HRC had their banquet in Atlanta this past weekend and their local gay press, Southern Voice, covered a gathering between HRC Exec. Dir, Joe Solmonese and a number of Atlanta’s trans movers-and-shakers,
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese met with a handful of transgender activists in Atlanta last week and apologized for "misspeaking" at last year's Southern Comfort conference, where he promised HRC would only support an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that included gender identity, according to people attending the meeting.
Southern Voice was not allowed to attend the meeting, held May 1 at the Atlanta home of Charlie Frew, a member of HRC's national board of governors.
Yes, he finally came clean. He was wrong to say HRC could and would support trans inclusion in ENDA. Instead, HRC cannot support transgender inclusion in ENDA when they face a tough Congress.
And we’ve been facing a tough Congress for … forever. And we’re going to continue seeing these same tough Congresses we’ve always seen. Basically, it’s a polite way of saying “HRC can’t support trans inclusion in ENDA (or other bills for that matter). Not in real life anyway, just in make-believe. Don’t hate us, be nice.”
It’s part of HRC’s attempt to damage-control themselves into avoid a full-out trans rebellion. As he’s done more recently, Solmonese has been characterizing his speech at last year’s Southern Comfort Conference, where he promised HRC would only support an ENDA that included gender identity as a mistake on his part. Immediately before the Atlanta Banquet, Ol’ Joe met with six transgender leaders: transgender rights activists Tracee McDaniel, founder of the Juxtaposed Center for Transformation; JCT board member and attorney Jamie Roberts; Dee Dee Chamblee, executive director of Lagender; Sir Jesse McNulty, educator and member of the Feminist Outlawz; and Shelley Emerson, a former HRC Federal Club member.
So there’s the answer: Solmonese misspoke. Even though HRC’s own board of directors voted in their annual board meeting in August 2004 that they would only support an inclusive ENDA. Joe’s saying that his speech and that board vote were errors on their part. Or misconstrued by the ever-so-hopeful, trans HRC faithful. Really Joe ….
“Walking to the corner with a friend of mine,
He’s trying to sell me that same old line.
Tell me ‘bout it Slim. I know where you been.
I know who you know and how you wear your clothes.” Tell Me ‘Bout It Slim, Robert Johnson
Monica Helms noted in her blog that she was allowed into their silent auction and at least Jamie Roberts was allowed into the hotel lobby to pass out fliers. Sounds like HRC is softening up a bit: neither Washington nor Houston allowed us on banquet site property. Hell, Houston wouldn’t even allow us to walk in the street in front of it (as there wasn’t a sidewalk) and there was no fliers, pamphlets or handouts allowed. Kudos to Atlanta for making some strides there.
Back to the meeting, Atlanta’s SoVo article continued:
“He did apologize for misspeaking at Southern Comfort. But I think there was a lot of anger, disappointment and a lot of emotions for a lot of people," [Jamie] Roberts said of HRC's support of the sexual-orientation only ENDA. "It was very dehumanizing."
After years of covering just "sexual orientation," ENDA was introduced in the U.S. House last year with "gender identity" as well. But the category was dropped when the bill's main backer, openly gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), said there were not enough votes to pass the broader measure. The U.S. House approved ENDA with just sexual orientation in November 2007; the Senate hasn't voted.
HRC supports including gender identity in ENDA, but urged Congress members to vote in favor of Frank's sexual orientation-only bill as an incremental strategy.
Sir Jesse McNulty had harsher words for Ol’ Joe’s appeasement attempts:
"He apologized for the 'misspeak', but never apologized for the action," he said. "His rationale is that the vote was necessary and is still a victory."
"They're called the Human Rights Campaign, and that's more than just gays and lesbians," he said. "Butch lesbians and feminine men face the same discrimination we do. It's not OK what they did."
But not all were critical of HRC and Joe in particular:
“It takes a lot for someone to apologize. I personally can't speak for the whole community, but I accepted the apology although I think it needs to be done to the broader community," [Tracee] McDaniel said. …
McDaniel said she will also remain supportive of HRC because helping the transgender community "is bigger than myself and HRC."
"They are doing the work, but actions speak louder than words," she said.
This last person’s observations are depressing as hell. We’ve got a whole slew of our community who are totally unaware of HRC’s rather consistent history. Even worse, she’s billed as a “trans rights activist.” What’s really frightening is how easy it is for many of us to be sold on this chicanery. HRC knows this too. They’re already well into reselling themselves by starting off with the neophytes and those with no curiosity for veracity.
This underlines what we’ll be facing in the years to come: an all-out propaganda blitz from HRC. Truth doesn’t matter, and they can be as shameless as they wish. As long as they close the sale and take the victory, nothing else matters.
The host of this little gathering praised Solmonese for the meeting. His quotes for SoVo noted Joe’s patience in the whole exercise.
“He said he understands and felt the pain," Frew said. "We all thought the bill would never be picked apart in committee. We always thought it would be inclusive," he said.
Pardon me, but every time I hear the “feels the pain” routine I shudder in outrage. Just as when I first heard it from Pres. Clinton’s lips, it smacks of patronizing arrogance. It’s such a meaningless throw-away phrase, especially when it’s uttered from those who have so remote of an awareness of the reality of the people they’re trying to opportunistically identify with. You might as well have Pres. Bush say he feels the pain of the gay community’s suffrage with AIDS and HIV.
And as far as “never thinking the bill would be picked apart,” I’ve got to call bullshit on that! Frew’s clearly clueless, and Solmonese had to have known what was being lobbied on the Hill by his own lobbyists at the beginning of this congressional session back in late winter/early spring. They were banking on this “picking apart” that would occur months later this past September.
What was really eye-catching was Jamie Roberts’ blithe report of the meeting at the end of the article:
"It looks like [HRC] is working toward [a trans-inclusive bill] for 2011, assuming a friendly Democrat got into the White House," she said. "I'm just adopting a wait-and-see attitude to see how serious they are about including gender identity in the bill."
2011? What happened to the 2009 session?!? You see, they want to conveniently avoid the next session. As soon as we get the next congress and hopefully a president who will sign the bill, bank on an ENDA bill making its way through Congress and landing on the president’s desk in the next session. That has been the plan since 2005, and they will not be denied.
Meanwhile, we will.
“The truth is not supported by manipulation, obfuscation, or deception. And the truth bears no allegiance to anything but itself.” — Thomas Paine