Friday, June 27, 2008

Historical Shamelessness

“Maybe I can fool everybody tonight.
Maybe I can make everybody believe in me.
Maybe I can fool everybody –
And fool myself if I’m really lucky!” — Maybe I Can Fool Everybody, Crack The Sky

As everyone in the transgender community is aware by now, the Congressional Subcommittee meetings on transgender workplace issues in the U.S. House of Representatives took place Thursday. They were (as all advertised media noted) historic. All of the transgender members of the panel acquitted themselves well. To a person, there was nary a clinker in the bunch (save for one small part, which I won’t delve into).

The congressmembers on the panel were commendable, and in particular, Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) was outstanding in his questioning and counter-responses, with specific kudos for the way he dismantled the religiopolitical arguments proffered by Glenn Lavy, an attorney for the Alliance Defense Fund. In fact, all of the congressional comments that were heard were very positive, with the only exception being Rep. Barney Frank’s insistence on using “people with transgender” comments. It was his party, he was going to do what he wanted to … even if it meant dissing the guests of honor.

That said, the rather seamy positioning and jockeying by those organizations who’ve recently lost face to now claim responsibility or ownership of this affair was a pretty sad display. It’s almost as if they expected everyone to have ephemeral memories of what just finished transpiring mere weeks and months ago! What a nice message that sends: we’re all brain-dead LCD dupes and we’ll buy this like nothing ever happened!

And certainly they have no memory, grind no axes, hold no grudges … right? Yeah, right!

The most obscene of these opportunists was HRC in the voice of Joe Solmonese, practically braying over the “historic” occurrence and their attempt to not-so-sublimely paint themselves as crucial part in all of this. [] Seriously, this is the same guy who after his claims of not supporting non-inclusion in ENDA at Southern Comfort Conference, then went back to the same city to report that he “misspoke” or was misunderstood (they clearly didn’t support us in ENDA). So now, Joe wants to stake his claim and bask in his part of the sunshine of this historical moment in transgender history.

How shamelessly arrogant can one be?

“That's really not much to ask. Fair and equitable treatment. But, it doesn't exist.” — Joe Solmonese, HRC Exec. Dir. in response to Diego Sanchez’s testimony on June 26, 2008.

The above quote absolutely slays me. JoeSo feigns indignation over transgender disparity. Yet when it comes down to it, he’ll ditch us in a heartbeat and explain away his inability to deign us with such “fair and equitable treatment.” Truly it’s not much to ask … unless you’re transgendered and asking for such from most of America including the gay and lesbian elite! Then, obviously, it is too much to ask and won’t be granted! The only part JoeSo got right was “it doesn’t exist.”

“The time when we as a nation can tolerate arbitrary discrimination against any group of people has long since passed. That any hardworking transgender American should be denied the ability to contribute to the national economy and support his or her family is simply unacceptable.” — Joe Solmonese, HRC Exec. Dir.

Nice words. Also hollow words. If he or Barney Frank cannot even remember as far back as last September, what are these airheads doing in Washington? And if they do remember (which they do), why be so ridiculous as to make such an obviously hypocritical statement?

More to the point, if they can’t tolerate such discrimination, then why is it that the FEPA (Federal Employment Protection Act) which would’ve directly helped one of the trans panelists, Col. Donna Schroer, is still non-inclusive of gender identity? They worked with Mara Keisling to put on a similar hearing over that in the previous congressional session. Clearly it was to no avail.

Although Schroer’s high profile discrimination greased the skids for the gay and lesbian only submission of FEPA, no one says a word about that. There’s not even Mara Keisling having to call the trans leaders around the country to “give our friends [gay & lesbian organizations] a pass. Apparently when it comes down to it JoeSo, even you can “tolerate arbitrary discrimination.” And have no problems doing so, especially when it’s out of the harsh spotlight. HRC is certainly no hero – never will be.

In fact, the only heroes in this entire exercise were the transgender panelists in testimony and Congressman Rob Andrews and other congress critters on the panel.

Beyond that, this whole affair was a self-aggrandizement festival especially made for the Johnny-come-lately opportunists looking for cheap, easy fixes to facelift their horribly sagging public images. In a response to a member on the TS Menace International group, one response cut to the heart of the matter:

“The fact that organizations had to make it about themselves instead of the community they were suppose to be advocating for is appalling. There's a lot of politics involved over who was working with whom and what their motives were but the squabbling and passive aggressive, childish behavior which was displayed so publicly made me question whose intentions were actually for the best. If they want to play tug of war over such an extraordinary event, so be it but it should never be done at the expense of our community and I'm sick of this shit. Who ever makes the most money wins, good luck to all of them.” — Ethan St. Pierre, Chair of NTAC

Well stated!

Friday, June 20, 2008

As Blows The Wind, So Flies The Flag

“im a f*cking libra i change my mind like the wind changes direction” — blogger, Jake Childs on HoustonBeats blog.

Awaken to the new day and step outside to feel the wind and the direction it takes today. For most of us it’s something we acknowledge but mostly take for granted meaning more than it’s breezy. For a few, it means a whole new course in life, a new plan, a new face … today’s version of “absolute.”

Bay Windows put out an article on the upcoming (and ever changing) congressional hearings on transgender issues in Congress. []

As I read the article, it was interesting to see two groups names prominent: NCTE (who originally was to have worked this with Barney Frank, but appeared to be getting eased out of it by…) HRC (who we’d heard in recent months was the extra-congressional controller of this effort.)

The congressional hearing is a good thing (possibly … as long as the congress critters don’t just treat this as a patronizing charade for the naïfs they deem us trans folk to be.) It’s also historic in a sense (though there was also a previous hearing put on by the same two parties – HRC and NCTE – for the Federal Employee Protection Act (FEPA) in the previous congressional session). I remember how that turned out.

In case you didn’t know about FEPA, it was submitted just weeks after Donna Schroer, a trans person, decorated and retired army officer with a special focus in mideast anti-terrorism, was denied a position at the U.S. Library of Congress as a terrorism analyst that was originally offered, then later rescinded because (then) he was preparing to transition to female. FEPA was originally submitted in 2005 without gender identity coverage. In this session, regardless of the hearing (window-dressing), there is still no inclusion of gender identity nor indication that it will be added. (See the first sentence of the previous paragraph again).

