Monday, April 14, 2008

Human Rights Campaign Pushes The Panic Button

“I take my boys everywhere I go, because I'm paranoid
I keep lookin over my shoulder and peepin around corners
My mind is playin tricks on me” — Mind Playing Tricks On Me, Geto Boys

Houston’s Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Banquet will be a memorable one. Yes, as Phyllis Frye and others reported widely, HRC. It was surprising to her and some of the readers, but nothing out of the usual to those of us who’ve been doing these since the national banquet in DC. They’re actively in damage-control mode and will save their PR image in Malcolm X style (by whatever means necessary). Well, one caveat … they will save their image as long as they don’t have to come to terms and “do the right thing.”

As Phyllis reported, they did go out of their way to jerk us around. It’s part of their modus operandi over the years (more on this later). Just as they’re doing in every venue where there’s an active protest, or any action to enlighten the banquet-goers to reality (such as in Phoenix with Donna Rose, or in Austin), they’ll do whatever they can and pull whatever strings they can with locals to thwart and ensure they silence our message: that HRC does not consider us all as equals, does not support trans in any meaningful fashion and will do whatever is most expeditious and profit or PR-worthy to further their own ends.

People knowing their level of manipulation isn’t good for fundraising, ya know?

So if it takes intimidating the local gay press to stay away from us, do it. If it means playing themselves as oh-so-innocuous and astonished pseudo-allies to we loose-cannon, discredited and sanity-suspect trannies to the straight press, they’ll play it to the hilt. If it calls for playing up the criminally threatening tranny element to their venue’s security or the local police, and ensuring there’s none of the impending criminality that might occur if left unchecked, then certainly they’ll sound the alarm now before it’s too late!

So just like in DC, we had the cops pre-summoned to control we wayward gender freaks outside of their pristine, star-studded banquet.

That said, this wasn’t DC police but Houston police we were dealing with this go-round. There’s a definite “seriousness” to Houston police, and they don’t have problems doing their own Malcolm X style when it comes to crowd control. Walking up, I noticed there was me and Josephine and Phyllis walking up from the opposite end. We were outnumbered three-to-one by crowd-control riot cops on horseback alone!

My mind flashed back to the 1988 Republican National Convention here at the Astrodome, where the horse-mounted cops rounded all the protesters onto a dead end side-street with no exit and proceeded to horse-stomp and crush the panicking protesters, then meted out “assault on police officer (horse in this case)” charges for those who were unfortunate enough to have gotten in the way of the charge or to have been crunched under hoof.

No surprise for this part of the country where rights are for sissies – you take your beatings like a man (regardless of man, woman or trans). Even HPD’s chief is named Hurtt – apropos. I mentally girded myself for the possibility of a steel bed for the night.

“We got a thousand points of light … on a homeless man.
We got a kinder, gentler machine-gun hand.” — Rockin’ In The Free World, Neil Young

All in all, even though we had the barricades, the horseback crowd control and the SRG (Special Response Group) for the “riots”, it was a non-event. HPD did a decent job, mostly. The only thing I got was one cop who grabbed my elbow and escorted me across the driveway when I asked too many questions. It was better than being singularly dogged as I was in DC. The tactics for us all, though, were similar to what I got in DC: you have to walk in the street / no you can’t walk in the street, you can go in, but only on the second floor / you can’t be in the area we directed you to / you can’t be in here at all.

Personally, I was a bit frustrated in not getting my new camera / video to work with my PC at home (my operating system’s not compatible!) and as soon as I get a way to get the drivers loaded, I’ll have video and photos for you.

Sadly, I missed all of the shots of folks flipping us the bird from the safety of their cars. Tatiana from Austin, Josephine Tittsworth and I did have a perfect shot of a suburban full of the banquet goers all lined up on the right side, flipping us the bird in unison. Hopefully Tatiana got it, but I missed that shot. I was hoping the camera would be sharp enough to read lips of some of the folks driving in (choice words as well), but I didn’t see anything immediately sensational.

I guess you can’t blame them. Think of how hard it is for them … they have to be reminded of us! Kinda like being reminded about poverty or starvation. They’re on their way to a party … who wants to think about those people, hmm?

“The food cooks poorly and everyone goes hungry.
from then on it's dog eat dog, dog eat body, & body eat dog.
I can't go down there. I can't understand it.
I'm a no good coward, and an American too –
a North American that is …
Not a south or a central or a native American.
And I must not think bad thoughts.” — I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts, X

For me, contrary to popular belief, this was only my second one (though HRC and their minions both within and outside the trans community will make you believe otherwise). The last time a protest was planned here in 2002, I actually got with the organizers and we joined in holding a reception / HRC educational initiative – something that will be overlooked in HRC’s pantheon of memory.

