Sunday, June 10, 2007

So Who Feels Pride?

June 10, 2007

It’s June. Pride Month is in full swing with parades across the country and indeed the globe, and festivals and parties of all stripe heralding the one time of year when it’s hip to be gay. It’s a celebration of self, a celebration of the gains made, and a remembrance of where the catalyst symbolically began, Stonewall. New York City.

For the trans community, news came in of Jenny Bailey, the first out trans person elected mayor in Cambridge, UK. This is truly good news, and certainly a boost for trans morale in Great Britain, and an inspiration to the rest of the world.

To be sure, there have been improvements in the transgender community’s lot in the US as well. But compared to more progressive nations to our north or across the pond, we’re moving at a more glacial pace. It’s safe to say that the United States is arguably the most prudish nation in the civilized world.

America’s answer to Jenny Bailey? Susan Stanton, City Manager of Largo, Florida being forced out the minute “Steve” was outed to the city council as imminently preparing to transition to Susan. After seventeen years on the job, Largo’s authority figures decided Stanton was no longer qualified to be their city manager. Simply because of transition. Oddly enough, Largo has a non-discrimination ordinance. American progress vs. British progress: no contest. Later, when Susan went up the road to Sarasota, Florida to apply for a city manager vacancy, the attitude was “it’s just not the right time” to hire a trans city official. “No trannies in authority,” appears to be the common message.

There was a recent editorial highlighting the reluctance on behalf of the major candidates to stand firm on an all-inclusive ENDA. Chris Crain, former publisher of Window Media started off, noting John Edwards’ unequivocal support for trans, but also noting how Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hilary Clinton cunningly sidestepped any mention of trans in ENDA. He did note Obama’s previous support of trans inclusion in the 2004 campaign.

As for Sen. Clinton, it was less positive – dredging up her history on trans. Sen. Clinton is most noted in the trans community for her response to transgender inclusion in legislation – being “unaware” of any issue as “no one in the gay and lesbian community” had approached her on it. She noted in an interview in 2000 how ENDA would broaden rights, freedoms and responsibilities in her focus to try to get the bill passed. She also expressed how adding gender identity would not be “in the best interest of moving the agenda forward.”

Peter Rosenstein, in an editorial for Window Media, even went so far as to vilify organizations that were not willing to ditch trans-inclusive language from any sexual orientation inclusive bills. He called standing firm on trans-inclusion “suicidal.”

So the message is: broadening rights and responsibilities is great, but not really a good idea for trans people. And while straight America may be where we’ve received most all of the breathtaking gains trans people have achieved to date, not just Hillary, but many in straight America still take their cue from the gay and lesbian community on transgender issues.

And when you look at gay and lesbian America, well … you won’t see any prominent trans people in their fold either. They’ve been, and still are, very antsy about having trans people with any responsibility or visibility in their own environs. Whether public or not, that communicates to the outside world. It’s the elephant in the room everyone sees, but no one acknowledges: trans people are not trusted there. We most often can’t even be trusted to speak for our own issues – much less anything non-trans – nor be seen capable of choosing our own leadership without outside “assistance” or guidance.

Transgenders have never written or endorsed proposed legislation that left out gays or lesbians. To my knowledge, no trans person has lobbied against inclusion of sexual orientation in active bills. And yet we’re not seen as anything considered responsible lo these many years later. Maybe they fear we’ll be irresponsible, like … oh, say the marriage debacle during the campaign of 2004?

So how did T folk as a community become so suspect? Rhetoric alone? When you listen to the Crains, Rosensteins, or for that matter the Winnie Stachelbergs, or David Smiths, et. al, that loses plausibility. Worry about us being too trans-centric? How about these same ostensibly GLBT orgs with folks like Jeff Soref, who chaired the Task Force board, and previously chaired and was the stalwart of the passage of a trans-exclusive SONDA in New York, and then later taking chair of the GLBT caucus of the Dem. National Committee and pushing for sexual orientation only on both terms of his tenure?

No, the message from the national level folks is you can’t trust trans people in positions of authority, visibility, responsibility. That comes through loudly and clearly. And so far, straight America is mostly following suit.

Yes there’s pride to be found here in America. As for trans pride here in Pride Month? Perhaps that can best be found overseas. I’ll leave you with the quotes of Mayor Jenny Bailey’s ex-wife, pre-transition.

"I am incredibly proud of Jenny and the achievements she has made over the last few years. She is a totally selfless person who wants to help others and make a positive impact on our community. I think she will make an excellent mayor and has major contributions to make. I hope this will be the focus which people concentrate on.”

Hear, hear!