What makes this funny is the gymnastics of NCTE, and particularly their Exec. Dir. Mara Keisling in this whole positioning exercise.

Mara’s recently been doing the Riki Wilchins-style traveling show spanning the country over the past couple months. (Don’t ask me where she gets that kind of budget in this high-dollar traveling season) And apparently, an occasional HRC board member will sit in on some of these ‘get-to-know-me’ visits and leave … well, a little miffed because of the HRC-bashing.

It’s NCTE’s “I-Hate-HRC” tour and coming to a town near you (bring your checkbooks).

She even presented one recently in Phoenix where Donna Rose noted in her blog about the crowd, the diversity, etc. Unusual for Donna, there was nothing about raising funds for NCTE or the expected discussion of the good work they do, etc. Donna’s long been a active and vocal supporter of NCTE and their work. I noticed the omission (no doubt by Mara as well). It may be nothing or it may be something, but it was different.

However, before the most recent Mara tour began, stories were coming out of DC that Mara was meeting with Joe Solmonese again.

That was a big switch from the NCTE board members last fall coming out saying they felt viciously betrayed, would not work with HRC, and the NCTE board chair going so far as to demand the resignation of Joe Solmonese (among other things). Even Mara herself called them “immoral” and “liars.”

Even Joe Solmonese has been doing his best to cover his tracks after his speech at Southern Comfort Conference last fall, continuing to distance himself from his comments of support. His words have been anything but encouraging on the prospect of inclusion or egalitarianism.

So today we awaken, the wind changes and everything past has been swept away as if it were never there. “Immoral liars” and politically unrealistic “stupid asses” (to quote Rep. Barney Frank) are working together on another congressional hearing. The skies are blue, it’s a shiny, happy world and we in the trans community are supposed to – what? – believe this?

These two parties may feign having a short memory, but I guarantee you that’s not the case. Both of those parties have very long streaks of vindication, even still. Want proof? Ask either of them when they’ve even believed or trusted anyone from NTAC – or for that matter, folks in the general, non-elite segment of the trans community. Never. Nor will they.

And at some point after they declare “victory,” these two will then have us believe they’re “forgiving and forgetting?”

There’s something that smells to high heaven here. Maybe it’s just me, but I truly feel the trans community has been played this past year(s). Maybe this indignation we’ve been seeing has been a clever act, constructed to make us feel they’re on our side while keeping us relatively silent by portraying both the pro-HRC and the anti-HRC voice.

If my calculations are correct, we are seeing the beginnings of the next wave of “HRC is our friend, HRC is our hero.” And the lamb lies down with the lion once again. Haven’t we been here before …?

"The lion shall lay down with the lamb, but the lamb won't get much sleep." — Woody Allen

Monday, June 16, 2008

2004 Redux?

“I'm getting married in the morning!
Ding dong! The bells are gonna chime.
Pull out the stopper! Let's have a whopper!
But get me to the church on time!” Get Me To The Church On Time, Alan Jay Lerner from My Fair Lady

Today’s the big day, and people are lining up all over California. This, June 15, 2008, is the day marriage became legal for same-sex couples. Unlike Massachusetts, this ruling works for anyone who’s a resident or non-resident. As a result, gay and lesbian couples from all over the country are flocking to the Golden State to tie the knot. For many, it’s a dream come true.

As a result, it’s also very big news as well. Maybe too big.

It’s hard to be the wet blanket, but I see some distinct parallels between now and 2003-2004 and another presidential campaign season. In 2004, it seemed there was no possible way Kerry or Democrats could lose. The war in Iraq was quickly becoming a major scandal, there were major scandals brewing with the outing of Valerie Plame and cover-up of it, and there was Republican hubris and at that point, the economy was sluggish, Tom DeLay’s redistricting of Texas, and only rumored, yet-to-be-uncovered scandals of GOPpers in both houses of Congress and beyond. Of course who could forget hurricanes Katrina and Rita!

Even though the same-sex marriage decision (as well as the sodomy case in Texas) had happened well before the primary campaign season, barely a word was breathed from the religiopolitical right. It was almost as if they’d lost their stamina and given in.

It seemed that there was no way Republicans would retake the White House, and would likely lose at least one house of Congress. So it seemed ….

In retrospect, we now know what happened. Bush retook the White House and Congress tilted even more to the neo-conservative side, with a hubris-fest about to occur. On election day, nobody knew what hit us.

To be sure, there are a number of reasons the election went conservative. But one thing unseen, the religiopolitical/conservative values groundswell, was bubbling under while none of us paid attention. Rove was a mastermind at getting them organized and keeping them stealth. Out of George W. Bush’s 54% of the vote, fully half – 27% – cited “values” on exit polls as to why they were voting. Add that to the neo-cons and corporate tycoon set, along with the beer-addled red-meat bubbas (none of whom would vote Democrat), and you had a victory.

Along with the bloodbath at the polls, no less than 12 states also enacted statewide legislation declaring marriage between a man and woman. It didn’t escape the transgender community. Transsexuals around the country who had legally married in their states where no legislation previously existed suddenly found legislation throwing their marital future into the dumpster.

This followed a rather high-profile push by the gay and lesbian community, who after their very first legal victory instantaneously formed multiple organizations, furiously raised funds and rearranged the theretofore political agenda. One year before, it wasn’t even on the radar, next year it was moved to the top issue. It even became an issue with the Kerry campaign when he wouldn’t endorse it and the gay and lesbian community was up in arms.

It reminds me of a luncheon I attended in 1998 with the special guest, Elizabeth Birch. I questioned her on ENDA during the lunch, and she wiggled the best answer she could (uncomfortable as the subject made her). Her plea was to have patience, [HRC] was trying, and they had to take lead as “we’ve (gay and lesbians) made so much progress so far, and we don’t want to jeopardize the good work we’ve done” on ENDA and other legislation. The upshot: trans people couldn’t be the visible voice on ENDA, and what gains had been made were achieved by the gay and lesbian lobbyists or successful employees in the workplaces. Our desire for our voice being heard, as per Birch, was “politically unrealistic”

While I knew the urgency for employment was more pressing from the trans side, Birch’s logic was not out of line. They had made a lot of strides, and there was possibility (if we were the visible face of the movement) that it could damage that progress. It sounds a bit incremental, but her answer was not addressing legislation in incremental parts – at least not to me in front of that supportive audience back in ’98.