Unfortunately, they worked to successfully thwart our efforts in 2002. They had their newly-hired first-ever bonafide trans person, Kylar Broadus in tow, and they went behind me in their banquet counter-steering the attendees away from the reception upstairs. All we hosted were two banquet-goers and the HRC folks – no minds won there, our side’s thoughts effectively quashed.

Similarly, they did a good job of trying to quash this protest. Not only did they manage to keep us a safe distance from their banquet celebration, draw their politicos and local community leaders with the obvious presence of HPD riot police and barricades to let them know they were safe, they even managed a little victory for themselves by giving all attending the distinct impression that we were the enemy threat and were safely and responsibly contained.

Yes Phyllis Frye, former Pride Parade Grand Marshal, partner in a local GLBT law firm and after all the years of local activism, and legal work on same-sex marriage in the oh-so-liberal state of Texas (thank God we’re not in Pennsylvania!) is a provocateur majeure, and a terrorist threat.

Josephine Tittsworth, longtime stalwart and major promoter of Tri-Ess (Society for the Second Self, a crossdressing organizing that promotes a family approach to acceptance), college presenter and national level lobbyist is a criminal suspect that needs constant surveiling lest she slip quickly beyond their radar.

Me? Ah … I’m just Public Enemy #1. No biggie. I may have been a volunteer coordinator and the MVP to get Houston’s first GLBT elected to public office, and even part of the effort to get the first gender identity language enacted in the books here in Houston during the GWBush reign. Don’t let that stuff fool you, though. Why I certainly must be criminally insane, and my photos in FBI’s most-wanted don’t do me justice … not that I deserve any justice better than a death sentence.

Hey, if I’m dead, I certainly can’t tell people what HRC’s been doing all these years. History erased! Gotta be good … right?

Or maybe it was all just much ado about nothing, and HRC’s paranoia is showing ….

Hey! At least HRC scored one big victory! While they were enjoying their chi-chi black-tie soiree, they had us all out standing on the street corners as their stereotypes would dictate … being the criminal element again … menacing … threatening!

“Hope you enjoyed the entertainment tonight, folks ….”

“Never figured out eating 3 meals a day
when people sit in their broken-down homes.
Look at the photos from different eras gone by
Shows the changes, and I hate them all.
Don’t want to live with myself,
Can’t live with what goes on.
All I see is the humiliation …
I wish it was gone.” — 59 Times The Pain, Husker Du


kathy said...

(thank God we’re not in Pennsylvania!)


In Philly we decided an iniaitve to educate HRC was ridiculous - they know the issues and have for over a decade. They're just being obdurate.

We also didn't want them to know what we were doing, when we were coming or where we would be - a lot of calls went to people trying to find what we were up to. I've been told this caused some distress. We decided that we wanted to mourn the disenfranchisemnt & division HRC enabled and that if education was to be done - we were asking HRC donors at the dinner & politicians to educate HRC on the need for transgender civil rights.

How sad that a civil rights group needs to be lectured to by politicians on their moral failings.

Vanessa Edwards Foster said...

Mara had impressed on me how conservative Pennsylvania was when discussing the hate crimes fight there ... apparently even more so than here! All I can say is if y'all are worse than Texas, what with Bushes, DeLay, Dick Armey, Rove and all, I feel sorry as hell for ya! That has to suck!

Actually, your approach to keep it under the radar was best. The less they know and the more they have to guess, the better. Certainly after this, their paranoia is showing. Conscience can be your worst enemy, heheh!

It's sad, really. One of my co-workers next door to me (who just got through making the extension of their policy to include trans after 12 years!) mentioned that she saw me out there protesting. She understands, but I could also tell it was hurting her as well. They don't realize the consequences on their own, and that guilt they didn't deserve.

Phyllis' stickers say Do Not Divide. It's a great concept, but it's about 6 or 7 years too late. We're all fractured as hell, and fracturing more by the day. HRC won that one ....

Polar said...

HRC definitely pushed what Jimmy Buffett calls the "fool" button, and probably the panic button as well. However stupid and dishonest HRC's leaders are, however ill-conceived their acts are, the T community's in so much disarray, and so devoid of credible leadership, that this debacle won't cost HRC a damned thing. The protests will undoubtedly escalate, but even if we completely shut down HRC galas altogether to the point where they couldn't hold them, the T community would probably execute HRC's leaders in a Polish firing squad, anyway.