Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Translating Solmonese Into Laymen’s Terminology

On the day I was reminiscing about the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., an article came out from an old acquaintance, Eric Resnick of Cleveland’s Gay People’s Chronicle (http://www.gaypeopleschronicle.com/stories08/april/0404082.htm). In an article entitled “Solmonese: HRC may let TGs be dropped from ENDA again” he detailed an interview with the current ED of HRC, Joe Solmonese.

Eric’s one of the good guys. He helped NTAC get the trans issues out in the fore back in the early days at the beginning of the millennium. Once seeing the byline, I knew he wasn’t going to be doing a puff-piece.

Needless to say, none of it was inconsistent, and I’ve got to hand it to Joe on one thing: he didn’t outright lie. There are some things that are “restrained,” if you will. He went back to allowing the “plausible deniability” – that’s wiggle room in laymen’s terms. Joe also lays some steaming cow-pies as well, but they are his real opinion and he doesn’t care how much he pisses off and alienates trans folks. For even the overly-forgiving-to-a-self-destructive-fault trans folks, there’s enough here to spell it out for you even without having to read between the lines. Thanks to Eric for getting this out to the public.

When queried by Resnick if HRC was going to support ENDA this coming session, Solmonese responded.

"It depends on who the president is and their intentions." … He added that it is unclear if 48 questionable votes on the matter can be counted on to favor transgender inclusion after the November election.

"In 2009, [transgender inclusion] depends on the degree we move those votes and who the president is," Solmonese said.

Note how easily the blame slides over to being Congress and the next president’s fault?

One thing that wasn’t pointed out was HRC’s threat to congress critters immediately before the vote in the House, where it was made clear that any vote against the gay-only bill on principle of full inclusion for gender identity was going to be noted on HRC’s all-important congressional report card (from an alleged GLBT group). Oh by the way, it’s election season too! One wonders whether the number of legislators who supported a fully inclusive bill, but switched to the stripped-down, gay-only version to keep their perfect score would be gun-shy about taking a principled stand in the future.

Has HRC helped dissuade future support for trans inclusion in ENDA? And will the trans community be surprised when even fewer legislators decide to support us next session thanks to HRC’s “efforts to educate” congress? Of course, they hold the cards: they are the staff, they have the money, they commandeer the press and they set the agenda … and we’re pretty much S.O.L.

Later Resnick noted:

In late September, Solmonese told 900 transgender people at the Southern Comfort convention in Atlanta, "We try to walk within line in terms of keeping everything in play and making sure that we move forward, but always being clear that we absolutely do not support, in fact, oppose any legislation that is not absolutely inclusive, and we have sent that message loud and clear to the Hill."

A few days later, the transgender inclusive bill was switched to one that isn't, with HRC's blessing, to avoid a possible Republican parliamentary move to send the transgender part back to committee. Donna Rose, the only transgender HRC board member, resigned over it.

In an open letter, Rose wrote, "The relationship between HRC and the transgender community is one scarred by betrayal, distrust, and anger.…"

To which:

Solmonese said last weekend that the belief that HRC would only support a transgender-inclusive bill was "widely understood."

Well, it was widely understood per HRC’s ED … except that HRC didn’t seem to understand it. The only folks who “understood” it so widely were the folks they successfully duped in Trans World. Somehow, they forgot to lobby congress critters with that same “understanding.” They were reporting on this even in the previous congressional session, and much more urgently in this session. And those of us who were listening to our Hill staffers instead of HRC or their supporters back then weren’t “understanding” it either.

Bottom line: it was bullshit. HRC was lobbying with the “escape clause” for critters who were worried about losing their re-election – “we’re officially pushing this, but we understand if you have to leave “trans” out of it because there’s more education needed, and will support your decision.” This nudge-and-a-wink crapola is the same good-ol’-boyism that these same HRC folk rail about when it’s conservatives manipulating like puppeteers (like the senate ENDA vote in 1996!).

Thankfully for them, we trans people are dumber-than-a-box-of-rocks and can’t figure that one out, right? Yeah, we’re all just Barnum Babies … that’s the ticket.

[Solmonese] also agrees that what happened factionalized the community and opened old wounds.

However, he maintains that the incremental strategy is correct and should be supported.

Is anyone getting this? “The incremental strategy (gay first, trans sometime later) is correct and should be support.” No, it’s not the supposed “NTAC fiction” or hallucinations … this is reported, and directly from Joe Solmonese’s own words. If it turns out to be misinterpreted, contact the Gay People’s Chronicle.

"We have always been committed to the transgender-inclusive ENDA," Solmonese said. "The differences are in how best to get there."

Who is this “we”? HRC? That can’t be it. They haven’t been consistently committed even during Solmonese’s tenure, much less historically.

