Sunday, December 30, 2007

HRC = Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Human Rights Campaign

“We're gonna win this one, take the country by storm,We're gonna be elected,You and me together, young and strong,We're gonna be elected.” — I Wanna Be Elected, Alice Cooper

With the Iowa Caucuses coming up in a few days and New Hampshire following a few days hence, I hope these early states, and indeed the entire country choose wisely for the rest of country, especially when it comes to the economy. After eight years of the Bush/Cheney and indirectly the Rove agenda, we as a nation are in dire need of righting this sinking ship.

At stake is the future of America, and domestically an embattled and pained middle class, working class and poor. True, there’s an enormous expenditure for war on at least one country (Iraq) that had nothing to do with terrorism on America or American targets. This alone dominates the budget.

Yet behind the scenes and little reported is how the nation itself is doing, particularly the lower 90 percentile and especially the most vulnerable lower strata of American society. Staples like gasoline, milk and home energy costs are just a few that have nearly doubled in the past couple years. Health care is becoming and expensive (and for some an unattainable) luxury. While costs are rising, wages are dead stagnant. Foreclosures, defaults and bankruptcies are at record levels. Meanwhile President Bush pronounces the economy “fundamentally sound.”

For we in the transgender community (the overwhelming majority of whom are in the lower 90’s grouping), there’s no hope at all from the R side of the ticket. This week on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas (R) noted how he believed in the right of every American to the same opportunity and aspirations held in the American Dream.

Hearing Huckabee’s thoughts, the first thoughts out of my head was “what if this person is gay or lesbian? What if the person is transgendered?” Even though his message sounded all-inclusive, and may well be personally believed as all-inclusive, I can guarantee that if nominated his RNC (Republican National Committee) will ensure he disbelieves this statement post-haste. That goes for anyone nominated with an “R” after their name on the ballots. To the GOP, egalitarianism and social issues are poison – they are the anti-social party.

On the “D” side of the game, a friend wrote to me proudly claiming that Hillary Clinton has “four transgenders on her steering committee.” Not so fast, said I.

In the ten years of lobbying, I’ve personally visited Clinton’s offices four times. No, they weren’t ugly, such as Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, Charlie Stenholm or (worst of all) Trent Lott’s office.

Fact is that Clinton’s office was civil, but nothing more than perfunctory. You could find the same emotion from the items for sale at a fish market. For my friends in the gay and lesbian community, Hillary Clinton will be the second coming of Christ and will do wonderful things for them. For Transgenders, our future becomes very bleak as a result of all focus turned away from “Queer issues” after the gay and lesbian community gets their dream agenda fulfilled.

Clinton demonstrated her knowledge of transgender issues with her own wording back in 2001 (during an HRC published interview) was "I have not been told that (transgender issues) is a concern by my gay and lesbian friends."

How would that statement have been taken if she said “I’m unaware of African American issues as no one from the Anti-Defamation League has approached me on this”? Or “I don’t know Latino issues as no one from the NAACP were concerned about it”? I’d venture it would cause a stir. Why would it never occur to the Senator to go to the community directly on what our issues were, or the difficulties on housing, employment, health care, etc?

We in the transgender community would easily be painted with the “screaming tranny, always complaining” stereotype should we decide to voice opinion on this. Instead, we held our tongue trying to contradict the stereotype.

Later Clinton was posed a question from New York trans activist Melissa Sklarz on transgender inclusion in ENDA (Employment Non Discrimination Act). Sen. Clinton replied by saying that she supported gender identity inclusion in principle, but that she misgivings about supporting a bill that would place transitioned transgenders in “positions of responsibility”. Improvement? Sure. But is she a solid supporter of transgender employment? No.

"And if I am elected I promise the formation of a new party.
A third party, the Wild Party!
I know we have problems,
We got problems right here in Central City.
We have problems on the North, South, East and West,New York City, Saint Louis, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago —
Everybody has problems,
And personally, I don't care." — I Wanna Be Elected, Alice Cooper

Out of all the candidates I’ve lobbied (Edwards, Kucinich, Biden, Dodd and Clinton), I must state that the least supportive of all the offices was Hillary Clinton’s. Admittedly I haven’t lobbied Obama’s office, and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico signed into law a non-discrimination including not only sexual orientation but gender identity – and did so with zero hesitation.

Kucinich and Edwards were the most supportive. I personally met Kucinich three times and visited fully with him twice, noting his historic mention of us in the 2004 election season. Sen. Edwards’ office (at least the legislative director) was the most candid. Thankfully he came out personally to let me know how the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) was lobbying, and how that was likely impacting us. He also challenged HRC on the approach of sexual orientation only when it was being advertised as “equality.”

Their candor was very welcomed in the transgender community, and also explained the pointed questions in the LOGO Network/HRC debate being directed at both Edwards and Richardson, and why all the softball questions (save for marriage which was asked of all) being directed toward Sen. Hillary Clinton.

For anyone not already aware, while HRC has not offered endorsements on candidates, Hillary Clinton is a lock-tight cinch for the HRC endorsement. It’s been a foregone conclusion since summer. Truth be told, she has a Clinton legacy she wants to right for the gay and lesbian community and will be the dream candidate of gay and lesbian America.

For those of us in the transgender community – 2% of the population at best – this spells a future of trying to gain our rights all by ourselves. While we’ve always been there at the gay and lesbian community’s leisure to bolster their numbers, once legally empowered they will leave us without the same ability to reciprocate in kind. HRC and others will take their traveling show (including the funding, the media attention, their numbers) with them to whatever is next on their agenda.
Per my contacts on the Hill, the Clinton presidency is exactly what they are scripting and strategizing for in the next session. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) has already stated and predicted passage of the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA), which will be submitted as sexual orientation only.

This upcoming election is going to be one of the closest in both parties in recent memory. For once, even the transgender community – small as it is – can be a sizable enough percentage to throw the election from one candidate to another. Blindly siding with the gay and lesbian community agenda may well end up working against the transgender segment of the GLBT community.
Sen. Hillary Clinton will be the greatest candidate ever elected to the White House for the gay and lesbian community. Clinton will be HRC’s dream President. However, we in the transgender community are fully aware of HRC’s history on transgenders, and we should also fully understand the implications.

We need to consider what is best for the transgender community, and indeed all economically disparate communities as a whole. Who best represents our community? Someone who “works with corporate America”, as Sen. Clinton has inferred she will? Someone with a readiness to compromise with corporate America?

Frankly, I know disparities first-hand and would venture the well over 90% of the transgender community knows it and lives it. So far, the only candidate of the entire crop – on both sides – who’s addressed the disparities of elite vs. the remainder of us is Sen. John Edwards. He may not have a transgender person on his LGBT committee as yet -- at least not until I can figure a way onto it! However he’s the only candidate that’s not only raised the issues, but has committed to addressing the inequalities in this American experiment.

The inherent economic disparity makes a huge difference for me personally. If you’ve been part of Trans community negatively impacted by this “Economic Recovery” these past seven years, I wholly encourage you to take a look at the positions of your candidates and become actively involved in the political process for this coming presidential election season. I’ve been a national level delegate before; you can do it as well.

Meanwhile, don’t simply toss a victory to the candidate of HRC without understanding who the victory is truly benefiting – and how this will impact your own community in the coming four to eight years.

“Americans continue to suffer from a notoriously short attention span. They get mad as hell with reasonable frequency, but quickly return to their families and sitcoms. Meanwhile, the corporate lobbies stay right where they are, outlasting all the populist hysteria.” — Eric Alterman

“The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.” — Robert A. Heinlein, science-fiction writer

Monday, December 24, 2007

Want Ads: Looking for Mr. or Ms. Goodbar

Help Wanted: Transgender Political Insider, No Experience Necessary – Will Train!
Need individual with a smiling face and a Can-Do Attitude! Personal Ambition a serious plus! Must take directions well. Must be able to learn public relations marketing from a gay and lesbian perspective (Marketing experience a huge plus) Must like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Gay and Lesbian Equality. Must possess ability and willingness to both raise funds or to be able to attract leads for fundraising for HRC. Can easily substitute a great personal story (author of an autobiography or esp. high-profile job loss, lawsuit or hate crime victim) for fundraising skills.

To be filled: Immediately.

Very competitive salary commensurate with other transgender activist salaries, plus perks! We are an EEOC employer. Only transgendered applicants, preferably white, docile and above-average income need apply.

Yes, the above is a satirical take on what’s actually happening right now. HRC is in desperate need of superficially plastering over the era of discontent in Transgender, and subsequently adjacent portions of the GLB community. They can’t be without a throw-down tranny to upkeep the façade of plausible deniability.

Since Mara Keisling’s tirade last month on both HRC and Joe Solmonese in the Gay City News, where she came right out and stated, “Yes, they totally abandoned us … but even worse was all the lies,” HRC’s been in motion. In an effort to keep the Transgender Community fractious and distracted with ourselves, HRC realized they needed a new leader – the next alpha-dog to bring to the fight.

While Keisling had served them well over the years marketing their agenda like no one before, over time she’s learned the reality. We all come into activism as clean slates, and for some awareness are stark and swift. For others, it’s an osmosis that takes time to gradually clarify. Now Mara sees what we ‘crazy naysayers’ were trying to warn her of six or seven years back and has taken her first steps to try to counter the HRC effect. HRC also realizes they need a replacement part for NCTE.

Thus we have Project Win-Back I wrote about in a previous blog. Word recently went out that Barney Frank was coordinating a joint effort to lobby congress with a handful of unnamed transgender community “business” leaders, ostensibly led by Susan Stanton, the Largo, Florida City Manager who was fired for transitioning. While HRC is not explicitly mentioned, it’s got their fingerprints all over it, while very deftly keeping a low profile.

