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 fa├žade 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