"One of the ways to unify the community is around working on going forward," Solmonese said. "There were transgender people walking the halls of Congress with us two weeks ago."

Right … lobbying the Senate, who is moving forward with the House-passed gay-only version of the bill. You don’t believe me? Google Sen. Kennedy and ENDA with 2008 and Associated press and see what you come up with. See if you find where he supports expansion of Barney Frank’s House version of ENDA.

"What will unite [the community] most is the success of doing the work to move Congress," Solmonese said.

Nice thought. HRC was told in March 2000 that trans education needed to take place immediately and by the trans community who had the experiential ability. Instead, they went the opposite direction, co-opting trans in their self-appointed conservatorship and doing the “education” on trans issues with folks who were not trans. Kinda like hiring nothing but trans people to educate on gay or lesbian issues, ya know? And why have trans people lobbying on trans issues anyway? It might conflict with what the gay and lesbian leaders’ approach to trans rights might be, and they are the experts … or so we’re told.

Solmonese said the transgender-inclusive bill was pulled because "if there would have been a motion to recommit and a vote, there would have been more of a problem with the public showing and members of the transgender community agree with that."

Really? Plurally speaking, like whom? As I recall, the community was pretty unanimously irate as there was quite a bit of controversy over the Barney Frank “whip count” that many legislators – even those on the committee considering the bill – were never polled on personally. One freshman legislator expressed surprise that it even took place as none of the other congress-critters even mentioned it, which he thought odd considering they “usually talked about” whip count votes or other significant happenings. The whip count poll was never made public, and a sudden poll by HRC materialized about the same time showing a nice round 70% of the gay and lesbian community had no issue going forward on ENDA without transgenders.

Now I’m not saying they couldn’t scare up a tranny quisling somewhere. But phrasing it that “members of the transgender community” somehow gave HRC’s suspicious view of political reality tacit approval to any extent is outright deception. Then again, it’s a clever move as he doesn’t care whether we believe it or not – just so long as he gets some of the folks out there in straight America falling for it.

"I want people to be prepared to vote on it four or five more times," Solmonese said.

"With or without transgender inclusion?" he was asked.

Solmonese said that would be too much speculation. "Can't answer until you know all the facts," he said.

For those of you trans folks still believing in the powers of faith in HRC … did you get any of that? Keep in mind its HRC’s policy to be restrained but as hopeful as possible when speaking on trans rights. Put on the good face, ya know? How hopeful does that above sound? If he’s holding back, think of the real, unadulterated, bare-knuckles version of his thoughts with the above restraint considered.

LGBT bloggers and message boards are speculating that HRC and Frank will introduce, and work to pass, a transgender-inclusive ENDA in 2009 if there are 220 votes for it. Short of that number, it will not be inclusive.

Let’s hope their speculation is right. I won’t be one of those Mr. Brightside bloggers though until my contacts on the Hill start painting the same sunny story. I think we all fell for that blind faith stuff before not very long ago – and not with very good results. Why be an “old fool” by not learning the first time(s)?

Solmonese said that HRC will endorse whichever Democrat, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, is nominated to run for the White House.

Boy, I bet Hillary loved hearing that one! She’s paid quite a price with those of us in the trans community (and the GLB and straight folks we’ve educated on the issue). After close relations and loyalty over the years, Hillary’s just another possible candidate just like Obama! Now consider how sizable a following Hillary has in the gay and lesbian community as well (something I found first-hand Obama stumping in the gay community). I’m sure they’re loving HRC’s sentiment too! They’ll endorse Sen. Al D’Amato, but not Hillary Clinton ….

Further, HRC will provide resources, money and people, as well as policy expertise to the Democratic campaign.

"LGBT issues are not the political wedge that they were in 2004," Solmonese said, but he suggested that LGBT issues will still come up and be part of the political conversation.

From the same org that pushed forward on gay and lesbian marriage in 2004, and then afterward denied it had anything to do with Dems losing the election!

Actually the scarier part for me was the first sentence noting they’ll come into the game fashionably late (or fabulously late!) and throw lots of money to make a big splashy scene. Most politicos don’t see beyond the number behind the dollar sign. I don’t know as much about Obama, and he’s not been an Edwards or Richardson-level trans supporter that I’ve seen. $wayable to HRC’s manipulation? Time will tell ... but we’re hoping he’s smarter than that.

He added that the current candidates are "a better field than the field before it."

… a quote that will sit well with Sen. John Kerry when HRC comes calling again next session.

HRC is also working on turning back "a whole range of discriminatory practices that Bush instituted," Solmonese said. The new president will be given a list of HRC priorities that can be done by executive order, without requiring an act of Congress.

Right. For all of HRC’s advertised “transgender advocacy,” how many of those “priorities” do you suppose will have any consideration of gender identity in them?

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