“What I really need to do
Is find myself a brand new lover,
Somebody real nice to me
Who doesn't notice all the others.” — Brand New Lover, Dead Or Alive

So why does this signal HRC “looking for a new love”? For starters, Mara Keisling and NCTE is in Washington DC proper, well-experienced, and has even joint-lobbied with HRC for some time. That she’s not named as the lead on that effort would never occur if she were involved.

Additional reason to see a circumvention by HRC: In late 2001 and 2002, this is exactly what they did with Mara Keisling a year before ushering her in as the go-to transgender leader for HRC a scant year later. Riki Wilchins was still around, though out-of-favor with them. NTAC was around and certainly not swayable by the HRC marketing team. They needed a “transgender leader” that they could work with – one who passed their mettle. In 2002, Mara Keisling fit their bill and would eagerly circumvent. Five years down the road, and now it’s Mara and NCTE that HRC wishes to circumvent. At the moment, it appears to be Susan Stanton to fit their bill.

When you wake up tomorrow
You'll be all alone
Oh the love that we had
I have quickly outgrown — Brand New Lover, Dead Or Alive

As HRC sees it, they need to choose the transgender leader / liaison they feel most comfortable with. The key traits they seek in their transgender leaders are agreeability, docility and willingness to compromise. They cannot tolerate a leader becoming aware and actually challenging them. Mara’s now surpassed that threshold for them.

One thing strangely never occurs to HRC. How is it that they feel the right to anoint another community’s leadership?

Some years back, when Exec. Dir, Elizabeth Birch left, HRC board member (and a friend of mine) Tony Varona asked me for my opinion on who HRC should consider to replace her. I refrained from any opinion on that. I felt strongly then and still do today that we should not pressure or manipulate their community’s organization or who their community chooses for their leadership. It’s not our place. They, as should every community, must have the right to self determine and choose freely – good or bad. If they choose unwisely, tell them afterwards about why the choice is bad – but still allow them the right to choose.

Yet HRC has an addiction to meddling in trans affairs, tweaking and steering – sometimes quite heavy-handedly – our community. And it always blows up in their face, and the trans community becomes that much more resentful of them, and they still don’t seem to understand why – or perhaps want to ignore it. Why have a voice when we can have them decide what our voice will be?

As Jessica Xavier taught me in a phone conversation about six years ago, HRC is in the business of Political Management. It’s not about advocacy or civil rights as much as it is about ‘managing’ the sociopolitical environment to help mold public opinion favorable to the gay and lesbian rights agenda. They have not just a desire or an addiction to control, it’s in their very business description. It’s their job.

Therefore it’s easier to see why they feel need to choose our leaders for us, why they need to tell us what is inclusive language and how is the best way to achieve it, why they need to instruct us on what is politically feasible.

It’s not easier for us to take, much less accept. This is not only dismissive, but it’s flagrantly arrogant. Knowing their calculated nature, and watching their movement patterns, I’m relatively certain they intend to not only get their slate of items on their political agenda (yes, we’ll be left out), but then move to co-opt “transgender” and make it their next cottage industry in an effort to keep the paychecks and funding rolling in. As a bonus, they get more media face-time, and stand above us as self-envisioned heroes leading we hapless trans folk to our equality (and to craftily manage to assuage any former guilt).

So HRC will bring in a whole slew of fresh new transgender faces for the next wave. They can always find names like a Dana Beyer, Amanda Simpson, Susan Stanton or others with little to no awareness of, or a healthy disdain of trans history, willing to soak as would a sponge all the gospel HRC can impart. With enough personal ambition to put the blinders on and leave them on for as long as possible, they may even find another as effective as Mara was for them.

And Mara herself? HRC will keep her close by. They’ll relegate her to Riki Wilchins’ status and utilize her on one-off ventures – mostly as a reminder for the newest trans leaders to “stay in line,” the same way they’d pull Riki in to remind Mara of her place in the political world according to HRC.

It’s all to help HRC further their agenda while keeping the Trans community at bay, creating more opportunities for mistrusting our own and developing more self-loathing. And eventually, when the sponge becomes saturated and disgorging the water it soaked in, it’ll be time for HRC to look for a brand new one to replace it.

“Reality Bites … and sometimes those who reality’s bitten deserve every last bit of it.” — transgender activist Jessica Xavier, 2001

Short and Sweet? Maybe. For Now ….

“Neat. Sweet. Petite.” — theme from the TV show, The Addams Family

Between the long hours at work and my weekly blogs, I do actually try to read a portion of my Emails. It’s sort of a losing battle, but I give it the game attempt when time allows. A couple of my Emails concerned my blogs and offered critiques. The first one thought my posts were fine, but that there was nothing in it about me – none of my own “personal thoughts” about my life. The second one commented on enjoying my posts, but questioned why all of my posts had to be “such epic screeds”! She also noted how the length was a “bit wearying” and wanting more frequent, shorter posts. Well!

For starters, I’ll admit I’m relatively new to the blog game and not really studied on this – or for that matter, much of any web surfing, save for news and political sites such as Thomas. That of itself probably lends itself to boring political subject coming from my quarters.

As for the first commenter’s query, I really never thought of posting anything of a personal nature. My thought was “who the hell cares?” The name of my blog is TransPolitical – not TransAutobiographical or My Diary or Deep Thoughts by Vanessa Edwards Foster. They’re my thoughts, and everyone’s got their own. Why would anyone want to read my personal musings? I might as well create my own website all about me! Yeah … I’ll think about it some day.

Mostly it just came across as too self-important, as if my own life and experiences are so much more interesting or something. Now I’ve got others like Ken Dollarhide or Ethan St. Pierre who’ll chide me otherwise and say what I’ve been through is interesting, but I’m not an easy sell on that. What I’ve noted in my personal journal was for me (mainly for memory notes) and to my knowledge not of interest to anyone beyond the closest of friends – if that.

That said, I’ve actually read and enjoy the personal touches and tidbits on Betty Crow and her wife Helen’s blogs, or Donna Rose’s blogs, as well as Gwen Smith’s and Dr. Becky’s websites. Obviously there’s little time for me to keep up with them, but when I do I find the personal items quite interesting. And even on websites, which I considered vanity vehicles in the day, nowadays Facebook and similar sites are becoming quite popular

So I suppose I am holding a dual standard on that. Maybe someday I’ll try to find time to put a separate spot for my personal musings. Honestly, it won’t be a priority though – sorry about that.

As for the other respondent, I really wasn’t aware I was being that long-winded. That took me aback a bit, and I asked around to a couple others. Sure enough, they agreed – shorter and more frequent posts are better. All I was attempting to do was to be thorough, and not misconstrued due to brevity. I was on the receiving end of such a misinterpretation once with Sylvia Rivera, and it was not pretty. I learned.

So with me being known for stubbornness, obviously I figured: let’s give it a shot. I’ll try to be a bit less screed-like (is that a word?). But it’ll take some effort. And I would imagine I may, from time to time, have need of being a bit more elaborative if the subject calls for it. But I suppose every post doesn’t need to be an editorial length epic on each post.

Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief..." — Hamlet, Scene 2, Act 2 by William Shakespeare

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Conventional Wisdom vs. Reality

“Stop! Hey, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.” — For What It’s Worth, Buffalo Springfield

An odd incident occurred this past Sunday. I went out to give my front yard what should be the final mowing of the year. No, that’s not the oddity – at least not down here in the southern half of Texas. This is the subtropics, after all. What was odd was that as I plowed through the freshly fallen leaves in the front yard, I hit what I initially thought was a stick until my lawnmower spit it out at me. Instead, I had a foot long snake (thankfully not of the poisonous variety) smack me on the ankle!

Yes, he was apparently alive – at least until shortly after I hit him.

My first thought was that I thankfully decided to mow instead of simply raking up the leaves and leaving the grass cutting for later. Then another thought struck: it’s autumn now, twelve days from winter solstice, and the snakes haven’t hibernated yet.

True, the calendar says it’s a couple weeks from Christmas. Trees are shedding leaves faster than a Persian cat sheds fur in June. Convention says animals hibernate in fall in preparation of winter.

However, in real-time, the days are almost sultry mid-80’s, and the nights are sticky and hovering above the 70-degree mark. Climatologically, this is very much like mid-spring. There’s nothing for creatures to hibernate for when the weather’s warm.

It's actually an apt metaphor for a lot of things recently. When textbook wisdom says that things should always be expected to produce a certain result, we in this day and age tend to accept this without question. Sometimes this leads us away from paying attention to our surroundings, which (as nature often does) throws us some pretty blatant curves from time to time.

“There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.” — For What It’s Worth, Buffalo Springfield

As a country, we’re probably in the most docile and accepting era we’ve ever been in – certainly in my lifetime. This may sound environmental alarmist a-la Al Gore, but we’re paying all our attention to the people telling us what reality is, and no attention at all to the contradicting real life environment displayed in front of our very eyes if we’ll only look. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why we don’t watch nature.

And I’m speaking on human nature, more than Mother Nature in this case.

For instance, after the bungled war in Iraq which was completely fabricated from inaccurate and slanted reading of intelligence, one would think that if intelligence found that Iran held no ongoing nuclear weapons development program, we’d immediately see the pattern and pull back from making the same mistake again. Most especially one would predict that during the run up to national elections. That’s conventional.