Fast forward five years later. Marriage is something the trans community has had a modicum of success with – even state legislation (although not pushed by trans people) on marriage. The gay and lesbian community should’ve known marriage stood the best chance if approached by trans and intersex Americans. We already had the progress, and the right-wing’s arguments could’ve been eroded and eventually passed due to the sheer logic of it.

Yet the gay and lesbian community had no problems putting themselves in the drivers seat, not even asking trans opinions on the subject and completely oblivious to the damage they were doing to marriage – for them and for trans – around most of the country. We may be “politically unrealistic” to some, but even transgenders knew better than to push this during a crucial election cycle in 2004.

To that end, I’ve noticed that some of the Republicans are starting to make gains, or extend their gains over solid Democratic candidates. Our senatorial candidate Rick Noriega had been running a close race with incumbent Sen. John Cornyn (D-TX). Yesterday a poll released new numbers showing Cornyn had opened a 17% lead. It’s inexplicable, considering the economy tanking, the hardships, the war, and their never-ending scandals. What could be stirring folks on McCain (who’s not the darling of the religiopolitical set)? Values?

"Oh no!!! Why, why, why ...?" — Mr. Bill

Well 2004 should’ve been a lesson. However the high profile of California, and the additional prominence of the same questions during HRC / LOGO channels presidential debates really leads me to conclude that they didn’t learn.

What’s worse, this doesn’t just affect same-sex marriage. If we lose the election the way things fell out in 2004, the ramifications are dire. We’re in the worst economy we’ve seen since the stagflation days of the 70’s, and quite possibly worse. The planet’s showing some sincere strain, ecologically speaking. The wars we have are enough, but conservatives are eyeing Iran as their next pre-emptive target. And the overwhelming majority of this country (outside of GLBT) feel voiceless, used, stressed to the max and are facing some dire life changes.

This is not an election cycle to piddle around with. Yes, McCain and the GOP looks like they’re on the ropes. But we’ve seen this before. The last thing I want to see is a repeat of ’04.

For once, let’s hope the gay and lesbian leadership starts following some of their own advice to the transgender community all these years: Don’t be “politically unrealistic.”

“I've always said that in politics, your enemies can't hurt you, but your friends will kill you.” — Gov. Ann Richards

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Grace In Victory For Obama, Sowing Sour Grapes For LesBiGay Leaders

“Well I'll be damned, here comes your ghost again.
But that's not unusual
It's just that the moon is full and you happened to call
And here I sit, hand on the telephone,
Hearing a voice I'd known a couple of light years ago
Heading straight for a fall” — Diamonds And Rust, Joan Baez

“They were fast-moving opportunists encased in cynicism and proud of it.” — journalist, Jay Carr

For some reason, it seemed like a lot was going on while we were convened in Texas’ Democratic Convention last weekend. The economy tanked. Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign. And for trans supporters, Barack Obama held a conference call with the LGBT community. (No, I don’t get invitations to those things … I just volunteer on the campaign, organize, get others involved in volunteering and win a delegate slot to Denver instead. That’s plenty on the plate, I reckon.)

The Obama Campaign LGBT conference call focused on bringing in (of all people) HRC leaders, as in Human Rights Campaign or Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters – however you want to slice it. Indeed during the conference call, there was apparently some issue with the HRC (the group) focus and how “99% of the issues voiced” were gay or lesbian, while transgender was mostly never heard. For those in Trans America, we know we’re not Johnny-come-latelys and had long ago thrown our support to Obama (knowing Clinton’s gay/lesbian-only propensity).

Some of the trans participants in the conference call expressed surprise, hurt or “dismay” (as Donna Rose noted in her blog) at the focus of the subject matter due to HRC’s prominence in the call. For those who’ve been at this since the 90’s, especially old-line NTAC folk like me, having transgender being an equal part of something HRC-focused would’ve been the surprise. This opportunism and self-focus was classic HRC. If anything, how the conference call played should serve to remind trans leaders that HRC is still HRC, and is still (as always) gay and lesbian. Period.

“Well you burst on the scene already a legend,
The unwashed phenomenon, the original vagabond.” — Diamonds And Rust, Joan Baez

Some examples of lesbian/gay-centrism in the Obama LGB(t) Conference Call:

Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese described the moment as "transformative" and saw it as an "opportunity to move forward in a unified way."

Despite tremendous disappointment at Hillary Clinton's loss, "it speaks to the real power of our community that we have such an ally with Senator Obama and that we can enthusiastically get behind his campaign," Solmonese said. (
Let’s hope “moving forward in a unified way” is unified, and not the Joe Solmonese / HRC version of unity, sans Trans. Chances are, he’ll later come back and apologize for that phrase being misspoken. It’s funny for me to see how the gay and lesbian community is finally coming around to the fact that Sen. Obama has a history of being an ally for us all. Apparently the gay and lesbian community’s myopia for Hillary tended to occlude anything else on the political landscape

Tobias Wolff, Penn law professor and key LGBT policy advisor for Obama campaign.
He emphasized that as our community has matured we have learned that leaders have to earn our trust, and that Obama’s challenge was that (contra Clinton) he hadn’t had the time to do that. (
Interesting choice of words from Mr. Wolff. More than political leaders have to earn trust … hint to the Human Rights Campaign on why they suffer the slings and arrows of the trans community. In fact, most all LGBT orgs have no trust in trans people, never hire, never promote or allow as leaders (i.e. distinct mistrust) though we have no such “incremental” track record. Why would we trust, then? What’s been earned?

Back to the Obama campaign, I find it unusual that they will have as their key LGBT policy advisor someone who seems to have overlooked that Obama has been supportive of GLBT the whole time, has overlooked that the issues focus (Obama with Clinton, and the G&L community’s with Clinton) is a double-edge sword, and has overlooked how some of us in the (glb)T community have already known this and have been actively involved in the campaign while he and others were still working for their courtesan, Ms. Clinton. And Mr. Wolff gets the moniker key policy advisor for LGBT? Must be nice to assume control over a segment (T) that you don’t know and can’t relate to.

