Friday, May 23, 2008

No Ms. DeGeneres, We Are Not "All The Same People"

“There is nothing so unequal as the equal treatment of unequal people.” — Thomas Jefferson

Recently California’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of allowing same-sex marriage in a landmark decision that makes it only the second state in the union to allow full marriage rights for anyone, regardless of whether they share the same gender. For many around the country in support of marriage rights for gays and lesbians, it was time to celebrate.

Of course on the flip-side, this was yet another log on the bonfire burning in religiopolitical America. They obviously will use this as a battle cry to attempt to stir some life into what’s become a dead season for Republicans in general, and specifically for Bush/Cheney neo-conservatives. While it may be “too little – too late” we would also be wise to remember history. Many thought Bush and the GOP had no chance at all in 2004. Even though John Kerry distanced himself from the sudden appearance of the issue, it didn’t matter. Fully half of Bush’s vote – 27% of those in exit polls – cited “values” as their reason for voting.

“Values” = religiopolitical church-going conservatives = queer-phobic = virulent anti-gay marriage. In an election decided by a razor-thin margin, even the tiniest nudge can produce the tipping point for the whole game.

That said, I must say I’m happy for the gay and lesbian community over a victory that’s been a dream of theirs for so many years. It’s a relatively new fight, but they’ve pulled in a major victory in a very large state. With the announcement, many in the state’s gay and lesbian community – including Ellen DeGeneres – announced their wedding plans soon after the court ruling.

Speaking of Ellen DeGeneres, she had GOP presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, on her show Thursday. For some reason, it struck me as an ill-fit on both parties’ parts. How Sen. McCain hoped to somehow hold onto his base with an appearance on DeGeneres defies logic. Maybe age is creeping in on him (or desperation).

As for Ellen, this smacked as too much pandering to Log Cabin Republicans who are far from being mainstream gay and lesbian community members. They tend to be much more surreptitiously gay, kinda like DeGeneres was for many years (as if that needed a reminder). Why pander to them in a seemingly Dem watershed year? Additionally, why feed the religiopolitical phobias on marriage by giving them more ammunition to blast us with?

“If I don’t want to keep getting shot, why give ‘em ammunition?” — Go On, The Waitresses

“I think that people should be able to enter into legal agreements, and I think that is something that we should encourage.” So said Sen. McCain on the May 22, 2008 version of Ellen. “I just believe in the unique status of marriage between man and woman.”

While McCain shot one of those mad-eyed looks, noting they had a disagreement on the issue, DeGeneres pressed forward with the issue with a classic line: “There’s this old way of thinking that we are not all the same. We are all the same people – you’re no different than I am, our love is the same.”

My immediate reaction was, “What?!?”

I’m not denying DeGeneres or the gay and lesbian community’s desires to be equal, nor the opportunity to have rights that all other Americans have. Nevertheless, even though Ellen’s comments drew whoops, hollers and applause from her supportive audience, it’s a totally unrealistic statement! The obvious answer is “no, we’re not all the same people, no different, etc.”

In real time, the “old way of thinking” is still very much in effect. I’ll agree with her concept: everything ‘should’ be fair and equitable. But “should” doesn’t equal “is,” and we live in America, home of the bait-and-switch. Before you get uptight and want to take to the streets against the usual straight, white, privileged American targets, look around your own neighborhood first. Some of those same “old ways of thinking” about others flourish in environs where they themselves felt the sting of those prejudiced ‘old ways thinking.’

Something I’d love to see is the expression on Ms. DeGeneres’ face when she asks her heroes at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) or the most venerable gay political figure in the country, Rep. Barney Frank, whether they believe we are all the same people, no different than she or HRC or Barney are. Let's hear them pontificate on transgenders and incrementalism, or why trans people, lo these many years later, are still not good enough to be equally hired in even GLBT workplaces. In fact, I’d love to see her respond to this once she discovers the truth (presuming she doesn’t know the truth already).

Yes, it’s a travesty that straight, white, conservative America desires rights, opportunities and privileges that only belong to them while others should only receive varying lesser degrees of rights. But if someone fighting discrimination applies the same approach in carving a more privileged set of rights, opportunities and privileges for themself while being silently complicit in others’ being deigned an inferior set of these same qualities in their lives, you immediately undermine the foundation supporting your own claims to equivalent treatment. From disparaged to hypocrite in one easy step.

We all, no matter who we are, wish for equivalent treatment in all things. California’s GLBT, including Ms. DeGeneres, are very fortunate indeed. But Ellen shouldn’t be expecting “equal” on a national basis any time soon. It wouldn’t surprise me at all when these very same conservatives like McCain, those who won’t support or recognize Ellen’s upcoming marriage, turn these requests for being “equal” down cold.

It wouldn’t surprise me if they also use the same argument against their equality that gay and lesbian leaders like HRC or Barney Frank et. al, use against transgenders seeking the same treatment.

Wake up and smell the cow pies. We’re not equal, there are plenty of folks who like it that way and some of those who like it that way may surprise you.