Yet when you look at the rhetoric still coming from Pres. George W. Bush and others in the GOP, especially the neo-con set, the bellicosity and brandish of sabers continue at full steam. The spin-meisters are doing their best to put Iran squarely back in the crosshairs and give wind to the sails of pre-emptive hegemony for world harmony.

Another example: the American economy. We’ve become one of the most severe debtor nations on the planet as wages throughout the lower ninety percentile have stagnated or slumped (thanks in large part to outsourcing and offshoring) while energy, food and medical costs have climbed steeply. More alarming, consumer-level credit has recently evaporated under the strain of a mortgage and real estate collapse that looks poised to dwarf the 80’s Reaganomics/Oil Bust Savings & Loan disaster. Convention says this would draw a substantial amount of political attention during presidential primary season, and that the government would preach austerity and saving to consumers while providing the bulk of what relief programs to the same.

Instead, the media still mouths bits about the “surprising strength” of this Bush League/Economic Recovery, the president helps bail out the banks and their investors with programs and lowered interest (which will never escape their tightened fists and into the consumers’ hands), and only one candidate – John Edwards – has even taken the economic disparity seriously in his campaign. There’s an enormous disgust in this nation that’s becoming more restive by the day, yet virtually no one in Washington notices the signs.

Closer to home, take political types who get pinned dead-to-rights on an issue when they’re in the wrong – whether it’s as small as NCTE feeding the transgender community false hopes in Rep. Barney Frank or LGBT politics as our El Dorado, or something as bald as HRC brazenly deceiving the transgender community while simultaneously culling funds and co-opting PR from transgender issues. If not outwardly contrite, one might surmise they’d keep a profile so low as to be virtually invisible ever after, lest they draw the sharpened attention of someone with a memory.

Instead, HRC has embarked upon a “listening tour” of the country (their words, not mine) with the transgender community and its supporters. Needless to say, reports from some locations such as with Pauline Park in New York note that it’s less about them listening as much as it’s them wanting those of us now mistrustful of HRC to listen to them. Even NCTE is getting into the act; with Mara Keisling deigning the oh-so-insider environs of Houston with her own meet-and-greet and stamp your feet tour. That should be an interesting show, to say the least! At this juncture we can only estimate what this will be about, but time will tell. While rivers twist and turn this way and that, they always flow downhill.

Rebecca Juro noted on her “Becky’s Blog” recently a “leaked internal memo” from HRC entitled “Project Win-Back.” Three guesses who they’re trying to win back.

Yes, it appears they feel we’ll give them yet another chance to make things right. Just like before, and the time before that, and … well, you see where this is going. They apparently met with “select transgender community leaders” about finding ways to win back the transgender community.

When a community has been betrayed and outright ditched you might not expect second chances, but they do happen. Then when a second chance has likewise been flaunted, you might expect that third chances are slim. In the rare instance those third chances occur, and when yet again a third deception happens, convention would dictate that the well of chances is dry, and the transgressors would make themselves very scarce.

Convention would also allow that those parties who’ve been transgressed – in this case, we the transgender people – would not be so inclined to be burned a second, a third, much less a fourth time, et. seq. As the old saw goes: there’s no fool like an old fool (speaking precisely to experiences rather than age). After all, who would want to be an “old fool”?

So now we’ll prepare for HRC’s Project Win-Back, we’ll have all the usual suspects out trying to corral the maverick trannies who bolted out of the pen, and bring us back into a trusting frame of mind again. Mind you, all of this comes from an organization and community that’s never really trusted transgenders– certainly not on the level of trust they’ve held and continue to seek, and even without the well-demonstrated (and quite ignominious) track record they themselves have on fidelity.

Will we buy the ploy again? Conventional wisdom would say “no”; the odds are stacked against it. Convention would’ve also dictated that we couldn’t have a Wag-The-Dog type of war unfold before our very eyes – to wit: Iraq. Convention would’ve shown that the arbiter nation of human rights and democracy on the planet would never support concepts such as hegemony, torture or corrupted elections. Convention would’ve declared that such a President could never be re-elected after such treachery.

Conventional logic would deduce that the transgender community would never be hoodwinked again, especially by the same types who have done it before. At least that’s what conventional logic would say ….

As for me, I’ll keep watching what happens in real-time. Let’s hope we’ve all finally learned. It may be mid-December, but I’m not pulling out my coat tomorrow – short sleeves again for me. It’s just another sultry December night … Merry Christmas, y’all!

“American democracy is now in danger—not from any one set of ideas, but from unprecedented changes in the environment within which ideas either live and spread, or wither and die. I do not mean the physical environment; I mean what is called the public sphere, or the marketplace of ideas.” — former Vice Pres. Al Gore

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Whither Now NCTE?

“I don't like defining myself. I just am.” — Britney Spears

Beyond dealing with my own issues this month (family crap, work insanity and a computer virus with its residual problems), it’s been a memorably weird month, this November.

To begin the month, one of my NTAC-mates, TransAdvocate’s Marti Abernathey mentioned to me that the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) was dead, which I’d heard from my Hill contacts was the opposite. In short order, they showed once again to be remarkably accurate – again! Faith was reaffirmed.

Next came the initial indignation from Mara Keisling of National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) where – astonishingly – she did her “liar, liar, pants on fire” routine with Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Joe Solmonese in the press.

At first glance it doesn’t seem shocking – NCTE being upset about lack of transgender inclusion in ENDA. However, NCTE’s entire raison d’etre is to be the antithesis of the group who preceded them, the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC), who publicly (and consistently) noted distrust of HRC. Ms. Keisling and company derided NTAC as “crazy”, “loony” and intransigent towards Barney Frank and HRC in order to distinguish herself and her upstart organization. For the record though, even NTAC never came out in public and explicitly called HRC and company liars.

And yet … here was NCTE’s Keisling sidling up to the outsider “crazy” tranny element. Or was she?

“'In that direction,' the Cat said, waving its right paw round, 'lives a Hatter: and in that direction,' waving the other paw, 'lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad.'
'But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
'Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: 'we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'
'How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice
'You must be' said the Cat 'or you wouldn't have come here'” — Lewis Carroll, from Alice in Wonderland

A scant week later, Keisling was a guest on CSPAN. During the call-in segment of the interview, Mara took great pains to avoid any critique of HRC or of Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), deferring in all her responses to HRC or to Barney Frank. Nary a cross word said she, playing the part of the good “company girl.”

So where is Mara on the political map? The Mara of lo these many years, chiding us while trumpeting our heroes HRC and Barney Frank? Or the frustrated Mara fresh from a stinging rebuke of Barney Frank, cutting ties and showing her trans colors? Or the mutable Mara looking for the sweet-spot such as at the HRC protest, where she showed in support but didn’t protest, did lots of press showing solidarity and even raising funds while privately edging away from the protester element? And Mara aside, where does the group itself stand?

As mentioned, NCTE was the politically diametric counterpart to the non-trusting transgender groups. She and (later) her group were the New Turks, with “collaboration” and “collegiality” with Barney, HRC and in fact all Gay/Lesbian organizations as the new mantra. They also made no secret of distinctly shutting out the trans non-believers, drawing a bright line between the trans segment flying on faith alone and those of us who (thanks to our congressional contacts) knew better than the hype du jour and kept a safe distance.

Traditionally, NCTE has been an HRC-devoted bunch, working numerous times in conjunction and even receiving rewards no other trans members had been deigned with before. HRC helped funnel press in NCTE’s direction, in hopes of supplanting the “old voices” of trans America. HRC even assisted in funding the new bunch, knowing this was their 'inside' with the trans community as well as very effective marketing for them with a segment that had historically been a tough sell. They ensured they received their money’s worth.

Their coup de grace was the keynote, center-stage at the Southern Comfort Conference (SCC) this past September. HRC had finally arrived, smack in the middle of trans America at their largest, most renowned event no less. It was briefly what appeared to shut the door and permanently dispense with the non-HRC transgenders personified by the likes of NTAC, ICTLEP, NAATCP and so many other individuals and local organizations over the years. HRC and the gang were in, disbelieving naysayers were out.

Yet a short two weeks later came what to many in the transgender community – even leaders like Donna Rose, Jameson Green and Mara Keisling – felt was a huge shock. When push came to shove from Barney Frank, HRC buckled, caved and became contras in the battle for rights.

We “crazies” knew about this potential “shock” for some time – as early as February for some of us. The news was disappointing and infuriating, but it was anything but surprising. If you examine HRC’s history, it’s quite consistent – most recently back in 2004 (not exactly ancient history).

So now we have Mara Keisling who was all over the press on the NTAC protest at HRC (commanding all but one line of quotes in the Advocate), and who was very uncharacteristically critical of HRC in her recent press with Gay City News and Michelangelo Signorile’s radio show. Even though she’s making a faint overture, it’s highly unlikely you’ll see any stampede by the outsider bunch to embrace her. When you crunch toes on your climb to the top, those toes tend to remember you when you’re on your way back down.

To be sure, HRC has taken note of Mara’s public criticisms. Another not-so-unknown fact is that HRC is notably vindictive, and they never forget or forgive a sleight. No longer their “golden tranny”, Mara has now self-tarnished herself to HRC. Personally Mara’s wedged herself between the rock and a hard place. It also certainly impacts NCTE’s “insider” status with HRC and company.

Meanwhile, HRC is aware of how much ground they’ve captured using a handpicked “insider” to build their image within the tough confines of Transgender-land. It’s certain that HRC would seek out another similar trans person with the same singular ambition of Keisling or Riki Wilchins before her, one who is easily separable from ground-level trans politics.

Quite likely Mara was reminded of this before going on CSPAN and dancing a deft pirouette of avoiding controversy with HRC on national television. Indeed, NCTE took great pains to send notice of the interview to their trans community mailing list. It’s backpedaling time.

