Monday, January 26, 2009

Back To Business As Usual

As Inauguration Week is over and peoples’ lives get back to the more routine, we get to go back to the same issues that have been dogging us throughout the past year or so, and which never really went away. Jobs are clearly taking headlines once again as the New Year shows businesses once again scaling back aggressively. Now that the banking industry has received their Wall Street Welfare checks and decided (now that their books are flush with cash and their worries alleviated) to hunker down and play conservative once again, holding onto their cash with tight fists – and all other corporate industries are following suit.

The result is an unsurprising but frightening deep cut in their workforces. This will help their upcoming quarterly profit ratios and boost their stock price numbers and cost many more Americans and other “global corporate” workers their livelihoods, especially in America. And Republicans will continue whining for the need for more tax breaks to boost profits higher – though as we’ve seen these past years, there won’t be job growth but more “hunkering down” for investors.

For trans people, this will be a harrowing time in the job market. It’s never easy to be hired (Lord knows I can vouch for that many times over), but we’ll be facing some really bleak times beyond what we’ve seen. As always, once those companies begin rehiring some years down the road, we are always last picked for hire – kinda like being the pudgy, nerdy kid in school being picked absolute last for team sports. By necessity, we’re going to have to be more aggressive, maybe even more cutthroat in marketing ourselves for the workplaces of tomorrow.

Maybe some of that was in the back of Donna Rose’s mind during a recent blog post, which Ethan St. Pierre picked up on and mentioned in last night’s TransFM broadcast of the Radical Guy. Donna wrote the following:

I confirmed a couple of suspicions while I was in DC for the inaugural. One is that HRC really isn’t interested in rebuilding the relationship with the broader trans community. Sure, they’ll take it if they can get it but they’re not willing to do anything to earn it. Rather, they’ve got a small group of transpeople who provide the illusion of inclusion and that’s as far as they’ll go. That’s disappointing.

My initial reaction would have been “duh!,” but the statement above baffles me. How could this only be a suspicion? Even students of only our recent history could have told you this was going to happen, much less those who’ve been at it over the decades. But Donna was directly involved in the fallout a little over a year ago, and was well aware of what they were doing in the years of her board tenure there. I don’t know how she thought they were going to change.

“It's a zero sum game, somebody wins, somebody loses. Money itself isn't lost or made, it's simply transferred from one perception to another.” — Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko from the movie “Wall Street.”

HRC presumes we have ephemeral memories, and that all will be forgotten in a year or so. This post played right into that, and gives them hope that this will again be the case. In fact, I know some of their moneyed trans donors who were irate at the ENDA 2007 debacle who are already back working to assist them again – playing right into that same “forgiving tranny” scenario.

Meanwhile, HRC never forgets a thing, and the last things they do are forgive, mend fences, compromise, much much less atone! While this industry is officially “nonprofit,” we should all keep in mind: this is business. Like all other business, bottom line and control of their market are paramount. These large groups are as cold, as calculating and as impersonal as any conservative Wall Street banker. Their Executive Directors are merely CEO’s over their nonprofit businesses, and are mindful of moving their business plan (or agenda) forward, to increase their market share and take care of their investors’ best interests … in order to attract even further investment!

Rights are merely a by-product, and validation for these businesses to exist in the first place.

Now there are wealthy trans people who “invest” in these groups, point taken. But compare their sum total of contributions to those of wealthy gay and lesbian investors/contributors. Far and away, no contest. As with business, they’re going to try to take care of their primary shareholders. Like all business, they will stoop to any level, no matter how shameless we may consider, in order to positive market and build it further. As activist Joelle Ruby Ryan termed it quite accurately, HRC wants to be the Wal-Mart of activism.

Envision Wal-Mart. Now envision it with gay and lesbian leadership and a marketing plan to successfully dominate that market-share. Comfy-cushy, touchy-feely happy-friendly work environment? No.

“Oh, there was a time I would have walked the line
But you bled me dry with your insatiable greed.” — Action, The Sweet

“The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge
of mankind.” — Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko from the movie “Wall Street.”

And yes, Donna, they will continue seeking out new trans people to validate their current and previous behavior rather than attempting to “do the right thing.” That kind of thing is great subject for a Spike Lee joint, but it’s absolute anathema to HRC. Think of it this way: if HRC makes amends, it communicates an admission that they did wrong. You would get more chance getting admission of guilt from George W. Bush or Dick Cheney.

In a nutshell, they have money, they have power, and they don’t care about transgenders beyond simply smoothing out the wrinkles in their public relations image and raising funds from and off of us. It’s been that way, is that way and will remain that way. As long as they’re well-employed and making money, why would they care about something as insignificant to them as earning our trust?

As for noting that other trans people being mere tools for HRC’s image repair, that’s gone on for years. In fact, it’s these “opportunities” simply by the HRC designation that allow for folks like Donna Rose or Mara Keisling or others to have an immediate leap up from the “bubbling under” to immediate trans leadership status rather than wasting years working up the food chain in trans organizations. An HRC imprimatur gives them an automatic “Who’s Who of GLBT” status in America; something that’s hard for many T people to resist and something HRC is well aware of.

Occasionally it’ll even create minor employment possibilities for those precious few. But keep in mind, it’s done with the cynically strategic eye to their quid pro quo. Generosity in business is oxymoronic. Once their tools become less effective, they’ll simply replace them and find other trans folks to fill those designated slots. There’s no lack for desperate and/or ambitious trans people with some pretty heinous discrimination or the occasional corporate success stories. And these folks no doubt noticed how simple it is to achieve a little pay and the added benefit of star cachĂ© that they can parlay into something else later.

We’ll always have at least one among us who is separable.

Trying to get any gay and lesbian leadership to see us as equals – not the “equality” equal, but truly egalitarian equals – may well be nothing more than chasing the wind. When you involve yourself with them, expect to be utilized for their best use – not yours. It’s the nature of the biz. And of all people, Donna cannot look me in the eye and say she wasn’t warned well beforehand! She was.

It’s a New Year: 2009. And HRC is still HRC.

“And that's why everybody wants a piece of the action.
Everybody needs a main attraction.” — Action, The Sweet

“The man who has won millions at the cost of his conscience is a failure.” — Bertie C. Forbes, founder of Forbes Magazine


JaynaPavlin said...

Your thoughts are very well constructed and paint the grim reality of HRC. I more and more feel the T of LGBT is likely going to have to forge its own (and hopefully a better) way.

Jillian Barfield said...

i recently posted a blog about HRC and their agenda . . .

HRC - Big (Gay) Business - The Time for Change is Here (

I agree with your assessment of HRC. I've posted a short excerpt from my blog on this subject below:

"HRC has what they refer to as a Corporate Equality Index. The CEI is a list of corporations that HRC purports are LGBT inclusive in the workplace.

Since the inception of the CEI the corporations listed have never been validated as following the requirements put forth by HRC to earn a place on the list. They are simply taken at their word. Worse than that, there are corporations on the list that are KNOWN to discriminate against transgender workers. Not coincidentally, the corporations on that list are the same corporations that fund HRC - and therein lies the conflict of interest that keeps HRC in business. Because big business is what it is.

HRC is primarily a Political Action Group - disguised as a philanthropically advocacy group for the LGBT community when it suits them in their fundraising efforts. Their major contributors are rich, white, gay men and their (hidden) agenda is formulated around rich, white, gay men while espousing to be supporters of lesbians and transgender people when they find it convenient. (i.e. the Hate Crimes Legislation of 2007)."

I'd like to ask HRC once again to remove the T from their mission statement and agenda.

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