Thursday, July 31, 2008

Season Of Weird For HRC-Siders

The Human Rights Campaign is getting panicky … they’re starting to thrash around a bit.

It’s been hitting the blogosphere about their gala in the Capital of Gay America, San Francisco which didn’t go exactly as they would’ve dreamt. To be sure, they sold tons of tickets to their faithful, and their well-heeled attendees flush with cash donated in numbers unsurprising in wealthy America. They also had a notable number of no-shows, including the whole of the San Francisco politicos – both city and statewide levels – and the keynote speaker (the mayor of LA) cancelled. Protesters were numerous, loud, drew a lot of attention from passersby and media alike. Worst of all, one protester who bought a ticket and made it inside to pass out flyers was manhandled and unceremoniously booted. Fall-out’s not been the best PR in the world.

So lately they’ve been trying to shore their image up a bit more vigorously. I noted their trans members are suddenly stepping up marketing-like posts and submitting them to the community on some of the public net venues. Yeah, we can’t see through that ….

As the post-gala debate continued, this time on Bilerico Project, my friend Ethan St. Pierre pointed out, from among the blog comments to the HRC protest story, a response from Dana Beyer, the trans member from the HRC Board of Governors.

“The National Capital Area Steering Committee of HRC had a very productive meeting this evening with the local trans community. Contacts have been made, issues prioritized and the trans community has been put in touch with the HRC legal team to deal with personal legal issues as well as the problems with trans prisoners in the DC jails.”

No surprise … after a bit of bad PR in Trans America, HRC does a quickie “benevolent conservator” routine to remind the little trannies how awesome they are. Then I saw the end of that paragraph:

“… and to support the work of Basic Rights Montgomery in the fight to defend the Montgomery County trans civil rights law against the right wing referendum drive. Btw, HRC has already contributed $30,000 to this cause, along with the Task Force, Lambda Legal and other organizations who are devoting money and time.”

Interesting. That had to be a slip up. Besides being on HRC’s board of governors, Dana also happens to be one of the higher-profile board members of NCTE. Yes, Mara Keisling’s NCTE … the same one that has Mara going around the country recently doing (as one respondent referred to it) the “I Hate HRC” routine. But there’s more!

“I have offered to set up a meeting for the HRC Senior staff (including Joe) and Directors with the national transactivists who are particularly angry at HRC. Right now it looks like October 2nd will be doable, but it is still a work in progress.”

Well, isn’t that nice and patronizing? We “angry” transactivists will be deigned with a meeting with JoeSo and Co. And it appears October 2 will be doable for them, so we should clear our schedules and truck our happy asses up there! For what? More of the same? Some of us “angry” transactivists have actually been around for a decade or so – long enough to have gone through this process for an iteration or two. So, why in this time of tight economic conditions will we consider heading up to HRC HQ again? Honestly ….

The back-and-forth on the Bilerico comments continued, with one person noting that October 2 was not doable due to it conflicting with Southern Comfort Conference, to which Beyer had to match tit for tat:

“No offense, but HRC is not trying to screw trans persons by scheduling the meeting on October 2nd, I am. And why am I? Because I didn't know that was the weekend of Southern Comfort. Why didn't I know? Because SCC has always been on a Jewish holiday.

So, I ask you, is the trans community trying to screw the Jewish community?

Or, more succinctly, why does the trans community hate America?”

Why are we trying to screw the Jewish community?!? Or why does the trans community hate America?!? Wow. You can't make this kinda stuff up, folks.

But there’s more still ….

“No one is afraid. The Co-chair of the Board of Directors was not afraid last night; she was engaged and interested. She just doesn't know enough, even though we're friends, because she has a life and a whole lot of other things on her plate.

This is how it is with many people. They don't know, because they don't know us. The only way they're going to get to know us, to accept us as friends and family, is for us to spend time together, to engage. We need to help them so they will want to help us. We need to ask them to work with us.

Per Dana “they just don’t know … because she has a life and … a lot of things on her plate.” Gotcha. So if she’s got a life and all those things on her plate, what’s she doing at HRC?

“They don’t know us … the only way they’re going to get to know us … is for us to spend time together.” This from the organization that arbitrarily decided to seize defacto control and in charge of advocacy for us … people who don’t know us, have lives with lots on their plate, etc. And we need to spend time together! Since we don’t run in the same circles. We don’t have their level of income, thus no co-vacations or hanging out at tony restaurants or chi-chi events. And you don’t see people of their means coming down and “slumming with the trannies.”

So extrapolating from that, we’ll never meet, they’ll never know us (even though they’ll raise funds, publicize and claim to represent us) and we can only hope to engage by seeking them out to help them. Then maybe they’ll help us. (Huge maybe. I’ve done the “help them” routine on a number of other G&L related efforts over the years. Hard work has always been its own reward … there is no “help” on our side unless we do it.)

“HRC doesn't have a PR problem. We in the trans community believe they do, but the larger LGBT community does not believe so.”

Fair enough. The protests and the folks deciding not to attend, politicos and even gay community icons and the like are always dropping out of their banquets – typical stuff. And of course the recent flow of pro-HRC propaganda from their lonely trans supporters is pretty much steady. Of course, getting involved in peeing matches on blogs with HRC-bashers is an everyday thing too. Dana continues ….

“The meeting last night was about creating community, not rehashing ENDA. When we have community we will have an inclusive ENDA by definition.”

Nice thought. We had “community” with everyone working together in Texas in 1999 and again in 2001. And when the Hate Crimes Bill passed here in the state, guess what? No inclusion.

“You should be careful about speaking for "we, the transgender community." It's a lot more varied and diverse than just you…. “

Sage advice indeed. It leads to the next question: is HRC really seeking all the varied and diverse trans voices to participate there? How many trans folks have they had in their employ who’ve recently lived below the poverty level, for instance? Somehow I get the impression this statement is easier to swing around and back people off with, than to put into actuality.

“The gay community will help us if we ask, and ask constructively. Many of them have been for years and will continue to do so. We are just asking HRC now.”

Say what?!? They may help her because they know they can raise serious funds from her as well. What about the overwhelming remainder of the community? I know better than this from experience: Spring 2000. Ask Tony Varona, Kevin Layton or Nancy Buermeyer. They agreed, said it was reasonable and then eventually did just the opposite.

Ms. Beyer’s final thoughts bear a bit of attention as well:

“What HRC ultimately does next year or the following year will be up to the Directors, and yes, there are no trans persons on the Board which is appalling but it is what it is right now. Trans persons should be reaching out to those Directors through their local steering committees, however uncomfortable that makes you feel, just as we need to be reaching out to our Congresspersons …”

And we’ve come back full circle to rehash the same things Mara Keisling was selling the community back in 2002: we may not like it, it may be uncomfortable, but we need to be reaching out to HRC. I’d prefer working with Congress-critters instead, NTAC-style. Mara and NCTE had every opportunity afforded to them to do the “reaching out” and working with them. As I remember correctly, didn’t that fail to turn out so well?

“Leave the history alone for now. Let's use what we've learned over the years and put it to work here.”

Leave the history alone … no need to learn from it. Instead, we’ll use what we’ve learned over the years … even though we should leave that history alone. What does that mean? Just what we need, a bit of John McCain "Straight Talk" styled logic!

"You know you talk too much, you even scare my friends ...." — How Are You?, Cheap Trick

1 comment:

Dana Beyer, M.D. said...


You and I haven't spoken for, I think, four years now. Next time you're in DC please give me a call. And bring your sense of humor with you -- you've apparently misread mine.