Saturday, August 23, 2008

Transgender Delegate Blog: Work, Hardships and Family Are Dems Battle Cry

The Stonewall Democrats' National Convention is in Denver this weekend before the Democratic Convention. Being a part of the LGBT delegation overall, I decided to attend. Obviously it was nice getting to meet most of the rest of the transgender delegation (two committee members and three of the other four delegates). But the luncheon itself was a rousing event.

Labor seemed to be the overarching theme for this day. Service Employees I Union were the first featured speakers, with Tom Barbera leading intro for Mary Kay Henry. Much was discussed, but the one thing that drew the top applause was their retelling of their strong commitment to equality for all employees (including transgender), their restating their support of marriage for all families, and the need to ensure we work hard to rebuild the unions' strength and correct this disparate wage levels for working people in today's America.

Jeremy Bishop introduced Nancy Wohlforth came on after to speak on behalf of Pride At Work (PAW). PAW is the AFL-CIO based group that focuses on making all unions fully inclusive and accepting of all employees. In his introduction, Bishop told of Nancy's absolute stand in opposition when some of the unions wanted to follow Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Barney Frank's lead and ditch the transgenders from inclusion. Nancy gave a truly rousing speech on the need for us sticking together and on the hardships faced by trying to organize workers to protect their rights in the workplace.

Saturday was certainly about the workplace even in the speech broadcast live on CNN during the conference. Both Sen. Barack Obama and his newly announced running-mate, Sen. Joe Biden, touched upon the difficulties faced by middle America while also stressing their own strong middle class roots. They've truly found their voice in grabbing the focus and shoving right in Corporate America and their political lackeys' faces: America is struggling mightily, both candidates fully understand it. Not only do they understand it, it's part of their own upbringing.

This speaks volumes. One thing I certainly want is a candidate who will understand -- not just mouth the words. McCain's attempt to paint himself as an everyman a la George W. Bush is false. It's virtually as false as George W. Bush's same attempt (and success, unbelievably enough). While America's political awareness has been asleep at the switch these past eight years, it's hard to imagine us being so easily hoodwinked now. We've got too much on the line: our lives.

The Saturday night keynote speech featured Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS), who really impressed me. She's accomplished quite a feat in the midst of red-meat middle America: a progressive democrat leading a very red Republican state, who still sticks true to principle and doesn't leave anyone behind. She enacted an executive order on state hiring there which prohibits discrimination on the entire laundry list of categories including gender identity! That's transgender, to you unitiated.

Gov. Sebelius' edict is a big deal for us trans folks as more often than not we're left behind, even from initiatives begun by others in gay or lesbian America, much less straight politicos trying to keep their jobs in very conservative environs. Gov. Sebelius is a quiet, graceful presence. But make no mistake, she's a lion-hearted hero.

One sundry piece of gossip I got through the grapevine while attending the convention. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), still aggravated over Stonewall Democrats' non-support of the ENDA bill they were pushing along with Rep. Barney Frank (the one without transgender inclusion), decided not to financially support the Stonewall Democrats Convention this year. Rumor has it they gave $10,000 to the Log Cabin Republicans Convention instead. Nice.

Sunday's finish up hit on marriage equality. Speakers included Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick (a personal friend of Obama), who gave an excellent speech on the importance of pushing through with what was right. He noted how the African American community was seeing the culmination of what has been heretofore a dream only: Americans being confident and comfortable enough to put faith in a president who is a person of color. It's no small feat, and he imparted the historical implication of what we were gathered to do this week.

The Governor then dovetailed this with the fight for full rights for all Americans, including the fight for fully equal gay marriage in his home state. As it turned out, he was (at the time this fight began well before he was even aware of his daughter's status (she came out as lesbian only a year ago). Yet Gov. Patrick stood firm, opting to do the right thing to extend equality to the gay and lesbian community. He also noted, though, that the fight was not over, and there were many that were still left behind and in need of a hand up. One thing that did strike me was the laundry list he noted did not include "transgender." He reminded the gathering that "we still
"have unfinished business."

After finishing, I made my way over to shake his hand and compliment on the subject of the speech. However I also pointed out his words of "unfinished business" and let him know that his own state has enacted no protection at all for the transgender community (other than, with the marriage laws) the ability to marry. Additionally I reminded him that we trans people did not get any employment discrimination protections passed this year, even with my friend and bay stater Ethan St. Pierre's poignant story before their own congressional committee, noting his long tenured job while being an out lesbian immediately terminating once he notified them he was transsexual and in the process of transitioning. I reiterated to the governor that we still have "unfinished business."

We're making progress in many corners. But as we all know, and the reason (especially for transgender delegates) that we're all here is we're fully aware the struggle goes on.


Dale said...

Vanessa, I have never visited your blog, but Monica Roberts was kind enough to mention it on hers. I am glad to hear from a woman on the frontlines of change.

In this post you mentioned that Tom Barbera of the SEIU introduced Mary Ann ????. I found online the Stonewall Democrats convention schedule. It indicates that Mary Ann's last name is Henry.

Thank you for taking the time (and spending the money) to represent transgender folks at the convention. And thank you for sharing with us what you are seeing and hearing (or not hearing)!

Dale said...

oops, I forgot to mention that the convention schedule I linked to has a brief biography of Ms. Henry on page 11.

Monica Roberts said...

Hey Sis!
Hope you and the rest of the Lone Star State;'s delegation are having fun at this historic convention.

Give 'errbody' in the transgender delegation as well a hug for me ;)