"Going for marriage is like shooting for the moon. It's our hardest issue, but success would bring the greatest rewards." — Elizabeth Birch, Exec. Dir. Of Human Rights Campaign in 1998

“There are two schools of thought when it comes to passing legislation, work incrementally to get the kinds of protections or laws that you want passed - or push for the full law you want to see enacted. In my experience, incrementalism is sometimes expedient but it almost always creates a less than perfect result. Even in Massachusetts, where there is a non-discrimination law - it only protects sexual orientation. At the time it was passed, advocates said we would go back later and deal with gender identity and expression - but it was never done.” — Cheryl Jacques, former Exec. Dir. Of Human Rights Campaign in 2007 after leaving HRC.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Easy Pickin’s Protesting In The Big Easy

“When an individual is protesting society's refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him.” — Bayard Rustin, Civil Rights Movement & Gay Activist

“Well, I saw the HRC sign and I thought “what’s this about?” and had to come over here and see. I don’t like HRC either, which is why I never donate to them! I just want to say I support you – you go, girl!” That was a quote from a gay man from Lapanto, Arkansas who had just returned from a cruise with two lesbian friends from there and happened to be staying in the hotel directly across the street from the Intercontinental Hotel in New Orleans as the Human Rights Campaign banquet began Sunday afternoon.

He watched us for a while, went back to the hotel, then came down a half hour later and helped us protest HRC. He also liked some of the raunchy, loud rock – like Linkin Park – which I was blaring from my boombox.

As it turns out, the boombox music worked well. It was very ugly, angry and possibly abrasive to the ear. But it accomplished what I had wanted: drawing the attention, expressing the mood and doing it all without us saying one word. No cheers, no chants, no shouting matches with attendees – and most pointedly, no words that the HRC people will then use to blast us and justify their marginalization of us later.

It’s also distinctly trans music – not of the typical gay disco, dance, diva or even show tune fare that typically is the choice of gay and lesbian America. It’s the stuff that typically is heard blaring from the jukeboxes of what’s affectionately known as “tranny hooker” bars.

An additional bonus to the music was a surprise: we got a number of thumbs-ups and supporters who either liked the music (some of the Buffalo Soldiers contingent in town for a get together, as well as Gen X & Y types who were also enjoying!) even support from the riders on the passing trolleys. It was quite the spectacle!

“I don’t get it. Why would they do that? They’re wacked! That’s not being equal.” Such was the quote from a very polite young junior high-aged teen, replete with longish blonde hair, braces and a Bob Marley T-shirt upon hearing why we were protesting HRC. Truth told, he appeared drawn as much for the Korn song playing as our signs and protest march.

As I explained to him who we transgenders were, who HRC was, what they’ve done historically and how “equality” isn’t equal to all people, I watched his young face watching me and noted a seeming androgyny. I’ll never know if his curiosity was more than just cursory. One thing I did note was he was very diligent in his learning, was patient to listen to the entire story and even thanked me for the information.

Indeed we reached at least one youth (as well as loose gaggles of other teens and/or young adults who passed by).

And those were just two of the folks among the numerous curious who asked. Two of the MCC ministers who volunteered for the HRC banquet came out, got a full education from protesters Phyllis Austin and Kelli Busey (who rode down from Dallas). There were hugs all around and animated chat as well as some new local connections made or renewed by both local girls, Phyllis and Courtney Sharp. One of the ministers who wore his “equal sign” pin removed it!

Another older woman engaged Courtney in explaining her reasons for protesting the banquet. When Courtney explained, the woman asked “are you against transgenders?” Obviously Courtney replied to the contrary, and the woman answered “good! Because I was about to protest YOU if you were!”

Of course we had security running around monitoring us nervously, but there was one big distinction this protest: there was NO police presence! We somehow managed to get the drop on them before they had chance to react (either that or they couldn’t convince the NOPD that the handful of tranny protesters was worth expending resources and manpower on.) Oh, the menace of transgenders ….

“[T]he Gay Elite condemns them and others to death because of our obsessive need to be seen as the Morally Superior Victimized Minority.” — Tammy Bruce, columnist for FrontPageMag

Some of the most memorable items: one black, obviously gay male in a red and white striped shirt talking frantically on a cell phone walking out and giving a head count of the protesters and asking what could be done about us. It was satisfying to see the unnerving.

One of the hotel’s patrons walking by and yelling at me to “turn that shit off!” while the Geto Boys blasted “F*ck ‘Em All!” from the boombox. He clearly wasn’t into our musical choice!

One apparently conservative guy who asked me about the protest and offered support for our protest – but then asked why I was supporting transgenders: “you’re not one of them, are you?” When I assured him I was (including the part about my football days), he stood agape giving the once over a few times. He then gave me a little compliment, wished me “good luck” and walked back across the street rubbing his chin and looking like I hurt his feelings. Poor guy – at least he supported us!

And of course the banquet-goers themselves: nervous people with fast walks averting eye contact with a fixed-straight myopic stare, the cold-hearted elite glares and smug eye-rolling glances and those few who gave physical flinches at both the sign messages and the raunch music with looks of shock and, yes, a few pained expressions. It is painful, and it’s admittedly not a great thing to sate oneself with others pain.

In the case of the Human Rights Campaign, though, it’s collateral damage that has to be factored and accepted into the equation. Sadly, that’s the only option other than our giving up completely and being obliterated. Not only does HRC not care to know about trans people nor the irreparable pain they’ve inflicted, they actively engage in continuing the damage and increasing the intensity.