So folks from the trans community may now be asking: which direction will NCTE take? I’m reminded of what Yogi Berra once said: “when you see a fork in the road, take it!” Mara would do backflips for such an oversimplified solution. Reality won’t be so simple. She can’t be both insider with the elite few and outsider with all the rest of us. The choice must be made.

That said, her performance as an HRC critic makes zero sense. It’s like watching a cigarette boat zooming ahead in a race when suddenly the rudder snaps, and the boat does a quick 180 headlong into the oncoming race boats. The outsiders weren’t buying the “sudden critic” routine.

"Well, if I eat it, and if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door: so either way I'll get into the garden, and I don't care which happens!" — from Alice in Wonderland, Chapter 1 by Lewis Carroll

Meanwhile the momentary zag off course likely caught a lot of the NCTE membership by surprise. The members of the organization she created signed on to be the insiders, the collegial allies with HRC, Barney Frank and others. They certainly did not sign on to be the very people they’d worked so hard to distinguish and distance themselves from. Where would the hopeful trans insiders go if Mara decides to play outsider critic again? It jeopardizes their seat at the inside table, understandably a concern for them.

While it’s possible for them to vote to terminate Keisling and bring in a new director to get back to their original goal, it’s unlikely to the extreme. Mara single-handedly created the organization months before even choosing the board, much less opening the group to membership. When it comes to NCTE, Mara is inextricable and integral. It’s like trying to imagine GenderPAC without Riki Wilchins – it’s not going to happen.

If Mara stays and decides to move NCTE towards being more like the outsiders, she alienates the base of her own original membership. That in itself could cause yet another schism, with the splinter forming the new HRC “insider” faction. Anyone who knows Mara knows she won’t give up insider privilege without a fight.

The CSPAN interview was merely the first in a series of attempts to right the good ship NCTE and understandably put it back on its original course. They were built to be the insiders, or (as some may call it in the parlance) the “house trannies.” This track will lead them back to more convivial relations, and reestablish a measure of the benefits HRC has favored (and presumably will continue to favor) them with. HRC, of course remembering the earlier transgressions, will shorten their leash, will tighten up their grip on funding and will keep the relationship distinctly more tenuous.

One downside for NCTE is that Mara will at some point have to eat a heaping portion of HRC’s humble pie while expecting a now-reduced share. Another downside will be the duplicity the trans community will see once they go back to playing nicey-nicey with HRC again. It’s one they won’t be able to avoid. It’s either that or HRC searches for a new “golden tranny” – a new insider. Certainly Mara will never settle for being a second-fiddle, so the choice is pretty clear.

Chalk it up to putting all one’s eggs in the HRC basket: there’s a likelihood that your eggs, as well as your hopes and dreams, may end up broken. How hard is it to break a promise?

“If you drink much from a bottle marked 'poison' it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.” — Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Monday, November 19, 2007

Day of Remembrance or Day of Opportunism?

“How dare you think you can take advantage of our community’s tragedy! Who do you think you are? You think you can waltz in and capitalize on this? This is our community’s issue not yours! In case you haven’t figure [sic] it out yet, Matthew Shepard is not transgendered, he’s gay!” — Mario H, formerly of a Houston HIV charity organization.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea! … Actually, I foresee a day when our movement starts achieving its goals of equal rights, and it’s very possible the voice leading that charge could be transgendered.” — Harry Livesay, of a different wing of the same organization in response to Mario.

The two quotes above at first glance a non sequitur on an article about the upcoming International Transgender Day of Remembrance. It’ll be explained more later in this entry.

For now, the ninth DOR celebration (tenth if you count the initial ones in San Francisco and Boston) is upon us tomorrow night, November 20. The first ones in Boston and San Francisco were an initial response to a tragedy within the transgender community – again in a tragedy-overflowing community in seemingly liberal Boston, MA. Some of the highest profile murders, indeed both of the murders determining the initial and subsequent date of Day of Remembrance were both Boston-area transgender hate murders.

After the commencement memorial, cities across the nation began observing Day of Remembrance the following year – cities like New York, Philadelphia, Columbus, Atlanta and Houston. Many of these cities were locales that had their own ignominy as being cities with inordinate numbers or high profile cases of bias-based murders on trans people.

Today, cities across the globe observe the now international Transgender Day of Remembrance. Many localities even have more than one observance in different locations. One such locale is Washington DC, where the transgender community will be meeting with Earline Budd and Us Helping Us in Washington’s near southeast side, and another coordinated by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) at their headquarters in trendy DuPont Circle. Last year, Mara Keisling and Dana Beyer of NCTE helped them coordinate their event, though it’s unknown if they will attend this year.

I reside in the latter of those first cities involved in DOR after going national: Houston. Our only awareness of hate victims has been in recent years. But of all cities involved in DOR, Houston alone has had at least one if not two victims in every DOR except for two. Some cities have had more in one year – Rio De Janeiro and Washington DC both had four in one year. But none have had the notorious consistency of Houston – something that continues to bedevil us.

We’re also a city whose homegrown state senator was the author of the nationally noted James Byrd Hate Crimes Bill passed in 2001. It’s a bill that has no coverage for transgenders. It seems that presidential aspirations in 1999 of our then-governor George W. Bush, and claims of subsequent usage of transgender inclusion sinking any future bill killed any hope with the author in 2001’s bill and eventual enactment into law.

Houston’s a great town to live in if you’re transgendered, with an active community and even an inordinate number of national-level activists and community leaders. But along with this we have an ever-present backdrop of violence. It was reported to me that two of Houston Transgender Unity Committee members were attacked this year, one beaten so bad that according to HTUC’s Cristan Williams her face appeared shredded afterwards. It’s sad, but not surprising. Think of an industrial, blue-collar version of Dallas with lots of smog. Or perhaps, more appropriately, a Texas version of Los Angeles: that’s Houston.

We’d like to play up Houston’s better aspects – community pride and all. Ultimately it is Texas, with all its revelry in its own mystique, and it’s underlying culture of brutality as machismo. Violence is. You live with that the same way people living next to the refineries live with the fact it will either take their lives in a spectacular catastrophe, or at least lead to a gradual shortening of their lives due to the toxicity belched forth daily.

One of this year’s victims, Bret Turner, was a crossdresser who’d moved from Houston a year earlier to what would seem more friendly environs: Madison, WI. College town, seemingly more progressive – what would seem a nice place to escape? Bret was found stabbed fourteen times in her own home in Madison – not Houston. Perhaps there is no easy escape from this problem.

Ultimately, we need to find a fix to the problem that can only come from legal protection (or a uniformly understood, codified deterrent). One disagreement I’d had with Cristan earlier about DOR was about politicizing the event – this immediately before they brought in the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) as a co-sponsor. Last year, I quietly but firmly boycotted the Transgender Day of Remembrance in my own town.

Meanwhile, HRC continues to do what it can to sponsor, and finagle its way into Transgender Day of Remembrances around the country. Why, you may ask? It’s one of the precious few things the transgender community has done for itself that has struck a chord with straight America, as well as gay and obviously transgender America. Most of the folks in straight America who have gotten this message and participated have been youth – high school and especially college youth.

And HRC, being the professional organization it is with an eye always to both fundraising and getting active volunteers to be their extra foot soldiers and help magnify their voice, sees this as a good thing. A good thing for HRC – a gay and lesbian created, fed, led and staffed organization.

Notice that there’s nothing in the above paragraph about transgender. We trans folk weren’t there to help create the HRC. We weren’t there to staff it over the vast majority of their history. We were never part of their legislative push until the last couple of congressional session. In fact we weren’t part of their mission statement until it was made clear to them that the trans community was going to demand its own voice (something they felt was out of their control and which they needed to stay ahead of). Even their mission expansion didn’t occur until 2001.

However, HRC has long known the trans community is cash-poor, intently non-opportunistic on our community issues – especially tragedies such as hate crimes – and they can’t let good opportunities go to waste! We saw this rather blatantly in 2001 with then-HRC Exec. Dir. Elizabeth Birch’s speech at a vigil for transgender hate crime victims Stephanie Thomas and Ukea Davis when she took the opportunity to use that most evocative of tragedies to push for passage of the pending Hate Crimes Bill in Congress. What wasn’t said was that Birch, HRC and others (including the majority of the trans community) were well aware of the exclusion of coverage for transgender.

To try to draw a correlation, think of a trans person pushing for passage of trans only legislation while speaking at a vigil for Matthew Shepard – a victim of an anti-gay hate crime.

Maybe individual HRC members would have no problem with that approach. “Hey, take whatever opportunity you can, and if you can cash in, even better” – or something to that effect. Somehow though, I doubt that.

Somehow I think some segment of the gay and lesbian community would take umbrage at the exploitation of their own community for the benefit of another segment that treats them as lesser beings, that perpetuates the aforementioned perceptions and that mines their tragedies as fundraising tools for much less needy organizations such as Concerned Women for America or Focus on the Family.

Which all brings me back to the quotes I prefaced this with. The first quote I withheld the last name of the first and organization of both individuals, as I did not have their permission of either of the two, much less their current contact information.

What inspired the first quote was my outrage at the beating of Matthew Shepard and my initial reaction upon reading the details. An ad-hoc list of Houston activists and leaders sprung up in the wake of the initial news of the attack in Wyoming. To the list I proposed a march on Austin to push for a Hate Crimes Bill in Texas in light of the Shepard beating a few days before his death. (This was October 1998 – three years before Texas would enact an actionable law punishing for hate crime enhancement.)