Most poignant was former HRC Executive Director, Elizabeth Birch. Her spouse is Hilary Rosen, Hillary Clinton’s LGBT (again there’s that T) Advisory Committee (you can imagine what they were advising on T!)

Despite being hardened by Washington after all these years, Birch said, "on the night of June 3rd, I burst into tears. I was so upset. It was a painful moment."

Birch described her response to Clinton's loss as the emotion one feels for the loss of a "vanquished warrior." She also felt deeply saddened that her young daughter would not get to see a woman become president at "this early formative stage of her life."

Birch closely identified with Clinton and saw her candidacy as a "dream" for overcoming sexism and inequality. "It's a heartbreak in Hillary losing," she stated. (
Note the above statements closely, then read below:

Birch added, however, that it is also just as important for her biracial children to see a "very gifted, wise, strong, very powerful man like Barack Obama who is Black and who looks like them take a leadership role in this country."
Am I the only one to notice this? Birch was so hopeful of seeing a woman president (something close to her own aspirations) that she was emotionally devastated by Clinton’s loss, having thrown herself fully into the campaign. Yet, her daughters are biracial … and there was no consideration of how devastated they could’ve been if the primary went the other way!

It was a “dream” for Clinton to be elected (something my contacts on the Hill have confirmed ever since 2005, how GLBT orgs were planning for President Hillary Clinton). Yet, her emotions on Obama’s nomination seem like much less than ebullience. It’s “important” for her children to see someone like Obama in leadership, but it sure sounds more like she wanted her emotions attended to instead of her kids’. Why would it be any less a victory seeing anyone African-American in that leadership role? Have they not waited long for this historic day to happen as well?

“There are people in this town that try to put me down,
They say I don’t give a damn.
But the people in this town that try to put me down
Are the people in the town
That could never understand a black man
Don’t take it no more!” — Ode To A Black Man, Phil Lynott

Something just strikes me as a bit personally selfish in Birch’s obsequy for the Clinton campaign. But then, that’s HRC as well: they have a long, well-demonstrated and consistent streak of selfishness, more so than any other org this side of conservative America. It’s all about them and nobody else has ever mattered.

Birch expressed congratulations to Obama's supporters and pleaded for their patience in seeing Clinton's supporters in the LGBT community come over to his side. She predicted that it would happen within days.
There will be patience, and they will be welcomed in. Hopefully our Johnny-come-latelys will be mindful that there are trans people here who’ve already been here, and let's hope they don't throw their weight around and squash us against the wall and into the corner. Understand that we’ve been involved in the Obama campaign (and splitting the GLBT bloc vote) because this was our only hope from the minute this became a two-person campaign.

One last hope: maybe they can learn from Obama and how he has conducted his campaign, especially with the way he’s outreached to Hillary supporters – including the gay and lesbian community. The Obama campaign could’ve very easily been vindictive, but they weren’t. Instead they’re welcoming, and even offering these same gays and lesbians who’ve worked hard to see Obama lose the nomination, a place in their campaign, a voice and even some prominence. Grace in victory is a virtue.

Too bad that HRC hasn’t learned similar traits. And no doubt, when they read this, I’m certain they’ll continue their vindictiveness. They’ll ask for patience and understanding … but they won’t offer the same. Such is life from their imperious perch in society.

Meanwhile, in Trans America, it’s just another hot, humid day in hell. Maybe a good day for some blockwalking ….

It's all come back too clearly ….
And if you're offering me diamonds and rust,
I've already paid.” — Diamonds And Rust, Joan Baez

“I will not remain quiet when some "Johnny come lately" criticizes my generation." — Van Henderson, from the book The American Legion

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Ratchet Effect

“Recession means that people's incomes, at the employer level, are going down, basically, relative to costs, people are getting laid off." —George W. Bush

Corporate America always wins. That’s the bottom line, and that’s their entire focus: the bottom line.

A few days ago, the Senate voted for cloture on a windfall profits tax for the obscene, record levels of profit being raked in by Big Oil. Predictably, it fell to defeat on party lines: Democrats voting for it, Republicans voting against it (,2933,364846,00.html)

As the story began “Saved by Senate Republicans, big oil companies dodged an attempt Tuesday to slap them with a windfall profits tax and take away billions of dollars in tax breaks in response” to the record profits on record oil and gasoline prices. What was likely overlooked in the clutter was this little tidbit: Republicans voted against it saying that this would “raise the costs” of oil and gasoline.

Did ya get that? They are raking in the largest quarterly profits ever in American history, and any windfall tax would require them to raise prices in order to make up the loss. Even with eleven-figure quarterly profits (that’s three months … tens of billions).

This is reality. Corporate America has gotten to the record levels of profits they have and they have no plans of giving ground but continuing to strive for ever-higher profits. It’s the corporate way: once the lofty perch has been achieved, that becomes the new base figure from which to negotiate upward.

This is the Ratchet Effect. These aggressive corporations will use every opportunity to jack the price higher, inch-by-inch or foot-by-football field. Losing ground P&L-wise is like a ratchet wrench – it’s never going to catch traction. And by this theory, every new record height also becomes the new floor and also excuse to threaten price hikes to retain this new level. Big Oil feels they are fully in need of a minimum of ten or eleven-figure quarterly profits at minimum.

In laymen’s terms: Big Oil is hooked. They’ve won their money fair and square, and they will continue putting pedal to the metal and rocketing to even higher and faster wealth. Anyone who steps into their superhighway to wealth becomes collateral roadkill, and we are the United States of Collateral Roadkill.

The greed at the stratospheric top levels of society is unbridled and unashamed, running this economic shell game with impunity. Even with the huge profit levels, I work on contract to one of these major oil companies specifically to train folks in India to take over the finance, accounting and payroll functions. You know … as President Bush-baby calls them: “The jobs Americans won’t do.” And the reason isn’t because the profit is down or Big Oil is hurting. The reasoning is “all the competition is doing it.”

Another headline made the news today: Exxon/Mobil is selling off all of its branded gas stations / convenience stores ( As the story reported, they weren’t profitable. Actually, the story left out one word at the end of that sentence … “enough.” They’re profitable, though not to the level to which Exxon, in its hyper-profitable refining capacity, is now accustomed. Why waste time with chicken-feed gas stations when you can corner the market, gouge, and reap insane profit levels just by holding the rest of the gas station operators hostage for their precious product?