As with Rep. Barney Frank, HRC takes continuing pleasure in watching the havoc from the chaos they create for us with their strategies, manipulation and implementation. They delight in watching us learn to mistrust our own community by their own selective wedging operations and externally assisted classism. They practically pee their pants laughing at the disenfranchisement, unemployment, economic tragedy and vulnerability they create for us with their own empty promises.

And they will continue this pattern.

They have the money, most all the media and certainly the power: there’s nothing to stop them, and everything to gain by continuing the damage to the trans community. The only way they will learn what we’re feeling is when they have to live with the same pain, the same fear, the same desperation and to feel the effects of the same type of damage.

Money, power and attention (and increasing all three for themselves) is their only desire. Only once those have been impacted will they make “attempts” to come around – even if true reconciliation never comes.

Meanwhile, we make impact … as we did with the last inquiry: a modelesque twenty-something with her equally attractive boyfriend. She was going into the posh restaurant across the street with her beau and (after seeing our signs) felt compelled to ask us why we were protesting HRC as she had attended their banquet at the Ritz-Carlton the year before. “I’m confused. Why would you protest [HRC]?”

We enlightened her completely on “equality” as opposed to everyone being equal, to which she replied: “Well that sucks! Thank you for letting me know that!” Control that damage, HRC.

The lies, the hurt, the pain, the hate
Really keep fucking with me –
There's no where else to go.” — Korn, Embrace

Friday, May 16, 2008

Big Plans For Big Easy And The Little Equal

This will be a short blog post as I’m awaiting my riding buddy coming in from Dallas. Yes, a couple of tranny road warriors will be hitting I-10 shortly, heading east into the Big Easy to help protest the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Banquet. Who knows? Maybe we can draw out the riot squad replete with barricades and horseback crowd-control officers just like Houston?

At first I pondered whether to make a trip over to New Orleans, whose community has been decimated since Katrina and still remains mostly scattered to the four winds. Then my good friend and longtime trans activist, Courtney Sharp, sent the below advertisement for HRC’s New Orleans Entertainment Extravaganza!:

Note how their version of entertainment is having someone in the form of Bianca Del Rio caricaturize women and more particularly the image of gender transgression. Example: transgender! Yes, we trans people (who everyone in Congress and gay-elite-land knows are beyond help in the form of justice or rights) are the perfect fodder for humor for their little tete-a-tete. Yet another reminder how objectified we trans people really are in elite G&L America, and hooray for HRC for reminding us of that again!

You gotta know we’re making gains when they’re back to remembering us in caricatured form again.

Since the HRC has already written off the lion’s share of transgender activists as people to avoid and circumvent, and added a nice little character assassination to top it off, why not make it a self-fulfilling prophecy for them? Certainly when you have nothing to have ever gained, there’s nothing to lose!

More pointedly, HRC in its contemporary version really has no clue what protesters and “loose cannons” are all about. They complain about this now! These folks really have no recollection or awareness of the old days, the Act-Up days, the Stonewall days. In short order after the next congressional session (and maybe sooner), they will. It’s time to give them what they want to portray us as and what they expect – protests and acrimony, venom and voices raised to a pique.

Maybe it’s time to “give the people what they want” … so to speak.

So off to protest in the Big Easy with Kelli Busey and Courtney and the good folks hosting in New Orleans! Then time to hit the French Quarter too! (Hey, you’ve gotta have some diversion to get your mind off of the depression borne from the GLBT politic!)

Oh The Lengths To Which They Will Go

"Believe nothing against another, but on good authority; nor report what may hurt another, unless it be a greater hurt to some other to conceal it." — William Penn

Recently I’d been chatting with Helen Boyd, author of My Husband Betty, who had noted HRC wrapping up their final interviews for their “transgender employee.” At least one of the candidates is someone who should very much know better per recent events and will face certain hell over it if she’s their choice, but I digress.

The bottom line is this is just the latest iteration of HRC’s attempt to get us to deceive us. Basically it’s their long-term effort to help spread their version of being “heroes” (certainly not my term for them) to the transgender community and to spread disinformation and to discredit the transgender community leadership and its history with HRC.

In some cases it’s subtle marketing: pulling up an HRC homepage and clicking on their “transgender issues” tab where they gamely attempt to market themselves to the unknowing neophytes and the trans folk willing to fall for a slick message without drilling down to a real-life bottom line. Even their imagery is consciously marketed with a photo of transgender author, Jennifer Finney Boylan currently on their homepage, or the previous version with Mara Keisling and Dana Beyer sporting their smiling visages. They even have a link to Donna Rose telling her compelling story on being trans in the workplace.

Of course they’re all M2F (male-to-female to the uninitiated), and with intent. HRC realizes M2F’s are their greatest skeptics, and typically (though not exclusively) their loudest critics. So you put a picture of people who GLB(T) America will choose last in any pool of candidates for employment and it makes folks think, “hey, they’re not so bad!” (Word to the wise, look at their historical track record….)