In response, there were (if memory serves) nineteen Emails in favor of the proposal and two opposed. One of those was the visceral first quote from Mario, who began his rather rambling post with the words “I hope you fall flat on your face! I hope you fail miserably. How dare you ….” It was pure invective and pain.

That, of course, drew Harry Livesay’s response (surprisingly someone affiliated with the same organization) to my defense.

I learned something from both posts actually. From Harry I learned there is hope in some circles out there, and even some who have confidence in our abilities, even allowing us a voice of our own.

Mario’s response, however, was a sudden direction-change from being a community tragedy to being one that was undeniably an attack directly on the gay community. What initially infuriated me was Mario’s snap presumption that this was my attempt to opportunistically seize upon the tragedy for my own gain. Nothing could’ve been further from the truth – no more than, say, the people who sparked the makeshift altar and vigil in the median of Montrose Blvd. after Princess Diana’s death initiated by members of Houston’s Gay and Lesbian community.

As I tend to do often, I walked away from the initial post and re-read it twice more before replying. Ultimately I decided not to respond at all. Yes, I could defend my motives and explain myself adequately – but would that necessarily change his perception? Would it instead come across as appearing defensive?

When I dug into Mario’s response, there was something more key that was overlooked. It wasn’t simply about ownership or proprietorship of a tragedy. This was a community that was at the time still struggling for acceptance in society and had just suffered the most brutal of symbolic crimes, one that needed to be vented and made public. However, it didn’t need just anyone drawing the public’s attention. It needed to be their community’s voice expressing the anguish, the pain, the outrage. It needed to be their energy leading to doing something proactive for their own.

As a transgender my organizing or leading on this issue would’ve been viewed by some as interloping or co-opting, regardless of my motives.

A few days after my comment, Matthew Shepard died in a Wyoming hospital. After his death, a natural vigil sprung forth and I volunteered to help. Indeed, I made effort not to lead but to assist, and not to take a prominent role. The vigil was beautiful, well-attended, and everything came off without a hitch.

In recent years, I wish I would’ve met Mario personally and to be able to speak with him today. One thing I’d like to point out is the coming to fruition of transgender issues. I’d also like to point out the faces and the organizations that are that are leading this charge, that are reaping the lion’s share of the press for themselves and that are even prominently noting their involvement in their transgender community events in fundraising efforts.

I’d like to ask Mario his opinion of these unfolding of events. I’d also like to point out that I haven’t similarly eviscerated these individuals or organizations for capitalizing on this sudden awareness of transgender issues. In my mind, I wonder if Mario would be interested in responding to these of his own community with such vitriol he reserved for me? Or would he be okay with such a personal double standard?

Ultimately, we all need to be our own heroes and experience our own victories. When the time comes that we suffer such heinous loss, we need to suffer our own tragedies as well with our own words and our own sentiment. The last thing any community needs – especially the neediest among us – is to have what voice we should have ripped away from us and used as a megaphone for an outside individual or organization’s grandstanding and profiteering. This not only does not help, it steals from those who already suffer.

Yes, HRC will be holding a Transgender Day of Remembrance this year, with or without NCTE, at their national headquarters. Many in the transgender community see it as a clever way for them to make more money for themselves. Meanwhile, a number of national level transgender members will be going in to Washington and observing the Day of Remembrance with Earline Budd and UHU in the gritty and tragedy-wrack southeast side of the nation’s capital.

As a post-script, I attended this year’s weekend event for the Day of Remembrance in Houston – not the one I’ll be organizing tomorrow night on City Hall steps, but the HTUC version at the Holocaust Museum. Contentious as the discussion may have been, they’ve decided it best to remove HRC as a sponsor of their event. Until the day that we in the Transgender community considered equals to HRC, may it ever remain that way. Amen.

“[Y]e whose hearts are moving with a power that ye know not, arise, wash your hands of this innocent blood! Lift your voices, chosen ones; cry aloud…” — from the Gentle Boy, Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they're wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. … Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you're letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.” — Jim Morrison of the Doors

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veterans Day Thoughts, 2007

“Throughout America's adventure in free government, such basic purposes have been to keep the peace; to foster progress in human achievement, and to enhance liberty, dignity and integrity among peoples and among nations. To strive for less would be unworthy of a free and religious people.
Any failure traceable to arrogance or our lack of comprehension or readiness to sacrifice would inflict upon us a grievous hurt, both at home and abroad.” farewell address of Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Jan. 17, 1961

“Because America can and America can’t say no.
And America does if Americas says it’s so.” — 16 Military Wives, the Decemberists

A hearty thank you to all veterans on this, Veterans Day. Today it’s a bit more poignant for me as my nephew shipped out to Iraq a week ago. Another foot soldier for the Army’s front lines, another inconspicuous soul from a small town in South Carolina, heading with pride, honor, certainly some private trepidation and the hopes and prayers of the family and girlfriend he leaves behind.

Trey (or fatboy as I used to call him in his infancy when I used to babysit him and his sister when they lived here in his birthplace, Houston) is like many in today’s young America: independent, respectful, considerate and not without his rebellious troubled spots. He’s proud of his tats. And he’s clearly in love with his fiancée. That much we got from the photos he sent along when he made a rare contact to his mom, my younger sister, informing her of his leaving.

You see, his mom lost custody many years back when he was barely approaching school age. My sister, as with many in my family tree, had – has – chronic problems with alcohol. My siblings and I lived through this with my parents; my mom and dad lived with it with one or both of their parents, and so it went probably going back as far as Manifest Destiny or before. My mom used to toss out the hackneyed “injuns and fire water are a bad mix” line. It served as warning to us, yet also demonstrated before our eyes the powerful pull the “fire water” had for us as even my mom succumbed to its draw in time.

Trey grew up with that in his early childhood years before being detached from his mother completely and immersed into his dad and step-mom’s nuclear family. It wasn’t without kinks in the road (thus the troubled teen years).

The photos we have of him show a wiry sandy-haired young man – a hopeful, outwardly brave young man with only the slightest hint of pain and fear if you look into the eyes deep enough. Others have him showing his body artwork, including a series of Chinese letters spanning the length of one forearm. Another is a more disturbing display, possibly showing some insight into his internal pain. It displays a bottle of wine or liquor (?), and from the bottle pours and splashes out a red liquid – possibly blood? I can only speculate at the symbolism of this one. The others show him and his now fiancée in what may be their final shots in their apartment before he ships out, both with the smiles and appearances of happiness – and only the slightest detectable traces of fear of the unknown ….

Yet through it all, with all the private pain and frustration life tossed him, he still managed to make it out the other end without ending up in prison, on the run or dead. He’s pulled it together to make something of his life, joined the Army, met a girl he wishes to settle down with and is entering what he hopes will be an avenue to pull out of the morass that ensnares most of the very country for whose honor and protection he fights. That morass is hopelessness and vanishing opportunity.

We live in a society where aggressive self-interest and a hoarding of wealth, resources and access to them are the only measures of success. We’ve even exported this elitist attitude to other similar elites in countries spanning the globe – even China imitates our examples. In this scenario the power-players call the shots, massage the media, influence the markets for profit-taking, and hegemonically decide who the leaders of the various nations are – and who gets taken out.

In a clever fashion, they structure it in reports to be seen as protecting their nations’ citizens. But ultimately, we’re seeing less concern for citizens than we do for the business interests actively serving in this game as well as the ulterior motives of clearing the way for the ultimate business interests to move in and set up shop, laying claim to the resources.

Sadly, it means all working under this sway become mere pawns in a larger game of real-world Stratego. The worker-level folks, the soldiers in the wargame, all the hopeful watching from the sidelines – regardless of which side – all are part of the overall game to “capture your battle flag!” as the 60’s and early 70’s era TV commercials used to blare during Saturday morning cartoon time.

Perhaps this is where most of the folks now running this real-world Stratego got their inspiration – the innocuous little board game. In my youth, I remember a couple friends on the block who frequently played Stratego and another similar war-fantasy game, Luftwaffe. Both were mostly indoor kids, odd birds and relatively frail – not like the rest of us rough-and-tumble types out playing football.

Their fixation on these games seemed vaguely ominous: the cold calculation of killing in the Cold War era or glorifying the gruesome pursuit of victory of the WWII Nazis. Sometimes I wonder if the two of them ended up with jobs in the Bush Administration or the New American Century Project … perhaps a senior-managerial level position at Halliburton or Blackwater.

To be certain, the power-connected families appreciate the service these military men and women do for them. Yet these power-connected families will never know what it’s like for the families at ground level as they rarely ever worry about their own children being part of the sacrifices made. As super-hawk Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) blithely replied when asked if his children are in the military: "my sons are showing support for our nation … helping to get me elected, because they think I'd be a great president."

That’s the difference between “sacrifice” and sacrifice.

While the power-players play their Stratego with global geopolitics, we in all countries around the world now have concerns for safety and sanctity within our own borders. The byproduct of such displacement and upheaval is the ripples that emanate out from it afterward. Violence and terrorism are real, and unfortunately not abating but spreading.

As a result of geopolitical uncertainty, we have more need than ever for the very military that many of us wish we didn’t have to resort to.

The folks back home at the ground level know the difference between “sacrifice” and sacrifice, and hopefully will see the safe return of their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, parents or grandparents or siblings. And certainly the soldiers themselves wish for the same, and then some! Perhaps they hope for some humanity from the leaders who send them forth to the jobs they’re tasked with; some sincere recognition of what they’re doing for the good of the country and for those real windfall winners in the game of geopolitics and self-opportunism.