Another possible reason for Exxon’s store brand losses: their ham-handed uncaring approach to the environment (remember the Valdez oil spill? I stopped buying Exxon back then), or towards people who are, were or could’ve been potential customers (their purchase of Mobil and ceasing their benefits and hardening their attitudes on diversity with GLBT folks).

Exxon always had the attitude of “who cares if you boycott our gas stations? We’re big, we’ll still make more money than anyone else and who gives a damn about you whiners who don’t like our arrogance!” Now, no more gas stations, no more protests, and they still make profit like cocaine thieves. And they have their conservative buddies in congress watching their backs.

Then finally, away from oil, there’s the story that just came out reporting that Belgian conglomerate InBev wants to buy Anheuser-Busch ( As the US dollar has sunken like the Titanic and the Euro has gained nearly 50% over the past eighteen months, it’s become attractive to buy American – including American corporations.

Hey, beer sells well in America! Especially in down times like this, many people are turning to something relatively cheap to kill the pain … like Budweiser. So now Bud’s on the block being eyed by bidders flush with cash. Nothing unusual, nothing new.

But lo, here comes Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt decrying this possible sale as somehow un-American! House Minority Whip, Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) raised voices about the sale – after all, Bud is based in St. Louis. It’s funny, all this time with jobs flying overseas, and American companies (like competitor Miller Brewing or Chrysler or IBM) being sold to foreign companies, nary a peep from the conservative Missouri crew (who no doubt didn’t want to infringe upon the free market). Now it’s about Missouri, and furthermore, it’s about beer! You can’t mess with Americans’ beer (heaven forbid!), especially in trying times such as this “fundamentally strong” economy where we all need something to help kill the pain: so many people are losing homes and jobs and even ending up homeless.

Bottom line, in Christian Conservative America, you can’t mess with our beer! Doesn’t Rep. Blunt and Sen. Bond understand? You can’t reverse the ratchet effect and you can’t stand in the way of corporations making even more record profit! Just step aside and watch the money flow ….

“If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow.” — George W. Bush

Friday, June 13, 2008

Scenes from the Texas State Dem Convention #13

The culmination of the committee work: the vote on At-Large Delegates to National was passed by a vote of 20 - 9 at approximately 10:20PM. There was some stronger dissent this year on the "slate" of delegates by the campaigns. As it was over 20%, they issued a minority report on the floor, and challenged. Just what we were all looking forward to after an arduous convention: a floor fight on at-large delegates at 11PM on Saturday night. Sixth Street was calling us!

But the dissenters were in no mood to go quietly, even if it called for reconvening the committee and beginning this entire process all over again. Unfortunately I didn't get good video of the convention floor fight as my memory chip was full.

I didn't keep the video running for the duration of naming of delegates and at-large alternates. Actually, I wish that I had ... as it turns out (to my surprise) I was one of those At-Large Obama delegates named on the slate to the National Convention in Denver!

The At-Large Nominations committee finally gets around to the final session -- and naming and voting for the At-Large Delegates. It was 10:04PM when they finally reconvened. This was a much longer convention process than four or even eight years ago.

Fire Drill Return to Texas State Dem Convention

Back in session after the fire drill. We're still a long way off from finishing at this point, but at least the evacuation (for whatever reason it was) was a nice break in the monotony.

Evacuation from Texas State Dem Convention

Cattle herd in downtown Austin! It's what the evacuation looked like upon leaving the convention center and pouring out and onto Neches Street. As it turned out, it was a false alarm.

There was some confusion initially: the security deputies initially gave the command to evacuate, but the in-house security (police? FBI?) with ear-wire then told everyone it was a false alarm, stay put and ignore it. We did file back in and sat down, only to have the deputy come back in and demand everyone evacuate now! Mr. Earpiece, then agreed and said to leave. Thank God this wasn't a real bomb threat (or whatever it was). Mass confusion ....

I gotta admit, this was much more excitement than the previous conventions!

Evacuate! The Texas State Democratic Convention

Most of this was just idle video immediately after the At Large Nominations Committee reconvened about 3PM. Committee members were filtering back into the room and chatting with delegate hopefuls. (A tranny note: the blonde in the back with the red baseball cap was, I believe, another of our delegates -- but I don't know who she was).

Everything was pretty boring until the end of the video ... when we suddenly got word from security to evacuate the building immediately!

Scenes from the Texas State Dem Convention #11

As the confusion ensued, tempers started heating a bit in the At Large Nominations. I was sitting next to a sixty-something Obama delegate from Fort Worth, and though it's not intelligible on the video, she told me: "It's getting ugly up in here, and there's some people gonna say some things, and I'm sorry you got to hear this honey," responding to what she feared was going to come out of some of the more emotional mouths running for Obama delegate. My response, some of which came out on the video, was to apologize in return knowing that we have some similarly emotional (and not very lucid) folks on the Clinton side who'd likely respond in kind. As it turned out, there was a lot of emotion ... but everyone kept a lid on racial slurs. It's fitting, as there was no real monolithic vote from any category: everyone was voting everywhere. Contention without the race element displayed. Maybe progress is happening before our eyes and we don't even notice it....

I hope my Fort Worth friend got elected to national! I'd like to see her again....

Scenes from the Texas State Dem Convention #10

Stirrings of trouble as one of Hillary Clinton's supporters tries to woo the Obama delegates into challenging the process of selecting At-Large delegates. Some were actually taking the bait.

One thing for certain: she had issues with the person behind the scenes steering the delegate selection for Obama.

Ron Kirk needs to see this.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Scenes from the Texas State Dem Convention #9

After a couple false starts, the At Large Nominations Committee finally begins to reconvene ... and it's already 11AM! Little had been done, and in the meantime patience was thinning, and the controversialists were doing what they could to play loose cog in the works.

Scenes from the Texas State Dem Convention #8

This was the beginning of Day 2 at the Texas State Democratic Convention. As I was waiting around outside of the At-Large Nominations room awaiting the beginning of the at-large process, I sat on the floor charging my phone and video/cam and the newspaper lying next to me caught my eye -- especially the headlines. One day in the convention and we had over 3% drop in stock market, a hefty half-point rise in the unemployment rate (even with all the contract workers who don't even register on that these days) and a record $11 a barrel rise in oil. It doesn't take long for everything to make the trip to hell in a handbasket! Another good day to be a Bush ....