Or they can be a bit less subtle and pull out all the stops, such as with Judy, mother of Matthew Shepard and her latest advertising for how ‘great’ HRC has been on all issues – even trans (which needs more “education”, in the perennial HRC mantra). She also issued a call to action for all HRC supporters to help challenge those who speak of their elitism, and to help spread a sanitized version for their posterity.

Yes, they can be shameless. They’ve even enlisted trans leaders they handpick to attempt the same image-cleansing.

There was a measure of success with that effort, especially in these past five years or so … but only until they finally displayed their true colors with ENDA last fall. Then they trashed their own cred along with their handpicked trans minions.

Basically they will stop at nothing to attain their goals and get away with it Bush/Cheney/Rove-style. They’ll even libel or slander if it helps discredit those who would uncover their underhandedness to the world. To wit:

A Houston transgender who is a local-level leader of the city’s Transgender Unity Committee, a local institution that puts on an annual banquet in the city. This longtime leader, who knows nothing of national politics or the history of trans political activism outside of the city put out a nice little smear on her website. Most of it was personal rants from the author, but a segment (which began with a bit of a glowing report of HRC) caught my eye:

HRC National Leadership: HRC has produced several TG educational products such a brochures and booklets. Their website has some great information about TGs and TG rights. They even screen employers by their nondiscrimination policy towards transgenders. When the TG community cries foul because HRC pays lobbyists to kill any legislation protecting TGs, HRC points to the above as proof of their support and characterize protesters and crazy, selfish, troublemakers... basically, HRC leadership does a great job at characterizing any TG who pickets an HRC event as ill-behaved children who need to be managed.

NTAC Leadership: Since the late 1990s, NTAC has worked to stop HRC. They picket HRC events, lobby congress members and sends out press releases. They work hard to condemn the whole of HRC for it's anti-TG efforts. ….

NTAC's strategy is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!!!!

For almost a decade, NTAC has tried the same thing over and over again. Over and over again they play right into the hands of HRC leadership by playing the part of the unruly TG. By attacking HRC as a whole and shaming HRC members, NTAC attacks the member's personal identity and sense of community. Each NTAC action inspires HRC members into being defensive. ….

Considering this is coming from a trans person who’s never been involved in anything beyond the local, you have to wonder where this particular story would come from. For the record, the webpage (recently removed for some odd reason) was put up in November of last year. At that point, NTAC had sponsored exactly one protest of an HRC banquet. One. And that protest took place in September 2007.

For me personally (who the author chose to single out along with Ethan St. Pierre regarding this HRC-bashing), at that time I had protested one HRC banquet. That was as many HRC banquets as Mara Keisling had protested as she was there with us and she’s one of HRC’s most admired trans people! Two people with similar records on HRC protests – one is unscathed, the other blasted and marginalized as having a decade-long history of protesting and working against trans people.

Wonder where that could come from? Now matter how it got to the webpage tabloidist, whether from local HRC folks or possibly from accommodating trans leaders, the upshot is that it derived from HRC national. This has been their modus operandi for over a decade made to hook the gullible amongst us just as the Three-Card Monte hawkers pull in small-town tourists to dupe with every fresh new wave that hits the big city streets.

Even though it’s a bit picayune, this is libel when they sell this stuff to easily-duped trannies. They’ll even push for more from their new unwitting recruits to the point of getting involved in it themselves by repeating it and toss in some of their own preposterous slander, such as (from the same webpage):

Now NTAC wants to shut down the DOR event that educates 100+ NEW people each year - the very event that inspires those very people into considering how to help the TG community.

Beyond her own personal ax to grind, this person should know better. She’s been given opportunity and there are plenty of locals here who know well the HRC game who could’ve provided affirmation.

It’s exactly these type of little personality snits or private envy that HRC will continue exploiting, turning trans viciously against other trans folks simply to assist in neutralizing the trans community and squelching any voice from our own community. You will never see gay and lesbians attacking their own with such zeal or taking down their institutions in similar fashion … at least not outside of the youth movement.

Perhaps there’s a way for us to attack HRC and the gay and lesbian community in the same way they attack us by availing ourselves of their built-in disenfranchisement of anyone not in their elite confines. Then again, it also reduces us to their level, which is repulsing.

Ultimately, with the gay and lesbian community getting closer to winning their goals, it spells a very mean and ugly time for the trans community ahead. They will do whatever necessary to land the knockout punch. We can look forward to years of externally-designed chaos, character assassination and maddening manipulation. Even the above web tabloid-artist started contradicting herself in the very same webpage. After her blasts of NTAC, she had a manifesto of what the community should do in her opinion, including:

Picket Joe Solmonese's BEHAVIOR wherever he goes. Picket his home... Picket him at his job... If he goes out to eat, picket his behavior there. Never picket the man or his personality. Never shout at him and never come in personal contact with him... Picket his BEHAVIOR only. Ensure that wherever he goes, everyone is educated about this man's behavior. This will create a lot of news interest (more than any general anti-HRC picket) and also send a very strong message to all HRC leaders.

Picket every NATIONAL HRC event targeting Joe Solmonese's incompetence as a leader.

And this comes from the person who reported that NTAC was negative and wrong!