Let’s give a sincere “thank you” to those who’ve fought before in all wars, as well as those who fight today. They really deserve a lot more than we give them for the harrowing jobs they do and the sacrifices they make for us. They have someone here back home who care and worry for their safety as they undertake this most mortal job of all. They’re real people. People like “fatboy” Trey.

Hopefully, they can come home to a world where a dream for a better tomorrow for themselves is real, and not just back home to the usual dead ends and absence of opportunity.

“Seventeen company men,
Out of which only twelve will make it back again.
Sergeant sends a letter to five
Milit’ry wives as tears drip down from ten little eyes.” 16 Military Wives, the Decemberists

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” farewell address of Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Duplicity By Any Other Name Would Smell As Foul

“My oh my, you sure know how to arrange things.
You set it up so well, so carefully.
Ain’t it funny how your new life didn’t change things?
You’re still the same old girl you used to be.” — Lyin’ Eyes, the Eagles

Duplicity is duplicity, no matter how you slice (or parse) it. Or as we like to say in these parts (the parts being South Texas): “you can’t polish a turd.”

We’ve had plenty of duplicity to kick off the 21st Century – well beyond our share! It didn’t originate post-millennium, but it’s certainly found welcome environs here these days. Lord knows we’ve had more than our fill from the Bush Administration. The Democrats pledged to be the party of change with their ushering in a year ago – and now status quo seems to be the battle cry amongst Congressional majority on the Hill.

Even in GLBT politics we’ve dealt with it blatantly. Numerous folks have pointed out any number of Mara Keisling’s promises vs. the actions that later belie them. Even Matt Foreman repented post SONDA (Sexual Orientation Non Discrimination Act) in New York state, and promised of trans non-discrimination being the next priority #1 (nope, gay marriage) and then only supporting inclusive legislative language thereafter until Henry Waxman’s FEPA (Fed. Employment Protection Act) came along in 2004.

However, all of the above wrapped together would find serious competition in the duplicity game with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Those of us in the Transgender Community may well remember the HRC board of directors’ vote in Aug. 2004 to support only inclusive language in the Employment Non Discrimination. It was ballyhooed widely as a watershed moment in GLBT history.

When word started leaking early this year about yet another push by HRC to equivocate on this board mandated “unequivocal” support, those of us who dared utter it were called “crazy” and written off as bitter lunatics. Later in mid September, HRC’s Exec. Dir, Joe Solmonese was a keynote speaker at the largest trans event in America and possibly the world. At the conference, he was video transcripted as saying he and his organization not only would settle for nothing less than an inclusive ENDA, they would also “oppose a non-inclusive” ENDA. It was quite the coup, triumphantly served on a silver platter to an organization long beleaguered by the transgender community.

Yet in late September, less than two weeks after the HRC triumph at SCC, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) pulled a bait-and-switch with existing legislation on ENDA (HR 2015), and did a quick-change – replacing the previously inclusive ENDA language with sexual orientation only language (HR 3685).

Instantaneously virtually every GLBT group seized upon the travesty, circulated a letter to Congress signed by virtually every organization and formed an ad-hoc coalition. Every organization … save for HRC.

To control the damage, HRC did explain their situation via the media. Later they began visiting key states and locales to shore up support and to quell the rancor of those supporting transgender-inclusive legislation – as well as whatever transgender stragglers they could still rope in to hear them out.

In Philadelphia, they visited with the leadership of the statewide GLBT group SPARC (Statewide Pennsylvania Rights Coalition) and others to elaborate on the HRC approach to ENDA. SPARC was a bit harder of a sale for HRC than they initially figured, and expressed great concern with HRC’s lack of signing on to the coalition and how that translated into perceived non-support of transgender inclusion.

Even though it’s long, I post the letter in its entirety to the claims of being selective and attempting to skew the intent of the letter by taking things out of context. Exhibit #1 from HRC below:

From: Joe Solmonese
Date: Oct 4, 2007 3:18 PM
Subject: My response to your letter

Dear Philadelphia Allies:

The following letter has two purposes: first, to encourage you to discuss ENDA with me, and second, to put to rest the inaccuracies and misperceptions contained in your letter dated Wednesday, October 3.

When I read your letter, it became clear to me that you are not familiar with the events that took place following leadership's decision to pursue its two-bill strategy, nor confident in HRC's good will in responding to them. We need to address that, and the best way to do so is not through heated rhetoric but person-to-person conversation. As such, I propose that we have a conference call on Monday, October 8th to discuss what has happened, what HRC is doing now, and the path that we see going forward.

I hope, however, that in the meantime you will read this letter in the interest of clearing the air about matters that are obviously of great importance to all of us. I will provide greater details below, but the bottom line is this: turning our backs on our relationships with Congress is not an acceptable strategy for HRC. It would completely incapacitate us in the fight for an inclusive bill. Everything that has transpired in the past week, and everything that we will do going forward, reflects this basic understanding: if we remain outside of the legislative process, we have no hope of influencing it.

In your letter, you state that the Human Rights Campaign did not oppose leadership's decision and reaffirm our support for the entire community. That is simply not true. HRC stated unequivocally that (a) we only support transgender-inclusive employment bills; and (b) that we did not support the removal of gender identity from ENDA.

I would also like to clear the air regarding HRC's work with LCCR to respond to the two-bill strategy. When the announcement about the bill being dropped came to us, HRC immediately went to congressional offices in order to persuade leaders to change course. While many other groups were issuing formal statements on what they apparently believed was a foregone conclusion, we were knocking on every door we could, stating our commitment to an inclusive bill and doing what we could to change the course on which leadership had embarked. At a late afternoon meeting on Friday, September 28th, LCCR asked HRC to join with them in requesting the markup be canceled and on Saturday, September 29, it became clear that we would be unable to move the Speaker or Representative Frank off of their two-bill strategy.

Therefore on Saturday, HRC drafted a letter that was circulated to the coalition and sent to the Hill on Monday October 1st. HRC was key to securing the delay in the markup. Now the ENDA coalition – including HRC—is lobbying the target members, both on the Hill and with in-district grassroots work, to support a fully-inclusive bill.

It seems that the most controversial issue here is our board's position on H.R. 3685, the stripped-down bill that Rep. Frank introduced last week. We will neither support the bill nor ask members to vote against it. Let me be clear: this does not amount to approving of a non-inclusive bill; it does not set up a situation where a non-inclusive bill will pass without gender identity, and it most certainly does not give Congress a "pass." I will explain in detail below.

First, we do not "support" the non-inclusive bill. HRC is not lobbying in favor of H.R. 3685. We have not mobilized our members in support of it, nor expended resources to secure a vote on it. HRC cannot throw our resources behind it, because it leaves transgender people behind. Plain and simple.

A likely outcome would be a negative vote about gender identity. We have been told in no uncertain terms that, a motion to recommit stripping gender identity would easily pass, meaning that members of Congress would be on record opposing transgender equality. Worse yet, leadership informed us that this motion to recommit could be even more vile and degrading to transgender people, excluding jobs involving contact with children. Sadly, such a motion was also likely to pass. Think of it—Congress formally declaring, even in the context of a civil rights bill, that members of our community are unfit to work around children. Despicable, but a realistic problem. Rightly or wrongly, our congressional allies—and make no mistake, they are allies— decided to deny anti-GLBT leaders the chance to do this damage.

Anger at this course of events is understandable. We are angry too, but there is no course of logic that can lead one to the conclusion that HRC is the problem. This is not the position that we wanted to be in. The fact is, this is where we are in October 2007—many votes shy of our goal.

As a result, the 110th Congress will be about education. We will work to secure approximately 40 additional votes needed to pass the bill we want: one that covers the whole community. We participate in the hearings on transgender equality that Rep. Frank has promised to hold. Rather than being outsiders to this process, we will have a voice in favor of equality, and make sure that GLBT-rights advocates are at the table when those hearings are planned. And of course we will redouble our efforts with employers, whom we've persuaded not only to adopt inclusive policies, but also to formally support an inclusive ENDA. Without them, getting as far as we have thus far would not have been possible.

As I have stated previously, we have ramped up our lobby presence on the Hill, helped coordinate broad coalition efforts, and deployed our field team to more than 40 key congressional districts to mobilize unprecedented support for an inclusive ENDA. We secured the active support of corporate America, with more than 50 major companies joining our Business Coalition for Workplace Fairness. Our Religion and Faith Program was instrumental as well, giving voice to thousands of faith leaders across the country. We secured supportive editorials from a record number of newspapers, and with your help we generated hundreds of thousands of constituent contacts to members of Congress, through emails, phone calls, postcards, and thousands of hand-written letters. We acknowledge that there is further to go and we have not let up in that fight.

Our community can work with the people who want to help us, or we can walk out on them. We can fight to move the ball from where it is, or simply go home. HRC chose the former course. In a community facing such fierce opposition from the outside, it is disheartening to see blame and anger hurled at the people on our own side. I know in my heart that HRC's course of action not only supports the goal of transgender equality, but is the best and most expedient way to promote it.

The fact is, our position and our actions have remained consistent throughout this process. We resolved only to support passage of an inclusive bill. We remain resolved to pass only an inclusive bill. And we remain resolved to stay in the legislative process, making it both possible and necessary for Congress to do the right thing. By staying at the table, we will prevent precisely what concerns you—that they take the easier course and leave transgender people behind.

I think that further dialogue would be useful, and I invite you once again to join me on a conference call.

Joe Solmonese

This is doubtless the same message they’re putting forth at their HRC Town Hall blitzkrieg across the nation, seeking to soothe our allies, and rope in any transgendered Barnum Babies they can locate. It’s all a wonderfully deft bit of marketing. It’s just too damn bad the sales pitch isn’t consistent with the service.

