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

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