These upcoming years will be hellish, and HRC, Barney and all their ilk will be insufferable – especially in the time before and following their victories. However, it’s imperative we keep our head about this (unlike the above suggestions) and document everything the gay and lesbian community does. It’s going to be their true legacy, and truth should never be silenced nor forgotten.

“Slander is the revenge of a coward, and dissimulation his defense.” — Samuel Johnson, colonial-era writer

Thursday, May 8, 2008

That 70’s Flashback: Police Brutality Back In Vogue?

“Who wants to live in the past? Man must face up to himself.” — artist Louise Nevelson

There was a story that broke across the news today that grabbed my attention. While I don’t know whole back story, the video is pretty compelling and harkened back to a previous era. As you see from the video clip, the Philadelphia Police pulled over a car and had a good old fashioned beat-down. Even if there was legitimate reason to get them pulled out quickly and under control, the video shows something well beyond simply controlling the situation. (

It made me think of my days as a teen and young adult in Corpus Christi, TX. That was the last time I’d seen a beat-down like that, where police outnumbered the one suspect by ten to one. I was nineteen and lived in an apartment snug up against a Depression-era business block which housed three cantinas and a couple other odd small businesses. While studying for an exam when I’d heard the cascade of sirens and walked out and around the corner to see what was going on.

They had drug a lone belligerent boracho, a 30-something latino they’d pulled out from either Javier Soliz Lounge or the aptly named Jesse Borrego Stompers Lounge and the guy was not being cooperative. I stood there and watched at least ten of them proceed to beat the guy senseless there in the front parking lot. This went way beyond subduing. It was overkill in a brutal fashion. While some of the bar patrons came out and made comments, and other curious folks like me stood watching, the police partaking were oblivious in their rage. The few others not involved stood watching the rest of us like hawks, waiting for a move from us.

One woman, the poor guy’s friend, began loudly protesting and noting how he was “a veteran … he was in VietNam.” None of her words registered, but a couple of the watchers then began struggling and manhandling the woman, bending her backwards over a car hood and then taking her to the ground roughly. Others called in even more inforcements who quickly swooped in. Things got ominous afterward as the police began menacing those of us witnessing this. For a half second I thought about making a comment, but then held off – I didn’t feel like spending a night in the tank.

Watching the Philly cops caused me to flash back to that Saturday night, and how sickened I was – and yet powerless to stop it. In Corpus, you didn’t fight City Hall. If you reported the cops, you became a target. You might get a free ride out to Saratoga flats or Way Out Weber where they’d take off their badges, kick the dogshit out of you and let you walk home.

Back in the 1970’s, police violence nationwide was pretty widespread and unbridled. Indeed, Philadelphia under the notorious Chief Rizzo was notably the most violent PD in the nation. Houston was #2 at that time. In fact, while I was safe in San Diego back in 1978 I’d watched a 60 Minutes-type news show highlighting police brutality, and they’d flashed the top ten most violent police departments in the country. With Philly at the top and LA at #9, the remaining eight spots were all in Texas. Corpus was #7, and other notorious hotspots such as San Antonio, Dallas and smaller towns like McAllen, Castroville and Jacinto City were all over that list.

While I lived there back then, I used to worry that I’d end up being arrested or killed for nothing.

It may seem irrational, but to those of us who grew up in it the danger was very real. You could lose your life just by making the wrong move reaching for your wallet. In Texas, certainly in Corpus, police killing unarmed people (and sometimes under strange circumstances) were not surprising.

Additionally, in Corpus it wasn’t a race thing. In fact, it wasn’t even a class thing: they attacked a businesswoman, and a husband-and-wife who were both local teachers! Not until I moved out to California did I realize this wasn’t the way everyone was. I was shocked at what I thought was timidity by the San Diego County Sheriffs who were very polite and stood out at the street, and only sent one unit when my grandma’s husband would get drunk or make threats with the shotgun. Sure, they knew him by name (being over there enough), but it was still a vast difference than Corpus where police would come in like an army overrunning a sniper’s nest even when it was a non-firearm type situation!

You never forget the face slams into the car hood while handcuffed, batons ‘taps’ in the ribs, the serious tone of the yelled commands, the guns pointed at your face and the look in the gun-holder’s eyes …. And all from traffic stops or minor unarmed altercations, no less!

Yes, I’ve been jacked up myself a few times, thankfully pre-trans!: The first time for rolling through a stop sign in front of a cop, one for being jumped and fighting downstairs from my apartment on Christmas Eve, and twice for being a white face driving through black section of Corpus affectionately known as The Cut.

The first one stunned me – I’d never believed my friends’ stories of being jacked up and thought they were exaggerated fantasy up ‘til then. When it was happening to me, it felt like a movie of someone else. They called in eight different units – 7 cars and the sergeant on motorcycle – all for running a stop sign, having marijuana roaches on my floorboard (I could’ve kicked my brother’s ass for that stupid oversight) and having a knife in its sheath on my belt! With the adrenaline rushing through me I felt pain only vaguely, and the blood dripping from the bridge of my nose seemed disconnected and impertinent. Even my head getting whacked by the roof of the cop car on my way in the back was strangely painless. To my luck, though, it was mid-day on a Saturday, and I had plenty of gawking neighbors out watching.

The most ominous incident was in The Cut and at night in the middle of winter. As I was driving through the main drag through that section, I saw the cop car at the corner and knew they’d spotted me. Knowing better, I made certain to stop fully at both stop signs I came to, but when I saw the other two units coming from alternate directions I knew what was about to happen, lawfulness be damned. I had just crossed the tracks into the Ship Channel area that was desolate for the first couple blocks, with the brick projects high-rise the locals called Funky Manor a block back. With the howling north winds, no one was out and no one would hear a thing.

This was after Jose Campos Torres in Houston being beaten and tossed handcuffed into a bayou, and CCPD took their inspiration from Houston. The cops (this time 5 cars) swarmed in force and made me stand with my hands on the back of the car in short sleeves in the biting cold while they searched for drugs for over a half hour, and even some time after while they shot the bull (they had their jackets on). After they stopped responding to my pleas to retrieve my coat and needing to get to work (only two blocks up from where I was stopped, ironically) I made a nearly fatal mistake of walking to the car to get my coat.

After hearing the yelled commands, I froze. Then came the pump of the shotgun, the face-slam to the hood, the punches to the back and ribs, and the pistol in my face. And the threats … how nobody would find my carcass out there in the brush for years maybe. No blood that time, but it was much more frightening. Those memories don’t leave you, and they left me with both a healthy respect and fear of police.

Keep in mind Texas is renown for convicting folks who are eventually found innocent. It always boils down to “who do you believe: the alleged perpetrator or the fine upstanding officer of the law?”

A lot of these incidents aren’t just “criminals exaggerating” as even I’d initially thought. In their defense most police are honest and do the right thing. But a few are (as one cop explained to a friend of mine who’d just been roughed up by one Corpus cop) “just punks with a badge.” Sadly, the former gets tainted by the latter. But even though they’re few, they are there and it’s a genuine concern. The last thing I wanted was to be the “accident” due to a nervous finger on a hair-trigger, and eventually I got the hell out of Corpus.

Houston has been much better than its notorious past. I’ve had no problems whatsoever here, and I like it like that. That said, there have been numerous recent reports of police treatment in the trans community here. There’s nothing to grab headlines: most of it has been lack of filing reports when transgenders in the Montrose (Houston’s gayborhood) have been attacked or beaten. A few of these have been have been accompanied by “intimidating” responses and some mild physicality by the very folks expect to uphold law. But it’s a trend that’s moving in a troubling direction.

In the past couple decades I’ve gotten beyond a lot of those old fears and misconceptions. But you never forget those memories, especially when you get a reminder that remnants of the bad old days are still around.

“Understand that legal and illegal are political, and often arbitrary, categorizations; use and abuse are medical, or clinical, distinctions.” — Abby Hoffman

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Solmonese Apologizes For Misspeaking: HRC Never Meant To Fully Support Trans In ENDA

“Someone has said that the first soothsayer, the first prophet, was the first rascal who encountered a fool” — Voltaire

HRC had their banquet in Atlanta this past weekend and their local gay press, Southern Voice, covered a gathering between HRC Exec. Dir, Joe Solmonese and a number of Atlanta’s trans movers-and-shakers,

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese met with a handful of transgender activists in Atlanta last week and apologized for "misspeaking" at last year's Southern Comfort conference, where he promised HRC would only support an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that included gender identity, according to people attending the meeting.

Southern Voice was not allowed to attend the meeting, held May 1 at the Atlanta home of Charlie Frew, a member of HRC's national board of governors.

Yes, he finally came clean. He was wrong to say HRC could and would support trans inclusion in ENDA. Instead, HRC cannot support transgender inclusion in ENDA when they face a tough Congress.

And we’ve been facing a tough Congress for … forever. And we’re going to continue seeing these same tough Congresses we’ve always seen. Basically, it’s a polite way of saying “HRC can’t support trans inclusion in ENDA (or other bills for that matter). Not in real life anyway, just in make-believe. Don’t hate us, be nice.”

It’s part of HRC’s attempt to damage-control themselves into avoid a full-out trans rebellion. As he’s done more recently, Solmonese has been characterizing his speech at last year’s Southern Comfort Conference, where he promised HRC would only support an ENDA that included gender identity as a mistake on his part. Immediately before the Atlanta Banquet, Ol’ Joe met with six transgender leaders: transgender rights activists Tracee McDaniel, founder of the Juxtaposed Center for Transformation; JCT board member and attorney Jamie Roberts; Dee Dee Chamblee, executive director of Lagender; Sir Jesse McNulty, educator and member of the Feminist Outlawz; and Shelley Emerson, a former HRC Federal Club member.

So there’s the answer: Solmonese misspoke. Even though HRC’s own board of directors voted in their annual board meeting in August 2004 that they would only support an inclusive ENDA. Joe’s saying that his speech and that board vote were errors on their part. Or misconstrued by the ever-so-hopeful, trans HRC faithful. Really Joe ….

“Walking to the corner with a friend of mine,
He’s trying to sell me that same old line.
Tell me ‘bout it Slim. I know where you been.
I know who you know and how you wear your clothes.” Tell Me ‘Bout It Slim, Robert Johnson

Monica Helms noted in her blog that she was allowed into their silent auction and at least Jamie Roberts was allowed into the hotel lobby to pass out fliers. Sounds like HRC is softening up a bit: neither Washington nor Houston allowed us on banquet site property. Hell, Houston wouldn’t even allow us to walk in the street in front of it (as there wasn’t a sidewalk) and there was no fliers, pamphlets or handouts allowed. Kudos to Atlanta for making some strides there.

Back to the meeting, Atlanta’s SoVo article continued:

“He did apologize for misspeaking at Southern Comfort. But I think there was a lot of anger, disappointment and a lot of emotions for a lot of people," [Jamie] Roberts said of HRC's support of the sexual-orientation only ENDA. "It was very dehumanizing."

After years of covering just "sexual orientation," ENDA was introduced in the U.S. House last year with "gender identity" as well. But the category was dropped when the bill's main backer, openly gay U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), said there were not enough votes to pass the broader measure. The U.S. House approved ENDA with just sexual orientation in November 2007; the Senate hasn't voted.

HRC supports including gender identity in ENDA, but urged Congress members to vote in favor of Frank's sexual orientation-only bill as an incremental strategy.

Sir Jesse McNulty had harsher words for Ol’ Joe’s appeasement attempts:

"He apologized for the 'misspeak', but never apologized for the action," he said. "His rationale is that the vote was necessary and is still a victory."

"They're called the Human Rights Campaign, and that's more than just gays and lesbians," he said. "Butch lesbians and feminine men face the same discrimination we do. It's not OK what they did."

But not all were critical of HRC and Joe in particular:

“It takes a lot for someone to apologize. I personally can't speak for the whole community, but I accepted the apology although I think it needs to be done to the broader community," [Tracee] McDaniel said. …

McDaniel said she will also remain supportive of HRC because helping the transgender community "is bigger than myself and HRC."

"They are doing the work, but actions speak louder than words," she said.

This last person’s observations are depressing as hell. We’ve got a whole slew of our community who are totally unaware of HRC’s rather consistent history. Even worse, she’s billed as a “trans rights activist.” What’s really frightening is how easy it is for many of us to be sold on this chicanery. HRC knows this too. They’re already well into reselling themselves by starting off with the neophytes and those with no curiosity for veracity.

This underlines what we’ll be facing in the years to come: an all-out propaganda blitz from HRC. Truth doesn’t matter, and they can be as shameless as they wish. As long as they close the sale and take the victory, nothing else matters.

The host of this little gathering praised Solmonese for the meeting. His quotes for SoVo noted Joe’s patience in the whole exercise.

“He said he understands and felt the pain," Frew said. "We all thought the bill would never be picked apart in committee. We always thought it would be inclusive," he said.

Pardon me, but every time I hear the “feels the pain” routine I shudder in outrage. Just as when I first heard it from Pres. Clinton’s lips, it smacks of patronizing arrogance. It’s such a meaningless throw-away phrase, especially when it’s uttered from those who have so remote of an awareness of the reality of the people they’re trying to opportunistically identify with. You might as well have Pres. Bush say he feels the pain of the gay community’s suffrage with AIDS and HIV.

And as far as “never thinking the bill would be picked apart,” I’ve got to call bullshit on that! Frew’s clearly clueless, and Solmonese had to have known what was being lobbied on the Hill by his own lobbyists at the beginning of this congressional session back in late winter/early spring. They were banking on this “picking apart” that would occur months later this past September.

What was really eye-catching was Jamie Roberts’ blithe report of the meeting at the end of the article:

"It looks like [HRC] is working toward [a trans-inclusive bill] for 2011, assuming a friendly Democrat got into the White House," she said. "I'm just adopting a wait-and-see attitude to see how serious they are about including gender identity in the bill."

2011? What happened to the 2009 session?!? You see, they want to conveniently avoid the next session. As soon as we get the next congress and hopefully a president who will sign the bill, bank on an ENDA bill making its way through Congress and landing on the president’s desk in the next session. That has been the plan since 2005, and they will not be denied.

Meanwhile, we will.

“The truth is not supported by manipulation, obfuscation, or deception. And the truth bears no allegiance to anything but itself.” — Thomas Paine

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Teaching Inclusive Organizations To Be Inclusive

“I read the news today, oh boy ….
And though the news was rather sad
Well, I just had to laugh….” — A Day In The Life, the Beatles

A recent publication came out, along with the splashy press, entitled “Opening the Door to the Inclusion of Transgender People: The Nine Keys to Making Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Organizations Fully Transgender-Inclusive.” Sad as the situation may be, as the song says: “I just had to laugh ….”

For well over a decade, numerous trans activists have come to the fore and worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the gay and lesbian community on any number of issues. Yet so many years after the trans community has been visibly and noticeably active to at least gay and lesbian activist organizations, and after most of them (save more conservative groups a la HRC) came out and proclaimed inclusion of transgender, we now need a text to teach them how to be inclusive. Why?

Maybe it was just stupid of folks like me to presume they would know how it what it would take to be considered, feel and be treated as an equal. For some reason, I thought that was what they themselves were sociopolitically working on all these years. Wasn’t it?

The G&L community has enjoyed a modicum of success even with their predecessors into civil rights – the African American community. They’re part of their political process now, worked their issues from inside their organizations and politics and even at times Chiefs of Staff of some of their elected offices.

And would they think that being treated, considered for their talents, and hired as they had over the years would somehow not translate to trans people? Apparently not. There’s something about us they don’t have faith in.

In a sense, I understand what NCTE is trying to say with this publication: we say we’re “equal”, but we’re really not. In another sense, I can see it rendering her very organization and others that are trans specific as redundant and pointless. If groups exist that are unequivocally equivalent GLBT functions, then why a need for specific groups geared towards transgender?

Truth is that we’ve never been commensurate parts of their organizations, much less their agenda or even leadership. However, noting the disparities is proper but not necessarily considered polite in some circles. About five or six years ago, I brought this lack of reciprocity and inclusion to both Mara Keisling and Lisa Mottet. Needless to say, once this made it around to others in the G&L community leadership, it helped send me on a one-way trip to Pariah-ville.

So now these two parties’ organizations are going to try the same thing with a produce instructional to the rest of the community. What are they thinking? Do they really believe that just changing the messenger means the message is suddenly a stroke of genius and will be welcomed as liberation with candy and flowers all the accoutrements?

Ask Dick Cheney how that strategy went.

But reality is hard to avoid. Transgenders are doing our best at coming to terms and living with perpetual inequality and moving on. Now it seems NCTE wants to somehow try and jam trans and gay & lesbian together again. Why elongate the pain?

There can only be three possibilities for why transgenders are not equals in this ‘equality for GLBT’ amalgam:

1) They’re totally oblivious to their surroundings and were blissfully unaware we weren’t involved equally.
2) They’re not educable on trans inclusion.
3) Or they’re quite aware and fully apprised of transgender, and happy with things just the way they are.

Option #1 doesn’t ring true. There’s a ready ease in referring to trans negativity or complaints about inequities. If they hear complaints, then they listen close enough to hear some of the words (at least) and what was being complained about.

Option #2 doesn’t seem completely plausible either. The forays to get information out have been going on since the 90’s at least, and large swaths of the community (if not necessarily the political leaders) have heard, learned and gotten it.

My bet is on Option #3. There’s a possibility that could be tacked to laziness: not wanting to learn all of another group’s issues, not wanting to have to work to include or accommodate these others, keeping status quo because it’s much less trouble. Why dig a diamondback out of its den when you can just bury the hole with rocks and dirt and forget about it? (Who cares if it somehow finds its way out?)

Doubtless there will also be umbrage taken: “We’ve been inclusive! I know what inclusion is and what I think about transgender issues” … etc.

Then again, there’s the possibility that was the intent all along: include us in their mission, get us to believing we’re equals and watch us become complacent and happy. That works better when those who are to be complacent and happy are gainfully employed and want for nothing – obviously not the case with transgenders. But there’s the chance they were thinking we’d be satisfied and go our merry way while they continued having the run of things and then maybe, as a bonus, get to come back and “save” the trannies and continue their little cottage industry of civil rights. Of course, the longer you string that out, the longer you collect a paycheck!

Either way you slice it, our (trans) full inclusion isn’t a critical issue to them. Keep in mind most of these groups are part of United ENDA Coalition, and as mentioned, fully aware of our existence and what our issues are. They’re even confident enough to be spokespeople on behalf of our exclusion. All of this occurred without “full inclusion” and I would imagine they’re aware of it. So why would we think they would suddenly think there’s any problem?

Another thing to be concerned about is what if they bring us into their orgs? It could be a great way to get us in to do busy work and keep us occupied, and not speaking on our issues in our own organizations as we should.

We know we need to get our message out. We know the gay and lesbian community, well-meaning as they may be, have limited knowledge of trans issues. And we also need to understand that these GLBT orgs were begun as GL or just gay, and have primary constituencies of whom they must pay attention. That’s their job #1. To many of them, we’re just shoehorning our way into what they feel is an already crowded platform with all of their issues to be resolved.

So why is it we’re thinking G&L groups (or GLBT if you wish) are the best vehicle for America to hear our message, from our mouths and for them to see and know us and dispatch some of the stereotypes?

Meanwhile NGLTF helped produce this publication, and their interim director, Rea Carey, commented: "Our movement needs this publication right now and we are pleased to have co-produced it and make it available to all. We are proud of the growth the Task Force has made over the years in regards to inclusion and it continues to be a priority.” Not to harp, but obviously a number of trans folks who are connected to DC are fully aware that NGLTF’s trans board members have gone from three at their zenith to its current one – including departure of both of their previous trans board who were more than one decade tenured. Staff? No change: from zero to zero. Growth can mean different things ….

Ironically, of all organizations, HRC has a record of hiring trans people, certainly more than NGLTF during Matt Foreman or any other director’s tenure. Keep in mind how bad HRC has been with the trans community even with their company tranny. We aren’t even good enough to lobby on trans issues there! (Message: we don’t know ourselves as well as gays and lesbians do.) Yes, there’s a long way to go for any egalité in GLBT administration.

It was a nice thought and all, but if these “inclusive” groups haven’t included us then there’s probably a reason.

It’s been my observation that they’ll want or need us only when we stop wanting or needing them.

“The worst pain is that of not being wanted.” — John Lennon