Next is the latest letter to regarding Barney Frank’s ENDA bill (HR.3685) asking for support from Congress. Take special note of the wording, and then read the signatories onto the letter at the bottom. Before anyone defends it, HRC was fully aware of the letter’s text before it went out. This is not yet another coincidental case of benign ignorance. Below, Exhibit #2:

A footnote of the two contacts offered forth by LCCR at the end of the letter: Nancy Zirkin was formerly of American Assn. of University Women (AAUW), and was a reliably staunch ally of the old-line HRC approach to non-inclusion of transgenders. Rob Randhava was formerly an out staffer in Rep. Barney Frank’s office, one whom both Monica Roberts and I myself visited with back during NTAC’s Lobby Days in 2001. Six years ago, his stance was quite coincidentally the spitting image of the very same legislative strategy being pursued by Frank, HRC, et. al. in 2007.

November 6, 2007

Dear Representative:

We, the undersigned organizations, write to express our support for H.R. 3685, the "Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2007" (ENDA). ENDA would prevent most employers from firing, refusing to hire, or denying a promotion to any worker on the basis of sexual orientation. In doing so, this legislation represents a major step forward in the advancement of civil rights protections for all Americans, and would bring federal law closer in line with highly-successful policies that already exist in a number of states and corporate environments.

Arriving at a position in support of H.R. 3685 has been extraordinarily difficult for our organizations. As you may know, earlier this year, Congress introduced - with our enthusiastic support - H.R. 2015, a bill that would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of not only sexual orientation, but also gender identity. Out of concern that Congress as a whole may not yet have the political will to pass the fully-inclusive version of ENDA, the House leadership reluctantly decided to pursue a narrower bill, one that would advance protections for gay, lesbian, and bisexual employees, but would not include employees whose gender identity leaves them especially vulnerable to employment discrimination.

We continue to believe that H.R. 2015 is a far better approach. While it is beyond dispute that H.R. 3685 would improve protections for employees who might otherwise face unjust discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, it is also beyond dispute that transgender employees are particularly in need of those protections. They face far more pervasive and severe bias in the workplace and society as a whole. While transgender employees may in some cases be protected under Title VII, they otherwise have little relief under existing state laws, municipal ordinances, or private employment policies.

As civil rights organizations, however, we are no strangers to painful compromise in the quest for equal protection of the law for all Americans. From the Civil Rights Act of 1957 through the almost-passed District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2007, legislative progress in the area of civil and human rights has almost always been incremental in nature. With each significant step toward progress, the civil rights community has also faced difficult and sometimes even agonizing tradeoffs. We have always recognized, however, that each legislative breakthrough has paved the way for additional progress in the future. With respect to ENDA, we take the same view.

While we are greatly disappointed that the current version of ENDA is not fully-inclusive, our sense of frustration in this case is directed at those who would clearly prefer to see no one from the gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender community protected at all. We know the decision to pursue a narrower strategy was a very difficult one, and we appreciate the steadfast efforts of our Congressional allies over the years to advance the rights of all Americans - even when they are forced at times to make progress that is measured by inches rather than yards.

As such, we urge you to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and to oppose any floor amendments or motions that would undermine its protections. If you have any questions, or need any further information please feel free to contact LCCR Vice President and Director of Public Policy Nancy Zirkin at (202) 263-2880 or Rob Randhava, LCCR Counsel, at 202-466-6058. Thank you for your consideration of our views.


American Federation of State, County, Municipal Employees
Human Rights Campaign
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
National Education Association
National Employment Lawyers Association
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Interesting that the same HRC that supports the sentiment of being no “stranger” to painful compromise is the same one that reaffirmed their resolve “to pass only an inclusive bill” a scant month earlier. Not only are they now supporting the non-inclusive bill for the record, they will also ask for no amendments or motions as well. How consistent is that? “Do not support the non-inclusive bill” to “urge you to support” and “oppose any … amendments or motions.”

Folks, when you say one thing with such passionate conviction, then turn around and defy that with your own actions to the contrary, it’s duplicity. Intently misleading. Deception. Lies.

This exercise shows how stupid we in the transgender community are perceived to be. They say there’s no fool like an old fool, and we’ve been fooled quite a bit over the decades. So we’re nothing but a bunch of tranny dummies, eh?

Well, even dumb animals can pick up on patterns.

And these are pretty consistent, and pretty damn blatant patterns.

“Your smile is a thin disguise.
Thought by now you’d realize

There ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes.” — Lyin’ Eyes, the Eagles

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Punishing Friends Over Equality That's Unequal

“In politics it is necessary either to betray one's country or the electorate. I prefer to betray the electorate.” — Charles De Gaulle, former French President from 1959-1969

DeGaulle’s quote above did provide a glimpse of the paradox of politics. It also shows what “friends” we have in Congress, and how far that really extends. They find the job of providing real solutions to pressing problems as too taxing. As the French President also quipped, “how can you govern a country that has 246 kinds of cheese?” It's an apt metaphor for what we're going through in Democratic politics at the moment.

So opting for the path of least resistance or the most self-expediency (preferably both) is always the easy choice. It’s also why we find America in the predicament we’re in today, with pressing problems of all stripe, and no one willing to do the task of solving them.

On the recent Employment Non Discrimination Act, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) put out a press blurb, which pointedly accused those in the GLBT community decrying lack of equality for all in the current legislation as exploiting "a chance to cry betrayal at your friends."

In the article from Boston’s Bay Windows, author Ethan Jacobs pulled this quote from ol’ Barn’: "I'm talking about an attitude that says we want this and we are indifferent to how to get it. We will demand that you give it to us, and if you don't give it to us we will punish our friends.”

We’re the one’s punishing our friends? By noticing and speaking up when we’re treated as unequal humans, when we’re considered not even good enough for the same protections that Barney and his community wish to enjoy, we’re “punishing them”? Interesting concept. And those who write legislation that betrays equal treatment, and who leaves other segments of the population out … why, that’s being friends!

After all, that’s what friends do, right?!?

So say, if in the future, the trans community wishes to get marriage rights, then we should remember how to be true “friends” and get ours first and let the gay and lesbian community get theirs in their own due time? Follow Barney Frank and HRC’s precedent? Why, the gay and lesbian community will understand, and certainly wouldn’t punish their friends for that, now would they? In fact, they wouldn’t even notice it – much less bring it up, right Barney?

Excuse me while I barf!

Whew … sorry … this whole country has gone so topsy-turvy, inside out and spun so tornadically out of control that I lost my lunch! Careful where you step! So let me shake the dizziness out of my head here: anyone who points out unequal treatment is a punisher! And only friends write laws where inequality is to be cherished! And this is coming from those arch-conservative … Democratic leaders?

And I suppose the bleeding heart liberal Republican groups like Concerned Women for America will agree with the majority of the GLBT groups and oppose Barney’s bill. Guess what!?! It’s true. Oh God, talk about strange bedfellows! [cue the Tubes’ “Don’t Touch Me There.”]

Furthermore, Barney Frank added that, “this is what’s troubling me about this burst of activity now: Where was the lobbying for transgender inclusion when in December Nancy Pelosi announced we were going to do it and we knew we had this fight?"

Well, I know why the the majority of organized trans members from around the country were not there "in December." It was right before the newly elected Congress was seated! Lots of folks were about to be out of office on the GOP side, and the new Dems weren't even there yet! Why would we travel all the way up to Capitol Hill then for what was certainly a lame duck Congress? Didn’t consider that, did ya Barn’?

As for why the organizations that reside in Washington were not there ... well, that’s not a question NTAC or any of the non-DC organizations can answer.

However, it is a good question -- where was HRC in their pre-abandonment, still-a-hero days? They always advertise being the largest “gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender organization” in the nation. Of course, we all know about advertising and caveat emptor. Trans is so insignificant to HRC that we very easily get lost in the muddle – kinda like some beer-soaked, pot-bellied slob who isn’t aware of where his shih-tzu went until he peels himself off the couch to realize he’s been sitting on her the whole time.

For that matter, where was NGLTF in their newfound role of national lobbying group? They’ve always been very good with being vocal proponents of inclusive legislation – a perfect foil to HRC – throughout the past decade plus. They even have a transgender legal policy person on staff, Lisa Mottet, and Dave Noble as their newly-hired lobbyist. Why were they out of the loop?

More to the point, where was Mara Keisling? Her transgender organization’s been there for 4½ years now: more than enough time to get some roots and develop some contacts up on the Hill. In fact, she’s long-touted the great relationship she has with Rep. Barney Frank himself. It seemed incredulous, but this writer’s actually watched them interact friendly. They’re quite the couple. So much for being the Washington insider, huh? One wonders why NTCE wasn’t part of the good-friend-and-hero Barney Frank’s advocacy effort back in December?

Maybe Barney in his “still-a-hero” days decided to keep it secret from all the above organizations. If so, why be so clandestine? Perhaps ol’ Barn’ didn’t give a flying fig how much of a hero he was touted as in the Trans community. Maybe he really didn’t like Mara Keisling after all, and was simply being two-faced. Or maybe, some of the other groups on the Hill were aware in the early stages of this effort.

One slight problem: HRC seemed to be pretty on top of the game, and was johnny-on-the-spot even back in Feb. when they were lobbying offices. Both of my Hill staff contacts noted their “equivocating” approach to this inclusive legislation being conceived.

Fast forwarding to the current, they still remain johnny-on-the-spot and fully the insider with Barney and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, et. al. Say? Wasn’t Mara Keisling long advertising that we needed a transgendered “Washington insider?” Thus was the need to work “collaboratively” with HRC – to keep in those good graces.