Scenes from the Texas State Dem Convention #7

This was our return from the convention floor, just past 10PM to our senate district caucuses to elect our delegations. Betsy Kaufman (a former producer/broadcaster from Channel 13, now freelancer) gave a bit about her first state convention and then turned my own camera on me (though the audio portion on mine isn't great).

Scenes from the Texas State Dem Convention #6

The other trans delegate, Rose Wall, from my senate district (though from a different county) discusses her fate at the state level as an alternate delegate. She wasn't able to be moved up to full voting delegate, unfortunately.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Epitaph For The Hillary Rodham Clinton Campaign

“Now I feel like I'm one
Now I feel like I'm due
Spent my time in some fun
And for that, I thank you
It's over, it's over, it's over, I'm goin' home” — It’s Over, Badfinger

Another thing that happened while we were in the midst of our Texas State Dem Convention: Hillary Clinton suspended her presidential campaign. Finally.

Yes, that last word was tacky. But clearly she stayed on a bit longer than she should’ve, ignoring the fact Barack Obama had not only reached the 2025 delegate threshold, but even the subsequently raised bar of 2118 (an insurmountable majority regardless of anything else). It’s tantamount to keeping shrimp for a week in a cooler … in the summer, no less. There’s no way you can miss the smell of something that’s expired some time ago. However, you must agree that Hillary Clinton could never be considered a quitter. She’s no shrinking violet!

Unfortunately, during the latter part of her campaign, the Clintons’ desperation started shining through in increasingly bold fashion. Bill Clinton’s reference in South Carolina was only the beginning of the gauntlet throw-down. The campaign wonks knew where Hillary could find a definite wedge, with the Afro-phobic element in older and more rural or blue-collar Americans.

And Hillary and her campaign deftly played the nuanced divisiveness: comments about how “hard working Americans, hard working white Americans” weren’t likely to support Obama, and even ending with the harrowing comment about how things change by referencing how Robert F. Kennedy’s campaign in ’68 went into June. For those not alive then, it’s a reference to when Kennedy’s campaign ended because he was assassinated! How they expected comments like this to be taken as anything but polarizing to black and white America completely escapes me.

However, faith in what’s true ruled. Those who saw through the thin veil rejected the

This campaign ended up becoming a repudiation of all things HRC.

Yes, these are Hillary Rodham Clinton’s initials. But for those of you in GLBT America, the HRC means the Human Rights Campaign (billed as the largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender organization in America – though the trans people have never been equals there).

These two share more than initials: there’s been a closeness between Clinton and HRC as far back as the latter days of her husband’s presidency. As my friend Ethan St. Pierre, President of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC), pointed out some time back, every one of HRC’s board of directors was supporting Hillary. Even Donna Rose (the only trans board member HRC ever had) once supported Clinton early on, before switching to Obama.

However, for those in the transgender community with deep or long-time knowledge of HRC (the organization who bills themselves presumptuously as the largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender group in the nation – although the transgender community by-and-large want nothing to do with them), we weren’t at all cozy with Sen. Clinton. In 2001, after HRC had officially declared themselves to be “trans-inclusive” in their mission statement and presumed supreme knowledge on our issues as they would with gay issues, Hillary was queried by the Gay City News in New York City about issues arising from lack of inclusion of transgenders in the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA). She responded she was unaware of any problems with that as her friends in the gay and lesbian community had never noted such a problem.

Yeah … why bother asking the transgender people about their own sentiments on important issues to us. It’s not like we’d know our own issues, right? Go to the experts: the gay and lesbian community. It was tantamount to responding “I’m unaware of any problems regarding discrimination against African Americans as no one from the Anti-Defamation League (the largest Jewish advocacy group) never mentioned any problems with it.” And of course, what does it say about HRC’s own “professional” advocacy expertise on transgenders?

In 2006, Hillary was later asked about transgender inclusion in ENDA. She was lukewarm. She supported it in theory, but thought there needed to be more education (the Human Rights Campaign mantra on transgender rights). She even went so far as to state doubts about us being in employed in positions of responsibility.

Earlier this year, there was a campaign appeal the Clinton camp sent around that noted her support of GLB and even the transgender community, even mentioning she was so supportive as to be a proud co-sponsor of the Senate ENDA bill! Yes … the Senate ENDA bill that Sen. Ted Kennedy insisted matching the House version of ENDA by Rep. Barney Frank … which was intently not inclusive of “gender identity” – i.e. transgender. Nice shot there, Mark Penn & Associates!

Finally, just before the Texas Primary, our own Houston Gay & Lesbian Political Caucus (HGLPC) screened both presidential candidates. Per Rose Wall at the Texas Dem Convention, Obama was genuinely curious, asked many good questions and appeared attentive and interested in the transgender issues. Wall also noted that Hillary’s answers appeared to be read from a script that “could’ve been straight from the HGLPC material on transgender issues.” When the vote came down, it was a 3 – 2 vote: both gay / lesbian screeners voted for Hillary, all three transgender screeners voted for Obama.

One thing I want to make clear to everyone: the Human Rights Campaign’s closeness to Hillary Rodham Clinton killed her chances in the transgender community and with everyone who cared about us. If HRC can trash NTAC and it’s reputation, and claim that affiliation or cooperation with us will kill credibility, let it be known that HRC’s reputation has similarly claimed it’s first credibility victim in the most visible fashion possible: the race for President of the United States. HRC’s affiliation with Clinton broke the back of what was once a very cohesive GLBT bloc vote.

In this, arguably the closest campaign in primary history, Harold Ickes, Mark Penn, and the master campaigner himself, Bill Clinton all overlooked a small (2%) but politically growing segment of society: transgenders. They also lost the youth vote – college kids. And guess who have been the biggest supporters of fully inclusive legislation? These very same college students that we’ve been speaking to in classes on transgender education around the country this past decade plus. These college-aged voters are quite a bit larger than the trans community, and are very much seeking change from the old, heavy-handed, manipulative ways (e.g. HRC). Yes, Ickes didn’t parse the numbers fully, and that 2% trans and all the college youth who know of us (at whatever undetermined percentage) that killed them.

