“Had a dream it was time
To be taken to the front of the line
Well that is not a place you wanna be
Sleeping with the enemy….” — Had A Dream, Roger Hodgson
“Even in the belly of the beast there are hundreds of thousands of us fighting for a just world. I feel the tide is turning.” — Tom Morello, guitarist for Rage Against The Machine in a 2007 interview
Now that it’s becoming clearer that the bloom is off the rose of the HRC-is-our-friend/ally/hero/champion circle in the transgender community, I wonder what will be the next move for these brides-left-at-the-altar?
My second HRC Banquet protest ever will be this evening (I’ll write more on that point in a later post). And again – like my first one in Washington DC – they’ve decided they need police protection from us. It’s a little unsettling as I know the Houston PD’s reputation – it’ll be a different environment than DC. Like in DC, I’m sure they’ll have someone point me out to HPD to give me the “special” attention to my every move. I plan on being dogged tonight.
This time, national activist emeritus Phyllis Frye is coordinating, so she got a taste of what we (especially the NTAC crowd) have known all along. Phyllis far from clueless about HRC, though. Once upon a time (pre-Mara) she was arguably their most vocal and consistent detractor. For her to ease back into the anti-HRC outsider set isn’t difficult at all. It’s a role she’s known well for over 15 years.
On the flipside of that, the Human Rights Campaign has worked diligently over the years to wedge and divide Houston – long known in the past for it’s unswayable trans community, and general GLBT community antipathy towards HRC. Most especially, since 2003-2004 when the NTAC star was being supplanted by NTCE, the local trans community began listening to the alternative voices: “we need to be collegial,” “we need to work collaboratively,” “they aren’t our enemy – they’re our friends,” “they’re our champion … heroes.”
Simultaneously, I backed off. Yes, I could’ve provided counter-argument (many would argue I should’ve). But I would also run the risk of beating the dead horse. Being repetitive as a broken record never appealed to me, and I’ve learned that forcing people to listen or to believe only meets resistance. So I backed off knowing that in time, considering HRC’s behavior patterns, they would reveal their true selves to all.
This week some of our local-level trans leaders decided to approach two of HRC’s board members and ask for a table to do an educational initiative on the inside.
They were rebuffed.
The excuse given was that HRC felt if they provided a table for a transgender group’s educational initiative, then they’d have to do it for all. Pretty slick, huh? They do know how to spin to cover their tracks pretty well. It’s also like the excuse they gave when it became public that HRC national called the cops on us beforehand. To wit, Phyllis’ report on that:
“I was told by local that national HRC said, "We were misunderstood by the Houston Police."
IMHO, that is a load of grade A, prime crap that HRC is becoming famously consistent is issuing.
Especially so since last fall where, at the TG Southern Comfort Convention in Atlanta, the HRC President told the TG community that HRC promised to keep TG folks in the ENDA bill. ….
I do not believe the HRC spin.”
To be sure, HRC is still covering their butt. Kathy Padilla forwarded this to Phyllis and I from the Queerty.com blog – a response from an HRC staffer.
“Houston is not a unique situation. In fact, the same protests have happened in NY, DC and Philly. And at all three, the police were present to keep the order - and did not shut any protest down. So, why is Houston all of a sudden a hot bed of conspiracy theory about HRC calling in the swat teams?
The fact is that the standard procedure is when we are notified of a protest, then it is our obligation to notify the hotel/venue. The hotel/venue then takes the necessary precautions to make sure their guests are safe and that any protests happening outside of their property is also done so in a safe manner. One of those precautionary steps that the hotel/venue takes is to notify the local police department. This was done in DC, NYC, and Philadelphia previously without any problems, complaints, or conspiracy theories.
So, with all that being said we are looking forward to a great Houston dinner which will be attended by the Mayor of Houston. And was the case at previous dinners, those who want to wear their stickers and stand in protest will be more than welcome to do so.”
[Note: Phyllis was instructed by Houston Police during the interview that: "I was … informed that HRC has also instructed the hotel security to ask us to leave if we attempt to pass out any written information or ask folks to wear our stickers."]
Perhaps since Phyllis’ blog goes out widely, the impression is that HRC is trying to play the trans community as alarmists or conspiracy theorists. Once tagged so, they can then easily dismiss and marginalize us (I’ve watched that two-bit play far too many times to recount.)
HRC is correct: we’ve had police presence at all events, pre-summoned by HRC. Indeed there is no conspiracy theory about it, and I never said “boo” about it to any effect. Their tranny-conspiracy-theorist claims to objectify me and others protesting them sounds a bit alarmist of its own, frankly.
That said, I did note the first minutes of my DC protest with free reign … and then after convention center security had a mini-confab with a few of Washington DC’s finest, I was constantly ‘moved’ from standing wherever I decided, then reminded a few times that I needed to keep moving (something I singularly was watched over), then comments about my crossing from one side to the other, standing on a concrete wall, standing on the ramp, etc. No silencing … but the “special” attention didn’t go unnoticed – nor the unspoken message that sends.
As one of the respondents noted to Phyllis’ Phyllabuster, “Why call the police in the first place?” Besides the obvious “keeping the peace” which I’ll agree is valid, there is that “unspoken message” it sends to the community. They consider trans activists like Phyllis and I, and other trans organizers around the country in places like New York, Philadelphia and Washington who not within the HRC fold as (criminal?) threats.
While it’s laughable to consider peaceful protesters criminal threats, it’s impeding fundraising for HRC. It also speaks to their level of paranoia and desperation to hide their reality from those they seek to self-promote and press for dollars. The more they can conceal the truth, the better fro their bottom line and PR image.
As for the local level trans leaders and others who’ve bought the “HRC-is-friend” message over the years, I’d be highly shocked to see their faces alongside us outsiders – those of us who speak truth to power. We’ll be a smaller crowd than the HRC protests circa mid- and late-90’s thanks to HRC’s efforts to divide and fracture the trans community.
But I do wonder what the other non-protesting trans folk will be doing tonight knowing the hell they’ll catch for attending the banquet and the hell they’ll pay for even thinking of offending their HRC friends? It’s quite a dilemma: what’s a poor pro-HRC tranny to do?
“Don’t you believe them! It’s a TRAP! TRAP! TRAP!” — Phyllis Frye on HRC’s spin, circa 1999.
“They’re not about civil rights! It’s a business. It’s about making money. … They’re in this to build their political careers! And all our sisters end up spilling our blood and dying on the street corners, while they make money off us!” — late trans-activist Sylvia Rivera, discussing HRC and gay/lesbian activist organizations.