One wonders what happened to HRC’s "collaboration" in kind with trans groups (or at least their trans-leader designee Mara Keisling)? After all of HRC and Mara’s tag-team efforts to build up their PR image to the trans community and beyond, and to lambaste the contrarians as negative naysayers, why would HRC do such a 180 now?

As the Queerty Blog recently opined, “HRC achieved [founder] Steve Endean’s ultimate goal: to become a powerful, politically active non-profit championing for gay rights. And, along the way, they fell into the old civil society trap. They’ve garnered unseen, unprecedented and unelected political power. They can use it as they wish, but only within the limits of preexisting institutions.

“HRC’s as big a part of the system as Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi.

“Joe Solmonese and HRC’s actions over the past few weeks have been politics. Pure and simple. Yes, we can criticize what we see as an immoral compromise, but the group’s ultimately impotent. There’s no way to severe [sic] the ties between HRC and its political allies [In Congress]”

Actually, I believe Queerty nailed it on the head. Politics is not the solution – it’s the problem. My God, did that come out of me? Was Ronald Reagan right (besides being far right)?

Well, there are political solutions for those with the money substantial enough to pay the piper. That’s why Gay & Lesbian rights are at the fore right now. They have the money and power and the media momentum going for them. They’re the next non-needy group to be endowed with officially-sanctioned protections they barely even recognize, much less need any more. That’s the way politics works: rights are for those who aren’t desperate for them.

Why do you think the wealthiest get the lion’s share of tax breaks, or no bid contracts, or other special considerations? They don’t need them. They just casually want them. That’s also why the working class and the impoverished will never have them – we’re in need of them. Nothing like pretzel logic, eh? Give to the wealthy -- keep the needy bereft.

But cheer up you cash-poor, under and unemployed trannies! Since you’re not desperate for them, you’ll be the first to be extended marriage rights! That’s how politics works. Caveat emptor!

Political solutions are officially dead. Time to do the funeral procession, plant the corpse and then move on ….

“Me, I'm a part of your circle of friends
and We notice you don't come around
Me, I think it all depends
on You touching ground with us.
But, I quit.
I give up.
Nothing's good enough for anybody else …
It seems.” — Circle, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

His Own Private Idaho: Senator Larry and the Pecking Order of Queerness vs. Straightness

“You’re living in your own Private Idaho …
Underground like a Wild Potato …
It leads you straight,
Right through the gate.” — Private Idaho, the B-52’s

It was painful to watch the Matt Lauer interview with Sen. Larry Craig on ABC’s Tuesday Night interview. Why they would allow a show to watch a man struggle mightily with his guilt on national TV escapes me. Perhaps the GOP couldn’t stop him – or maybe they decided this would help clear one of their many black marks over the recent years for the upcoming election season. Either way, it was like watching Dick Cheney wax about all the WMD’s and nuclear weapons that are still stashed by Saddam somewhere there in Iraq from somewhere around the time Hussein contracted all the hijackers to fly into the World Trade Towers. Yeah ....

When scrambling to defend ourselves we can cover most things we wish to hide, but there are almost always little telling clues that betray the ones trying to obfuscate truth. Both Craigs were well disciplined in their answers and facial reactions. Watching his wife’s expression during the answering process while speaking to Lauer, and then watching her expression while sharply looking over her husband’s answer was a bit of a giveaway. You could palpably feel the a) Love, b) Desperation, c) Anger!

Mrs. Craig’s trying hard to do the dutiful “stand-by-your-man” routine that now Sen. Hillary Clinton did as first lady to then Pres. Bill Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal. It’s ironic that it was Craig's husband doing the less-than-charitable piling on during that affair with his now infamous “It’s a bad boy, Bill Clinton … in fact, a nasty bad boy” comment.

Of course, Bill Clinton’s multiple sexual impropriety claims were always coming from the behest of rather partisan individuals, either directly or via bankrolling. With Sen. Larry, he was outed by none other than Roll Call, a not-so-liberal publication that acts as a non-partisan newspaper for Capitol Hill – not the New York Times, or the L. A. Times, or even the Idaho Statesman. Rats! That takes the punch out of the liberal media witch hunt claims!

“Don't let the chlorine in your eyes
blind you to the awful surprise
that's waitin' for you.” — Private Idaho, the B-52’s

It was oddly amusing to note how the good senator from Potato-land now sees the condemnable actions of cops who “profile” and how easily innocents can get swept up into this (ahem) dragnet. Perhaps good news for all the longhairs, the blacks or Latinos who’ve been pulled over and searched for drugs or unlicensed weapons – a good conservative senator sees their injustice of how they’ve been railroaded as was he! You can also bet good Sen. Larry will seek a cessation of the profiling of guys ‘cruising the men’s rooms or other gay hot spots’ for possible sex simply because they’re fitting a profile. Criminy, all those men in the bathhouses weren’t sexually insatiable and immoral – they’re just poor men looking for a place to take a bath! Isn’t bathing a natural and hygienically admirable thing? Cleanliness is next to godliness, so they say.

One damnable part of the entire public interview was when Sen. Larry decided that after his guilty plea, he demanded a do-over “to the extent that all Americans” would want to defend themselves. When does the rest of America get a do-over upon their guilt pleas? Maybe those “profiled” hippies, ethnic minorities, hookers and gay men can use his precedent to reclaim their clean records – or not. Or maybe we can all just get together and agree that rich folk, especially politically-connected and most especially if they’re conservative, connected, rich folk, have a standard of law that’s very special and one we can all envy (but in all likelihood, never enjoy ourselves).

Hey! Why have one standard when you can afford two? One for everyone else, and a special one just for you! Capital idea!

The second, and most damnable part was Craig’s explanation that he should’ve fought the charges and that (as Matt Lauer supposedly was to understand) Sen. Larry Craig is “a fighter.” As Lauer himself pointed out from earlier in the interview per Sen. Larry’s own words, he initially pleaded guilty, went to work, told neither his attorney, nor his staff or colleagues, nor even his own wife and family in hopes that he could avoid this hitting the media. Does that sound like “a fighter”? If he was such a “fighter”, why even admit guilt in the first place, rather than the typical Republican approach (a la Tom DeLay, George W. Bush, Richard Nixon, et. al.) of denying it to his final breath. So what if your hand is photographed in the cookie jar? Denial to the point of deceit is good in conservative values – admitting guilt is defeat and shows poor resolve (no matter how true it may be.) You never lose until you admit it.

“Get out of the state! Get out of the state you’re in!
Walkin' through the gate that leads you down,
down to a pool fraught with danger:
It’s a pool full of strangers.” — Private Idaho, the B-52’s

What came through loudly and clearly was the order of things. There’s an obvious pecking order of being queer. There are shades of queerness to straightness along a continuum, with the higher-echelons always looking down upon and disparaging those beneath. Just as the transgender community found the last few weeks how gay and lesbian community (at least the straight-acting portion) still consider trannies trash. They look down on dykes, fems, leather boys and bears too, so we shouldn't feel alone.

But even the Disco gay set is held at arms’ length by the more denial-oriented gays a la Andrew Sullivan, Matt Drudge, the khaki pseudo-straight gays and lesbians and closeted politicos a la Rep. David Dreier or former Rep. Mark Foley, for whom “outness” is anathema. Indeed, in conservative circles, outing is a career-ender.

Then you have the straight folks who at times sidle up to the straighter of the G&L folks, but damn near stampede themselves to death when someone in their party is scandalized by being labeled “gay.” Then you have the hyper-straights who look disparagingly upon the straights who occasionally sort of “understand” gay colleagues, and create a buffer between their sanctimony-by-example lives and those of their “welcoming, tolerant” set. In hyper-straight America, God is always unforgiving. That welcoming-and-understanding garbage was spewed by some hippie kid of His, the liberal! Who’s gonna listen to that kid when they can follow Paul instead?

Everyone tries to be top-of-the-heap in order to look down on the others. It makes them feel big. Is this what it’s all about: success is the ability to look down upon all the others (or as many as possible)?

Sometimes just being you is liberating beyond belief. It makes me sad for Sen. Larry that he’s cut himself off from ever knowing this feeling (at least with any credibility left intact). It reminds me of the sexuality rumors that flew for so long about a local weatherman in Houston, Frank Billingsley. Even the gay community (desperately seeking heroes or validation) was pushing him out of the closet – one that Billingsley fought. Eventually, he settled down and let it gradually seep out. Meanwhile his weather forecasting and reporting style was also reaping him kudos, even among those who once salaciously awaited his public outing with a hangman’s baited breath.

In the end, Frank became simply a good weatherman, everyone was pleased with his job, and folks basically moved on to other topics beside his personal life. The sexuality controversy faded into a complete non-issue. It became that way for many gays and lesbians over the past decade or so – once discovered or outed, as long as they weren’t in religiopolitical or conservative environs, their talent, their output, their surpassing the obstacles became what they were known about. We’re in the very seminal stages of that in the Transgender Community as well.

Ultimately, all these folks needed was a chance to prove themselves. Sadly, for many like Sen. Larry – conservative, but also gay – they will never have that opportunity to prove themselves in this lifetime without being self-loathing and denouncing their own lifestyle. Even as we speak, the GOP folks have circled their wagons, and Sen. Larry is not on the inside of that circle. He’ll be left out to the wolves.

Who knows what Sen. Larry could’ve done if he’d just been allowed to be himself, free from prejudice and judgment. But then again, we live in America. What were we expecting: humanitarian compassion?

“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.” — from the play ‘Hamlet’ by William Shakespeare