So much for banking on the gay and lesbian vote via HRC. It reminds me of that old saw: sleep with dogs, wake up with fleas.

“Pack the bag, I'm goin' away
It's over, goin' home
Thank your people, but it's too much to stay
It's done now, I'm goin' home” — It’s Over, Badfinger

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Lone Star State Convention: Democrats Retake The Texas Capital

"Warm winds blowin'
Heatin' blue skies
And a road that goes forever.
I'm going to Texas." — Texas, Chris Rea

<<<- Tedium is tiring, esp. in Texas ....

Texas Politics is back in bloom – Democrat Style! Yes, I know I capitalized Politics … that’s the way it’s done here: big, obnoxious, bold, blunt, elbows-out, heels-dug-in, take-no-prisoners and play to win. It’s at once a thing of awe, infuriation, beauty and ugliness. And sometimes, after all the hard work, acrimony, tedium and gamesmanship, you actually get something that works to some extent.

(And if you don’t know what that last sentence means, find a Texan and have them translate it for you.)

On the Convention floor Larry Penn is a blur, Shannon Patterson and ... hey! -- Isn't that Barack Obama?!?!
This year’s convention in Austin was a good choice. Yes, Austin is still weird and keeping it that way, I’m happy to report. The proximity to Austin’s party place – 6th Street – was quite convenient. Being Texas’ most liberal hotbed certainly helped as well. And with this watershed year, with a greater crowd in the Dem Convention, certainly one of the most well-attended ever – it was fitting to come back to our state capital in the heart of Texas. Fortuitous planning.

Another thing I noticed about Austin, thanks to the location of the Austin Convention Center, is its homeless problem – a relevant sign of the times. For years I’d always wondered why the homeless seemed to be more visible around the far end of Austin’s 6th Street bar promenade a block or two in from the freeway. This past weekend I found out: the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) is located at 7th and Red River, just a block north of where they seemed to be most visible.

There’s always been a large homeless population there, and indeed a trans acquaintance and former TATS member was homeless there a few years back. But this year has been a perfect storm of epic economic proportion. It’s been a stagflated anchor cracking and breaking a lot of this year’s attendees, as well as the state and nation’s populace. Even while we were in convention on Friday, the price of oil skyrocketed over $11 a barrel in one day (an all-time record) to a new all-time high, the unemployment rate rose 10% in one month (now at 5.5%) and the Dow-Jones fell nearly 400 points (over 3% in one day). Indeed, homelessness is an appropriate backdrop of what a large swath of America – even the middle class – is seriously worrying about today.

It’s also a reminder of what we Dems are truly working for: a halt to this bi-polar, two-caste society we’re rushing headlong towards.

“Don’t you know that it’s true That for me and for you The World Is A Ghetto” — The World Is A Ghetto, War

As the paradigm shifts and the economy pinches and pisses off even the most conservative of Bubbaville, the blue dog is actually feeling the yellow dog nipping at his heels and catching up.

One lady I chatted with was a multi-generational, lifelong white Dem (a bit blue doggish) from the conservative Texas panhandle who was married to a husband from a similar family who disowned him when he went GOP with the Reagan Revolution. She reported how he’d given up the ghost on Dems in 1980 and was as rock-ribbed as they came … until this year. Now he’s back to the Dems and swears he’s never going back to red!

My precinct compadre, Larry Penn, went up to Austin with me and had a blast in his first convention. An African-American attorney, I think he initially had doubts about me during the precinct convention and again at our pre-senate district convention meeting. But since the Senate District, he feels me now and is someone I feel has my back as I do his. Even though I had my 2004 Transgender Delegation button (courtesy of Babs Casbar) in full display, Larry was totally cool … we cut up like class clowns during much of the boring sections of the convention.

Larry and I both met a forty-something couple from Killeen (the Fort Hood area) with their Clinton buttons while I donned my Obama T-Shirt. We chatted, joked, poked fun with each other and they even shared their freebie snacks of trail mix and Cheetos with both Larry and me. So who says we can’t unite the party?

I got to see some old acquaintances: the person I was answering to in the Texas Women’s Political Caucus while I headed Houston’s – former TWPC president Lulu Flores (who will also be going to the National Convention as an at-large delegate this year). I got a chance to chat some with Texas’ only “out” elected state official, former State Rep. Glenn Maxey, who is going as an alternate delegate to National. And I got a long chat with attorney Harold Landreneau III and even met his dad as well – longtime regional Dem Party stalwarts (and I didn’t get a chance to see if they’d been elected from their district.)

It was a nice surprise to see our U.S. Senate candidate, State Rep. Rick Noriega. We got a quick hug and a few words while we passed each other. Also got to wave at former congressman Chris Bell (though we didn’t get chance to talk), and later revisited with another of his former local aides who remembered me from working on Bell’s campaign. It turns out he’s now working in DC in another congressman’s office again – yet another contact! I also got to visit with Rep. Terri Hodge again, though that turned out to be a more troubling revisit. She wasn’t happy she was left off of the PLEO delegates (Party Leader / Elected Official) to National, and expressed it by saying she was going to support Hillary instead. A little earlier, they had broadcast Hillary Clinton’s concession speech on the convention floor. Though Ron Kirk (former candidate for Cornyn’s Senate seat) was there heading the Obama selection, he was busy and we didn’t get a chance to reconnect.

My Transgender Delegation button also got a lot of chances to educate as well! Numerous people stopped and asked about it and what I was doing with it (as if I wasn’t trans!) It also helped me campaign for my run for re-election to the State At-Large Nominations Committee again – not only for the transgender part, but to let them know I was actually a past delegate as well.

But for every silver lining, there must be a black cloud as well. For me, I finally lost my first election. My bid to repeat as Committee-woman to state ended up tanking: I was third in a field of five. It turned out to be the norm this year. With so many new attendees, we had a clean sweep of all offices incumbents including Temporary Chair for the Convention, and surprisingly both Senate District Executive Committee members. <<<- This is video (not great quality video, mind you) of me and the other candidates lining up for the election for Sen. Dist. 17 At-Large Nominations Committee for the State. It's only a committee, but it's a statewide committee -- not bad! Thankfully the video's battery died early: I lost my bid for re-election.

However, I was fine with my loss. We had new blood, folks were willing to get involved, and I helped train my successor on what to expect in At-Large Nominations. Thankfully our district was well-represented for freshmen committee members. A few of the other newbies were out to lunch with one actually screwing up so badly she was booted off of the committee.

Our senate district also had numerous problems, and some rules confusion and challenges in delegate elections. It was excruciatingly long, very tedious and took us until 3:30 AM before we finally adjourned Friday night / Saturday morning. We were literally the last people in the building besides cleaning crew. The trip back to my car 8 blocks from the convention.

Other more unfortunate displays the consuming self-interest displayed by folks wanting to be delegate. Before the convention, I’d already resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be re-elected to National (especially with the turnout of new faces and intensely focused interest this year). Yet watching others get downright pissy about their being snubbed was sad – even elected officials and at least one DNC member wanted vindication. Some of these folks had been to conventions past, so it wasn’t as if they were starving for the very experience of it.

“If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States.” — former Vice President, Henry Wallace

On the flipside, I was very bothered that Randall Ellis, the Obama Campaign’s GLBT Chair who busted his butt for them and had never been to a National, was not elected to an At-Large spot. Randall was the antithesis to these others described above, and yet gets nothing.

The floor fights, manipulation and political posturing were also seamy. There was an African American delegate from years past who was giving Q&A in the at-large nominations meeting room who I assisted in giving some explanation of the process to those in the room. At the time I presumed she was an Obama delegate (though there were no buttons, etc.) She continued to try to stir the Obama delegation on the “process” of selection of delegates. Sadly, she even managed to turn my districts committee person to her side. It wasn’t until later that she revealed to the room that she was a Hillary supporter. In the end, she even got nearly 1/3 of the delegates to challenge the selection of national delegates. We ended up with yet another floor fight over our slate of at-large delegates that drug the convention out for over half an hour. Result: we finally adjourned the convention on 11:45 Saturday night (compared to a little after 5PM four years earlier).

Without a doubt, this has been my most arduous, draining convention season ever!

Even the trip home on Sunday took its toll. First, I had no plans of staying over on Saturday night thus no second night in my hotel room (which smelled like rotting papaya and kept me from sleeping). Due to the convention’s long run and my sleep deprivation, I wasn’t able to make it back when I wanted. Sunday morning I ate at Katz’s Deli in Austin and somehow ended up with a gut-wrenching bout of what appeared to be food poisoning. There’s no way to know if it was water or the food, but it was a very unwelcome surprise even before making it to Bastrop just twenty minutes out of Austin.

After two bathroom stops, and baking in the humid heat while driving back, I ended up breaking down on the side of the highway in Brookshire, thirty miles from home. Adding insult to injury, I got a flat on my back tire when I coasted off the shoulder to park my disabled car. After walking the distance back into Brookshire and shelling out $173 tow back home, I arrived to find the lights had cut out at some point and fried my oven’s digital computer chip for some reason. Plus it was 99 degrees when I got back home, and I was already sweat-drenched from my previous walk. And my un-air-conditioned house was baking like an oven.

Some odd news: while we finished up the convention, the Texas Governor's mansion (in repair for her highness, Rick Perry) ended up burning.

Not to end things on a bad note though: I got a chance to stop by my favorite record store – Waterloo Records in Austin – and picked up a few LP’s (including my 3000th album).

Serendipitously I met a therapist in the At-Large Nominations room around noon – a Hillary delegate – who struck up a conversation with me. We became fast friends. I mentioned to her my initial intention to leave sometime early enough to make it back and even quipped that I was ready to sleep in my car if it ended late. She urged me not to do that and instead share her hotel room at the historic Driskill Hotel. I really didn’t think I would be staying late, but due to the overly-drawn out challenges to the nominations, I found myself calling her at 10PM to see if the offer still stood. It did, we got even more time to chat and we hit a bar on 6th Street, then repaired to her place to mix drinks with her stock – I had a surprisingly tasty concoction of rum, Red Bull and a dash of cranberry juice – and sit out on the Driskill’s ground level balcony to watch the drunken promenade on 6th Street.

And we even slept together.

No, not that kind of sleeping together – the platonic sharing of a bed type of sleeping together! She was a life-saver and a really great soul! Oftentimes it’s these improbable or spontaneous things that are the best experiences.

Oh … and one more bit of good news: I got elected as a full delegate, and am heading back to the national convention. Look out, Denver!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Scenes from the Texas State Dem Convention #5

A bit of confusion at this year's Senate District Caucus at the Texas State Dem Convention. This was an attempt to get the latter half of the process (elections to various committees and election of our district delegates to national) begun by getting our delegate strength completed. What caused the confusion initially was that after the speeches on the convention floor, a number of our delegates didn't return for the election process! When this happens, typically they would move alternates up to full delegate. This year one of our SDEC folks challenged and got our chair to remove them once moved up, then to calculate based upon voting weight for the full seated caucus (in other words, if only 83 of 100 people show up, those 83 votes are weighted to equal 100 votes). Usually we only did that when designated delegates failed to show up and credential, or that enough delegates were not elected to fill all the alloted seats. Once credentialed, they should show up and vote -- and if not, those votes would be replaced by alternates. It was about 10:3PM when we began trying to get everyone coordinated to begin the process.

Scenes from the Texas State Dem Convention #4

Herding cattle! After waiting for almost half hour to get into the convention floor, security informed us that we would not be able to get into the door we were all waiting at nearest the stage. Secret Service had Chelsea Clinton backstage and felt we'd be too close to her coming in that door.

Scenes from the Texas State Dem Convention #3

Some early nominations business at the Senate District caucus, and the first taste of controversy on a long, intrigue-filled convention.

Scenes from the Texas State Dem Convention #2

A brief chat with Rose Wall, a T friend of mine from GCTC in Houston, as she arrived at the convention. As it turns out, she's also in my senate district as an alternate delegate, but from Fort Bend county just south of Houston and Harris County.

Scenes from the Texas State Dem Convention #1

Some video early on, while our senate district (17) was collected and awaiting the call to order.