to the actual text of the legislation she’s “proudly” co-sponsoring? I can only speculate on this. Didn’t she get into trouble for supporting legislation giving presidential authorization to Bush to unilaterally decide upon war with Iraq? One would think she would be more diligent about legislative text after such an incident.

Sen. Clinton proclaimed “I am proud to have fought Republican efforts to demonize and marginalize the LGBT community, and I will continue to do that as President.” Good, good. How about the marginalizing of us from the Democrats’ efforts? Say, like, maybe taking a stand against these progressive legislators supporting anti-discrimination for gays and lesbians in employment, but still saying we can’t have trans folks in the workplace in positions of responsibility? That would be helpful! Then again, Clinton herself answered in a Town Hall (to a transgendered questioner, no less) that she supported a fully inclusive ENDA in theory, but had concerns about trans people in certain positions of responsibility…. But she’s also “fully committed to the fair and equal treatment of LGBT Americans.” The doublespeak is starting to bleed through a bit too conspicuously.

The good senator couldn’t help but to gush over her credentials, to have “spoken in front of so many LGBT audiences” such as “the Human Rights Campaign, Empire State Pride Agenda ….” Hmmm. there’s something to win back the transgender hearts – two prominent organizations that also support non-inclusive, incremental, “sexual orientation only” rights. Really warms your heart, doesn’t it? Or maybe that’s just heartburn – I can’t decide.

Somehow, either Penn & Associates (Clinton’s Campaign advisors) or the LGBT Steering Committee is failing badly at what Hollywood calls “continuity.” Did they really think that lucid trans folk would find these claims attractive? Boy, I just love being considered as clear-thinking as a box of rocks! I suppose you’ve got to admire their chutzpah, if nothing else – nice try!

To close the deal, our Mrs. Clinton then vows “to have openly gay and lesbian staffers serving at all levels of my campaign.” Finally! Now that’s a statement I can believe without hesitation. Sure, there is no “transgender” mentioned there – but at least she was honest in this particular part. To me, falseness is deceitful hoax. With certainty there is at least comfort in knowing.

Is it sad that Sen. Clinton believes that any openly transgender staffer – even at an entry level – is a total non-starter? Surely! But we transgenders need to understand that at the current level, we are only “rhetorically” equal – not “egalitarian” equal. It was something that Sen. Edwards pointed out while in office, and that also earned him the cold-shoulder from the likes of HRC, et. al. Heaven forbid that transgenders end up in positions of responsibility! Can you imagine their embarrassment and shame? (Pardon me while I extract tongue from cheek.)

Actually, this entire Clinton “statement to LGBT” could well have been written by HRC. No surprise, though. Hilary Rosen (former board member and mate of former executive director, Elizabeth Birch) is the Chair of the LGBT Steering Committee for Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Thus we complete the trinity of HRC to the third power: Hillary Rodham Clinton, Human Rights Campaign, and Hilary Rosen, Chair of the LGBT Steering Committee (okay, that last one was a bit of a stretch). Nevertheless, they feel it’s foregone conclusion, it’s in the stars and in the numbers and that their dream agenda of LGB incremental rights is eminent and will come to pass.

Both of my contacts on the Hill noted that it was the dream game plan was to not have a transgender-inclusive piece of employment legislation crossing the desk of “President Clinton” (as one staffer put it one year ago). According to one of the contacts, .the lobbyists and a couple of the leaders in the House appear to be seeking ways to inconspicuously “ease away from [gender identity].”

As I write, we’re seeing this scenario play out before us in the House and shortly the Senate as well, and not strictly with ENDA.

Even former HRC board member, Donna Rose, also noted in her blog that “I'd be remiss if I didn't share that a large group of LGBT steering committee supporters is floating a string of emails in the background recommending that she use the term "gay and lesbian" instead of GLBT when talking to broader audiences.” I couldn’t help but note that Donna also got the same “I Want To Be Your President” statement being passed around (widely it seems as hers came from a different source).

As it turns out, my friend’s forwarding of the Clinton statement did make up my mind. It did not form my decision as she likely intended. After yet another rather HRC-centric statement coming from the Clinton campaign, I’m tossing my lot in with Sen. Barack Obama. Hopefully we might see a more Edwards or Kucinich or Richardson-level of support for transgenders from Sen. Obama.

One thing that is for certain: a vote for Sen. Clinton may as well be a vote for HRC and it’s incremental and non-egalitarian approach to equality. It’s a case of “just buy the campaign message and don’t ask questions.” They’ll manipulate and bury our issues, we’ll never be heard from and then hope disappears.

The last thing I want to do is give HRC any easy victories courtesy of the transgender community. If they can brazenly work to marginalize our organizations and leaders and to thwart rights for transgenders, then we shouldn’t be faint of heart nor have misgivings when it comes to returning like in kind. With Obama we have at least a sliver of hope. It’s certainly better than the current alternative!

“Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose ….” — Me and Bobby McGee, Kris Kristofferson

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” — Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt