Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ex-Trans Therapy Is AOK By HRC’s CEI

Imagine this for a second: there’s a generic firm that compiles an equality index on gay-friendly work environments in corporate, rating companies from a 0% to a 100% scale, based upon non-discrimination, healthcare policies and mental health policies. For corporations to achieve a perfect 100%, they must do all of the mentioned criteria.

Then let’s say you find out that the companies receiving a 100% perfect gay-friendly workplace award offered mental health counseling with Exodus, or any other ex-gay, reparative-therapy counseling – and not the type that was accepting of the individual’s sexual orientation. Would that be an expected, much less acceptable rating for that employer – 100% perfect? Or would that actually draw cries of foul, maybe protest? Would the gay and lesbian community seek to immediately discredit this arbiter of gay-friendly employers?

Do you think it’s far-fetched? Maybe it is for the gay and lesbian community.

But it’s a reality for the transgender community! Even more interesting, this is the current standard for the Corporate Equality Index (CEI) conducted by – yep, you guessed it!: The Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Yes our self-appointed conservators, those brave souls who “had the guts” to stand up for us in ENDA by cutting us out of the bill, have released their most recent CEI report noting all of the employers receiving a 100% perfect GLBT (as in transgender-inclusive) rating for pro-GLBT-friendly workplaces!

“Oppositional behavior is an integral part of homosexuality. I’m very certain that people who have same-sex attractions suffer from arrested development…. The penis and the vagina fit together. Two penises and two vaginas don’t work.” — Richard Cohen, Pres. of Parents & Friends of Ex-Gays

This was one of those nice discoveries we learned from GID Reform and its founder Kelley Winters in her most recent blog on the splashy presentation of HRC’s annual CEI HRC was proud to announce the 100% scores (the nirvana for both gay and lesbian prospective employees and employers seeking to attract the community) increasing from 195 to 260 – a 33.3% increase! ( You would be impressed by those numbers. And as it is a study that gauges not only employment policy for sexual orientation as well as gender identity, you would be duly impressed even if you were trans.

That is … until you begin looking at the details. Or what’s not in the details, more precisely.

To be fair, HRC has done a better job with their CEI than they have in past years, where criterion was insufficient from a trans perspective, and verification (if any) was spotty. Clearly it’s something that could continue today in isolated locations in some of these same companies (I’ve heard enough trans scare-stories from Hewlett-Packard’s Houston office as is, regardless of perfect rating). That’s not necessarily the fault of HRC. However, it does beg the question: do they check the stated policy veracity with trans employees? At least two other respondents to Kelley’s blog note their “perfect” employers weren’t quite so.

That said, I won’t quibble over most of the index measurements per se. The one that gets me is “reparative therapy” issue – essentially attempting to “cure” one of their transsexual manifestations. I had heard of someone right here in Houston “perfect” HP who heard from a supervisor that “you know we can fix that kind of thing” – as in cure, not assisting in transition. Her work environ was a bit non-supportive.

“[It] is a psychological and psychiatric disorder, there is no question about it. It is a purple menace that is threatening the proper design of gender distinctions in society.” — Dr. Charles Socarides, former Pres. of NARTH

Indeed Kelley’s blog also notes a case of an employee who received a similar comment made by the employer, and the employee then transitioned and was terminated. As her blog pointed out regarding mental health care:

“There is no stipulation in the CEI selection criteria to suggest that mental health care coverage offered by a 100% company must actually be in support of transition or respectful to the affirmed gender identity of the employee.”
Further, there’s no such distinctions in partners or family benefits on the same. As Kim Pearson, Exec. Dir. for Trans Youth Family Allies (TYFA) asked in response to the blog: “Non-transitioning employees have transitioning dependents...what about them? Transgender youth need appropriate medical care to ensure their survival. Is anyone asking these questions?”

Excellent question! If the standards for mental health were simply counseling, regardless of whether affirming the self-identity or reparative or aversion therapy, then what happens to parents who work at these “perfect” companies? A little electro-shock for Junior to keep him out of the dresses and heels? Maybe some faith-based curative therapy for Sissy to chase those demons out that make her want to cut the hair short, shave her face and wear hunting boots and men’s cut jeans? Yeah, maybe that’s a bit extreme … but is it really out of the realm of possibility under the overly loose definition of “mental health care”? I know in Texas I wouldn’t put it past them!

Playing devil’s advocate here, I must state that HRC has made statements through their trans business council rep, Meghan Stabler that the policy is changing, as she’s stated on both Donna Rose and Kelley’s blogs.

“From a high level here are the changes:
- The current "one of five" criteria will be gone! Replaced by coverage for "medically necessary treatments" as defined by Standards of Care ( WPATH ). Policy must reference said Standard of Care.
- That a medical plan not have exclusions based on "transgender", "gender identity" etc
- That proof of coverage be supplied at time of CEI submission.
- That there be a way to notify HRC Workplace should a plan fail to meet its promises and submitted CEI, so that HRC Workplace and work with the company to rectify.

I wish Kelly [sic] had called me to say this was going to be a posted note, as she had visited HRC DC with myself and Diego to talk with the HRC Workplace staff summer last year. We took note.

The announcement of the new CEI changes is late, I know, I am frustrated about that too. But changes will be announced in a matter of weeks, not months. The changes will be significant.”
Note that there wasn’t mention of “mental health benefits for counseling by a mental health professional,” but there could be a possibility it’s part of the changes to be determined. But the last part caught my eye about her frustration with the slow pace of change. Later Meghan also responds to Kelley:

“My only observation would be to maybe suggest that next time, when writing a piece like this with the concern about the CEI, why not call Daryl [Herrschaft] or Samir [Luther] directly and ask them "IF changes are coming", "IF so, what are they" and "IF so, when". She would have had answers.”
That rings a bit hollow to me. If she’s having the frustrations over the timing of these changes being a part of the HRC Business Council, it’s doubtful that Kelley would be able to pin down any more specific answers – quite the contrary.

Actually I do appreciate the pressure cooker one such as Meghan has to experience being the “HRC designate” for anything trans. We tend to have long histories and memories and long ago lost all patience, meanwhile she has to deal with what in civil rights work is a corporate behemoth. They’ll do what they want and establish their own agenda in their own time, and trannies – the bottom-feeders on the food chain to them – can like it or shove it It’s an untenable position being liaison between the two parties where nobody’s going to be pleased and everyone’s in the mood to shoot the messenger.

“We say God did not intend anyone to be this way - to be gay or lesbian.” — John Paulk, formerly of Exodus, now Focus On The Family

That said, even with the upcoming changes that are proposed for their CEI, one startling fact remains: HRC offers perfect ratings to those who offer counseling that’s even of the reparative, ex-Trans variety. So the questions beg: why is this just being attended to now, eight years after self-declaring they were including trans in their mission statement? This is equal? Are they now, or would they ever expect gays and lesbians to be okay with their employers’ perfect status for covering ex-Gay therapy?

What does this say about HRC’s ability to take a serious approach to trans equality when the real possibility exists that some of these “perfect” corporations could simply say they support us regardless of how untrue that may be in actuality, then simply do one of those four- or five- or six-figure contributions to HRC for banquet sponsorships or other sundry donations? Lord knows HRC is one of the most aggressive and slick fundraising organizations around, and they’d turn away virtually nothing as long as it’s generous.

And what were they thinking in presuming trans people were dumb enough to just go along with reparative therapy counseling as simply being an honest mistake? Just basing this on the level of hue and cry over Rick Warren or Prop 8, I surmise they would probably raise a stink if someone were congratulating “perfect” companies for counseling that included options for Exodus or other aversion or reparative therapies.

You know, I think we should be collectively just as indignant and offended for the level of fools HRC take us to be. But then again, this is the same HRC we’ve grown to know the past fifteen years plus, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.

I’m just saying ….

“There was Curt, his first love, who left him; his summer job as an $80-an-hour prostitute; and three years of performing as a drag queen. After his college pastor saved him, John tossed his high heels, dresses, jewelry and wigs into a Dumpster, telling "Candi" goodbye and "I don't need you anymore."” — from Praying Away The Gay by Margaret Carlson & Wendy Cole, Time Magazine 7/27/98

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hate The New Video On YouTube

A YouTube video made some waves recently in the trans community – and not in a good fashion. In it, a black teen (or possibly young man) by the name of DGC or David parodies the Beyoncé video, “If I Were A Boy;” however, replacing the subject with “Tranny” instead of “Boy.” I’ve included a link to the video in question if you’re nervy enough to watch it. Be warned that if you’re trans, you may likely be offended.

“I wish I had more hands, so I could give those … four thumbs down!” — Dave Chappelle as “Rick James”

Just in speculating, not knowing this person, I’ll flesh out what I think I see in this: he’s a typical African American middle-class college freshman or high school senior, not really fully adult as yet, a cut, someone who likes his attention and doing whatever it takes to get it, into shock-value humor with his friends while they hang out wherever they hang out at, and probably is not personally anyone who spontaneously goes out to commit bias related violence against transgenders.

Is he transphobic? (as in someone who would panic if he were attracted to someone he suddenly found was trans): I’d guess yes. He seems like the type that would react in horror over that, and would probably lash out if he were around friends (to defend his manhood around his homies – can let them get the wrong impression!)

Bottom line, I think it was his awkward and totally thoughtless attempt at trying to be a Dave Chappelle or a Cat Williams, and ending up being no funnier than the boorish drunk at the end of a party who thinks he’s a comedian when all that he really is is offensive. He and his desensitized pals will probably laugh about it for months and brush it off to harmless fun.

And for my trans sisters and brothers in the African American community, I feel for you as I know videos such as this do not make your lives any easier (not that they have ever been).

Yet, to the “trannies” he debases with his mindless humor, it’s a very different reality. The words he sings have meanings too, and hurt and anger are the by-products for the target. It strikes me that he’s probably offended when white or other non-black folks make the same type mockery or stereotypes about young African American males for cheap laughs, which says nothing about use of the “n” word. He’s a human being with feelings, no big shock he’d take issue. But the people he sings about are also human beings, though he does his best to strip them of that humanity with this sad parody.

Further to the point, for trans people in America the fear of ridicule and even worse, violence, is very palpable. Violence happens frequently, and hate murders in our community on a per capita basis are some of the highest in the nation – especially among African American trans people! He sings “they think they had a chick, but when they saw my dick...” and references to “working the streets” and feels it has no real effect beyond humor. Tragically, “working the streets” is the only opportunity left to many trans women, especially those of color who have no way to earn a legitimate living without an ID that matches their appearance, much less the possibility of landing jobs if they are throw-away children and teens who don’t get to finish even high school! Comments like David/DGC’s anatomical reference are everyday taunts to these girls, awaiting just a hair-trigger reply to launch into something more violent.

In his description of the video, he intends to offer a sort of disclaimer: “This video was not intended to offend anyone of the homosexual or transexual community. It's just fun.”

“She had the body of a Venus with an eighteen inch surprise!” — Dude (Looks Like A Lady), Aerosmith

This video wiz may have intended it to be harmless fun. But to 30 transgenders last year (and those are only the ones we’ve heard about), that type of harmless fun may have been a contributing factor in their brutal hate murders. I can’t help but think of Amanda Milan in New York in 2000, who was confronted and teased in similar fashion about what was between her legs, and when she commented back to hold her own, Dwayne McCuller grabbed a knife from a pal, walked up behind her and slashed her in the neck. As she bled to death, the cabbies parked around New York’s Port Authority Terminal stood and clapped. Humanity ….

Here’s some of what the DGC/David’s video inspired in comments:

that dude or wut ev,is dayum funni
boy, i like ur attitude. this was hella funny.
this is a gay ass video!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Even one person tried to feign sensitivity toward trans folks and validating her guilt by saying:

some of my really really really good friends are trannies. but honestly? i didn't find this offensive at all. because i know it's a parody, and you were going with the stereotype and playing off of that. so it was actually really funny! and really well done! i love it!
“Didn’t find it offensive at all” … “you were going with the stereotype and playing off of that” …. This is the type of sensitive commentary this stuff inspires – and from someone who’s “really really really good friends” with some of us. Hmm. Another person, responding to a comment saying the video was especially insensitive coming from a minority that has also suffered such soul-grinding stereotyping and discrimination had this to say in his defense:

wow.... i could give a huge speach about racism but i wont..... just let me say, do you think they had a choice to be black?
Indeed, there is a lot of education still yet to be done – even here, almost a decade into the 21st century! To that end, I wish I could reach the last commenter with the following link to a show a friend sent to me. This should me a must-listen for everyone: trans, family members and spouses, friends, co-workers – especially the parents, bosses, conservatives, gays, lesbians and straights alike who think this is “our choice.” This is the most recent broadcast of Public Radio International’s “This American Life.”

There are two halves to this show. So once you click the link, fast forward to the thirty-minute mark for Act II and begin to listen. It’s about twenty minutes long, more or less. After you finish listening to this Act II of this show #374, tell me … do you really think being trans is a choice?

“Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood.” — Coretta Scott King

“And even though I know how very far apart we are,
It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star.” — Somewhere Out There, Linda Ronstadt from the movie “American Tail”

Sunday, February 15, 2009

America Loves Illusion: Let Us Buy Your Lie

“If you’re going to lie, lie big. If you are consistent about it and never admit, you win. It’s part of the culture up here (Washington). You learn to expect it.”

“So … it’s ‘lie famously and be rewarded famously’?” I responded.

“You’re not in Houston anymore…” Toto.

Other than the “Toto” part, that was the back-and-forth of a darkly sardonic conversation I had with a friend of mine who works up on the Hill – and no, it was not Diego Sanchez or anyone else GLBT. The subject was the discussion of what happened in the last session regarding ENDA, the damage control messaging the involved parties were plying in the fallout, and then comparing it to the general culture in conservative circles of brazen actions followed by browbeating critics back with nary a challenge.

“I came into this world as a reject.
Look into these eyes
Then you'll see the size of these flames….
Everyone that burns has to learn from the pain.” — Nookie, Limp Bizkit

This all came to play out yet again during the presentation given by Mara Keisling at the IFGE conference. Lisa Gilinger and I sat together, pointing out the equivocations in her speech – sometimes even coming in the same sentence! It was notable to pick out how legalistically deft she was at playing both sides of the issues in order to cover either side, regardless of what was to fall out down the road.

Prior to the ditching of trans people in ENDA in 2007, she was good at playing a wide swath within the pro-HRC camp, and had ridiculed and “damage controlled” NTAC, even preemptively, for any criticism of the ‘great and powerful’ HRC. Of course, that was before our being ditched.

Fast forward to October, 2007 and suddenly Mara realized her raison d’etre – being the trans person who would work collaboratively and collegially with HRC – was going to cut her off from the constituency she purported to represent. Reinvention time!: she suddenly became the HRC-slammer too, even more overtly than NTAC had ever been in press. When her board chair embarrassed her by claiming they would never “work with HRC in the foreseeable future” and referring to it as a movement for “rich, gay white males,” Mara began backing off of her own rhetoric and distancing herself from some of her board’s emotions.

“Autobots, transform! Transform, phase two!” — from the cartoon The Transformers

As usual everyone applauded Mara’s program, no one really noting anything out of order. By late 2008, I was already hearing all the rumors of Mara attempting to get back in good graces with the very same folks she herself called “immoral” and “liar.” It wasn’t any surprise to me, I’d predicted this back in my blog in Nov. 25, 2007 “Whither Now NCTE?” Sure enough, Damon Hoenlein, a Field Op with HRC noted he was “working with Mara on their lobby day, helping make phone calls” ….

I guess “work with” is different than “working with” if you really want to get technical. When you have to parse statements out to an infinite degree and legalistically challenge when it’s uncomfortably pinpointed, you begin to realize communication these days just isn’t what it used to be. It’s more about creating the marketing equivalent of a poison bonbon: it tastes great going down, very enjoyable until you realize too late that it wasn’t the treat you thought it was after all.

“Lie famously ….”

Of course Mara’s not the only offender at this. Washington is crawling with similarly glib types who are quite amusing folks … but don’t turn your back! While Barney Frank has been more candid on trans support than most over the years (especially when he was saying he didn’t support us), in more recent times his feigned support, then failed inclusivity was always pushed off on the likes of ex-Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) and more recently Rep. George Miller (D-CA).

No doubt everyone believed that explanation and walked away satisfied they knew where the monkey wrench in the works was … except for those who actually visited those offices and heard the contrary! Nevertheless, I’m sure Ol’ Barn’ will continue on and never admit a thing. Why should he? Everyone who doesn’t check believes it because he sells it well! It doesn’t have to be right or true – it just has to sound relatively plausible and attractive enough to buy!

HRC, and specifically JoeSo, have had their own time on the hot seat thanks to board votes “supporting only inclusive” legislation, and of course JoeSo’s now-infamous promise made at Atlanta’s Southern Comfort Conference in 2007 ( now beaten into everyone GLBT’s collective conscience, and of course his conversation there a year later where he noted to the local Atlanta leaders that he misspoke the previous year. He smoothed a number of ruffled feathers with that.

So just last weekend at their Gala in New York, Solmonese felt emboldened enough by his silver tongue during an interview with Gay City News for the following (

In talking about ENDA, Solmonese delicately made the case that success on a version of the bill that includes protections for transgendered Americans was possible because HRC was willing to compromise in accepting a non-inclusive version when it passed the House in late 2007. After voicing his confidence that a stronger version of the measure would be enacted, he said, “Why? Because we had the guts and the will to start this fight and we more than any other organization have devoted the resources and the ground troops to finish it, and we will do that this year.”
We’re believing it. Believe me! Yeah. Right. (I know, not a very good sales job … eh.)

Maybe using the term “lie” is a bit rough. In other parlance, a better term would be chutzpah. That fits well! Brazenness. Prevarication. Deftly ambiguous. There’s any number of euphemisms that more politely describe speaking with the intent to give one impression while delivering the opposite. As long as you have the sales skills to get the target audience to buy, you’re golden.

“Why did I wait so long,
To figure it out? But I did it.
And I'm the only one underneath the sun who didn't get it.
I can’t believe that I can be deceived….” — Nookie, Limp Bizkit

When I was seven, I was caught in a lie. I got my ass beat royally over that one, and my dad left no misunderstanding that this was not tolerable behavior. Immediately I amended my patterns – pain and fear will make you do that post-haste! So things like that didn’t enter my mind, and I just started blurting things out. Of course, in time, I found out I had to be a bit more discreet and not just say what came to mind as it would be considered rude or hurtful (honesty aside) and would also result in punishment.

Once I hit junior high, things on my dad’s side changed. Maybe the drinking, maybe not. Most likely ego. But for whatever reason, even if I was in the right, he would demand that I acquiesce and agree I was wrong. I refused! And I got punished! After a number of these incidents, I actually became resentful about it and pointed up the fact that he was the one who brought it on by beating honesty into me in the first place. That drew even more punishment. My mom would try to intervene with me, pleading with me to just say he was right to keep the peace. I’d refuse on principle, but I learned that silence would end the beatings. Standoff.

It built my tenacity out of the double standard, gave me a healthy dislike of duplicity and a strong dose of wanting what was fair, just and equitable. And expectations of likely retribution as it comes with a price.

“…be rewarded famously.”

In America we love the illusion: magic shows, Hollywood, Disney World, get-rich-quick schemes. We’ll pay to hear those things that we want to hear, not the real world stuff that can be rather mundane or downright depressing. We dream big, and reward those who can sell us the dream. It’s what many people did these past eight years with the sub-prime mortgages – believed in the fantastical reality of buying a $500,000 home while earning only $40,000 a year, and thinking they could actually pay it off with an affordable payment. It worked for a while, until the payments went up and the bills came due.

Herb Sandler ran World Savings in California for many years, a well respected bank. In an exposé on CBS 60 Minutes, he responded to an inquiry that, “it is categorically false to suggest that we trained or permitted employees to falsify a borrowers’ income,” even though 38% of their loans were considered sub-prime in 2005. Possibly Sandler’s statement was technically true. But it sidesteps one fact their former chief loan officer Paul Bishop noted: they’d used outside brokers to bring in 60% of their new business. Outside brokers aren’t theirs to train or permit – clean hands!

Mr. & Mrs. Sandler sold their savings bank to Wachovia a couple months before the bank collapse, and reaped a nifty $2.6 billion for their work. Paul Bishop was fired when he threatened to tell Wachovia the truth. And of course, Wachovia went belly up later, purchased by Wells-Fargo with the Bush Bailout (yeah, all of us!). Bob Simpson from I-mark, a firm who investigates failed institutions said many tried to get the truth out on what was happening with banks like World Savings for years and were ignored, he said, because, “There’s no money in common sense.”

It happens throughout corporate America: take the rest of the Wall Street banks. Think any of those executives leading them were punished? How about all the Halliburton no-bid contracts that still went way over budget and were found to have overcharged the government for goods and services in Iraq that was never done or delivered. Think they were punished? Bernie Madoff, the most highly-regarded investment fund wizard on Wall Street ran, essentially, a Ponzi scheme for decades and never had oversight from the SEC. And he even managed to scam on some of the best – a master at his craft! He did get punished … with house arrest at his luxurious Park Avenue penthouse in upper Manhattan.

Hell, we just finished with the three kings of them all – our own President George W. Bush and his cohorts in crime, VP Dick Cheney, and Karl ‘Turdblossom’ Rove! On any number of things we could’ve called them on their wanton and willful manipulation of facts and obfuscation of truth. In a realistic world, we would’ve frogmarched them out the doors in a perp walk of shame before they flew away, scot free. So how did it all come to pass?

Man, them folks can sell that illusion!

Lie famously and be rewarded famously … I’ll keep a hold of that thought.

In retrospect, I should’ve learned many years before that I was on a loser’s path for a place like Washington. At seven I learned the right lesson which was wrong, and at 14 I didn’t learn the wrong lesson which would’ve been right. Who knows? President Barack Obama seems different, seems very much an open book and appears to value others who are forthright as well. Maybe he can be the change we need away from this current era. … Or maybe the culture there will change him instead. … Or maybe Obama was never the way I was thinking he was, and he’s the greatest salesman of them all! Time will tell....

And the folks who tell the truth up there, they all lay low and demand to remain confidential. Small wonder! I’ve seen the truncated careers of those in DC who were candid.

The truth hurts. Indeed.

You can use your illusion, let it take you where it may.
We live and learn and then sometimes it's best to walk away.
Me? I'm just here hangin' on. It's my only place to stay –
At least for now anyway.
I've worked too hard for my illusions just to throw them all away.” — Locomotive, Guns ‘N’ Roses

During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.
— author, George Orwell

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Post-Mortem On IFGE Conference

The IFGE Conference ( was both an interesting and fun event this year. It was good to see some old faces, and also connect with some of my Facebook friends I hadn’t had chance to meet in the flesh. It was informative, though the presentations didn’t seem to draw many people this year. They screened a movie (unique touch) and did a grassroots organizing series as well (an important first). But due to the economy, attendance was down about 50% per reports (which makes me wonder about all our events). Not knowing the final numbers, they still pulled in around 150, maybe as many as 200 (since those not attending meals or presentations couldn’t be assessed.)

However, the last blog I posted on their board elects seemed to generate quite a buzz and overshadowed the event.

"If you're not controversial, you're not doing your job" — Clinton FCC chairman, Reed Hundt

For the record, my most recent blog wasn’t a post blasting IFGE – nor inviting such blasts from others. Other than my sudden shock at the announcement, monitoring this situation there would be in order, as I fear a repeat of the Southern Comfort Conference (SCC) debacle in 2007. This was intended to be more a bowshot to HRC to keep their greedy mitts out of our comparatively impoverished community’s events.

Nor was the post done to impugn the character of Allyson Robinson, nor invite others to do likewise. Before the IFGE Conference, I’d never met Allyson and could only speculate. During the conference, I met her while she was chatting with Bree Hartlage. Again, I expressed my concerns in my blog to the both of them. Allyson and I spoke at length and I reiterated to her that I didn’t question her motivations, integrity or morals. What I did let her know was there had been a long, consistent history with her employer, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) – something she appeared to have no interest in – and that this was “pollyannaish” naïveté in the fervent hope that they will change. I explained to her that for the vast majority of the trans community, there is no reason to “hope” – that went out the window years ago. Our only options are to fight for change or give up.

She understood my position and hoped that I’d someday amend my views on HRC. I also understood her position and what she faced, and know that someday she’ll understand what Mara Keisling, Jamison Green, Donna Rose, Kylar Broadus and even Riki Wilchins learned before her. She got a bit condescending at one point, stating, “maybe someday I’ll have your wisdom and know all that you’ve learned over the past ten years.” However, I’m sure my “naïveté” comments were likely seen similarly, so fair game. Nevertheless, as with all the above mentioned, I don’t suspect I’ll be adopting their opinions on HRC, and it’ll be them coming around to mine. Allyson even encouraged me to keep speaking out as it makes her job easier (and draws me extra reviling).

Again, I don’t believe Allyson is in HRC for the wrong reasons (and yeah, I know, she gets a paycheck, etc. – spare me.) Nor do I think IFGE has gone to the dark side simply because of the board selection. What I am fully apprised of is HRC’s guile and ability to lull anyone not vigilant into their siren’s song, leading lambs to the slaughter. And I’m loath to see IFGE led there.

In 2007 I bit my tongue upon hearing what I was to happen with ENDA very early on, and yet I was personally blasted for not warning everyone beforehand! And those few that I did explain it to (those who questioned me on my “un-Equal” sticker at SCC) actually argued with me about Mara Keisling’s speech and Joe Solmonese’s promise. Two of them (one writing a check in front of me) even went in to give HRC an additional donation!

Those are things you don’t forget, and I don’t suppose anyone will understand me on that one. You had to be there.

"Stood still on a highway, I saw a woman by the side of the road
With a face that I knew like my own reflected in my window.
Well she walked up to my quarterlight and she bent down real slow;
A fearful pressure paralyzed me in my shadow.
She said “Son what are you doing here?
My fear for you has turned me in my grave.”
I said “Mama, I’ve come to the valley of the rich
Myself to sell.'
She said “Son, this is the road to hell.”" — The Road To Hell, Chris Rea

Nevertheless, one of the things I was bracing for from my post and which I warned Bree Hartlage (IFGE Chair) about was the distancing and character assassination I’d receive – typical to all situations exposing HRC. I lived it before in 2004, and it was no slice of heaven again in 2007. One thing I’ve learned is that our community as well as the gay and lesbian community will punish those who speak truth.

Bree assured me this was not going to be the case, and that they were trying to usher in a new sense of community union.

The last two days I spent on the road trip home, but upon returning got the following response from IFGE Exec. Dir, Denise LeClair.

It's a great story, but Vanessa knew about Allyson Robinson's nomination months ago. She was the first person we contacted when we vetted Allyson, but she waited until after our elections to raise an alarm. Vanessa was attending the IFGE conference as my guest when she posted this tantrum. Who blindsided whom?

This is absolute falsehood: I found out at that luncheon announcement – thus the reason I went to Ethan to verify this was the same Allyson Robinson. Even the logic – that they somehow vet board members through me first, especially since I’m on a completely separate org – hyperbolically stretches the imagination. They may have known this for three months, but I never heard a peep. I can see HRC doing things like that, but I don’t expect that kind of fabrication from IFGE.

It's ironic to be accused of collaborating with HRC, when IFGE is the ONLY national trans organization that has been refused a seat with Joe on the National Policy Roundtable (NPR). NTAC, NCTE, and NGLTF are all there. Why is that? None of the major GLB (or for that matter T) organizations in Washington DC will give IFGE the time of day, let alone funding.

A histrionic rant to be sure – where does she see my speaking of their collaboration with HRC? HRC is working with Mara on this year’s lobby day, and Bree Hartlage did mention “partnering” with NCTE and coordinating their next conference around NCTE’s next lobby day. But I did not prognosticate that HRC would work with NCTE next year, nor did I even mention the coordination with NCTE next year. That’s a little too flimsy to suggest a collaboration! And why the reference to “a seat with Joe on the National Policy Roundtable (NPR)”? I don’t know. The NPR was created in 2000 by NGLTF, not HRC. HRC as well as NTAC were two of the original invitees to the Roundtable, with NTCE joining in 2004. While NTAC used to “get the time of day” from GLB groups until 2002, that stopped once Mara hit town – and not due to anything on NTAC’s part. Funding? That doesn’t happen for any Trans groups except Mara’s.

If Denise is inferring that NTAC or I are responsible for IFGE not having the open door with GLB groups, or being on the NPR, then she’s barking up the wrong tree. In fact, the very same Mara Keisling they’ll partner with sits on the Members Committee of NPR – the group that establishes the policy for whom to allow in, and rules for members to follow. They should be inquiring of Mara why they’ve never been allowed on.

Denise even admitted later that “we were all aware from the onset that Allyson's nomination would be controversial, Allyson is not that naive and neither am I.” So why this reaction if they knew it would be a controversy, and insinuating that I created it?

In point of fact, Allyson was nominated by Ethan St. Pierre, one of HRC's most passionate critics. HRC had nothing to do with her nomination, or election. It happened despite them, not because of them. You can't throw a stone in DC without hitting someone from that organization, and any national organization that says they don't work with HRC is not being honest. The difference is that we don't lie about what we do.

If I read that first part correctly, that makes me more at ease knowing HRC was trying to stop Allyson from joining the board. Perhaps that’s what Ethan was seeing that none of the rest of us could see. I’d sensed we’d have another defection from HRC before year-end, and maybe this is it. Allyson didn’t give me that impression in our conversation, though. I’m skeptical of her leaving behind a job for the board position.

However, I don’t know why Denise put out the last part of the statement that “any national organization” not working with HRC is lying about it. IFGE is in DC. What is that saying?

And I think everyone knows better than to believe NTAC “gets the time of day” from HRC.

“To be misunderstood can be the writer's punishment for having disturbed the reader's peace. The greater the disturbance, the greater the possibility of misunderstanding.” — literary critic, Anatole Broyard

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Here We Go Again: IFGE Elects HRC’s Allyson Robinson To The Board

The past few days I’ve been attending the IFGE Conference in suburban Virginia. As today was the Trinity Awards for the community, I made a point of attending. I was please to see folks get rewarded for their hard work – many times done out of pocket and unfunded.

During the announcements portion of the luncheon we heard the news of the newly-elected board at IFGE. Congratulations go out to all, and a special congrats to Bree Hartlage who will be the new board chair.

But then, at the end of the announced new board members for IFGE was a name that stopped me cold: Allyson Robinson. Shortly after I verified with board member Ethan St. Pierre: yes, this is the one employed by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). She is now on the board of IFGE.

This wasn’t just a blindside, but a gut-shot and a lead pipe to the back of the head! This one came out of nowhere. The same girl that some of these same folks were panning when HRC hired her about the “activist” tag they tossed around, the same one folks have stood warily away from for her obligatory HRC promotion and concerns about motivation is now the same one on the board of IFGE.

So now, HRC has established their first foothold in yet another trans organization, and is eyeing another trans conference opportunistically. While Allyson may not be a bad person (I don’t know), one thing I am fully aware of is HRC’s propensity for strategic placement with a distinct eye toward marketing and ultimately their own bottom line. They must continue finding ways to keep employing themselves and bring up the next crop of gay and lesbian activists and future leaders – you know, the things trans people have never been able to enjoy?

“Got moneys not looking for the cure.
Got moneys not concerned with the sick among the pure.
Got money, “let’s go dancing on the backs of the bruised.” — Head Like A Hole, Nine Inch Nails

Have we not learned anything from October 2007? Southern Comfort Conference was just over a year ago, and it seems we trans folks are willing to forgive and forget and offer and olive branch of trust once again. WHY? What did we do wrong in the build up leading to October, and subsequently when we were unceremoniously ditched by both Barney Frank and HRC. I mourn that our community is once again doing what will paint us as nothing but brain-dead dupes still too stupid to be aware of when we’re getting fleeced.

And please do not give me nor anyone else the crap that this was all Barney Frank and that HRC was solely an unwitting participant in this whole travesty! From 2005 on, this was the direction HRC was lobbying toward. NTAC held its tongue, practically biting through the damn thing after Lobby Days in May 2007 as we were preemptively “damage controlled” by Mara Keisling at Esprit Conference and after. We watched, waited, gave them every opportunity to make an unfettered decision, and HRC obscenely screwed us!

It reminds me of what I’d just finished writing about a week ago: how have we NOT learned our lessons? Where has HRC done anything that even smacks of change, much much less atone for the damage they’ve wreaked on the trans political scene? When has there been anything but this constant attempt to drive wedges, divide and conquer, ultimately crushing the trans community leadership and voice, then waiting around for the spoils of their war against trans people fighting for our own egalité?

“No you can’t take it.
No you can’t take it.
No you can’t take that away from me.” — Head Like A Hole, Nine Inch Nails

Now it’s the trans community, in the persona of IFGE, that wants to let bygones be bygones, amazingly undermining our own ability to even leverage HRC, and pry away any gains! What the hell has HRC ever done for trans activism to deserve favor? We’ve always been, and still continue to be dismissed, disrespected, disengaged, discredited, disempowered, crushed and dispensed to the four winds!

Now they’ve convinced yet another organization to allow them to worm their way in so that they may undermine the trans political leadership once again, with a particular eye toward what opportunity they may reap for themselves and their own on the backs of ours, and availing themselves of the tragedies of the trans community! I have two words to describe them: selfish greed!

For trans people who don’t genuflect and capitulate, showing them what they feel is proper deference, they will vindictively retaliate as always. So much for thinking there was a chance for change from them. That killed it!

It’s ironic that Lisa Mottet of NGLTF, one of the Trinity Award winners, mused that it was ashame that the trans community doesn’t work together, and how far too often we find ourselves at odds with each other. This followed on the heels of the HRC employee now a board member, with their long and consistent history. They not only can’t see things from a trans perspective – the absence of hope, the pervasive unemployment, the pulverized dreams, the constant betrayals – they refuse to! That was a nice try, but I’m not buying those words for half a second! I’m following what experience has taught numerous times – the only change came from our side, not theirs!

All day the organization and others onstage referenced Sylvia Rivera and her courageous fight. And yet, here we have something that’s not simply disrespecting her memory but is certainly sending her spinning in her grave. If she were alive, taking a look at the trans community’s predicament and with this discovery today, Sylvia would be absolutely furious!

For all the IFGE folks who say “oh, but this is different … it won’t happen to us,” all I can say is bone up on history. There’s nothing comprehensive about this: it’s isolating one thing, wedge here, wedge there, pry and pry until you break it loose, then grab the spoils. Back to their usual selves ….

“Bow down before the one you serve.
You’re going to get what you deserve.” — Head Like A Hole, Nine Inch Nails

It’s time to bloody up the waters, seriously! It’s time to expose these avaricious HRC folks for the greed, manipulation, and hateful disrespect they’ve always shown the community and continue wanting to purvey with impunity! We must find ways to take this to the press, to the straight community and out into the streets.

We must blast them until the truth is finally known and then continue blasting them until we even it up and everything is made right!

Until then, there is no such thing as “equal” when your trans! And I for one am sick of being “lesser than”!

“Head like a hole, black as your soul.
I’d rather die than give you control.” — Head Like A Hole, Nine Inch Nails

“Blood on the streets, blood on the rocks,
Blood in the gutter, every last drop!
You want blood? You got it!” — If You Want Blood, AC/DC

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Doing It Maryland Style: GLBT Lobby Day In Annapolis

Post Inauguration, I’ve actually remained in the DC area as I was planning on co-presenting at the IFGE Conference two and a half weeks hence. I’m in between jobs anyway, have managed to make it relatively productive, and by staying with friends, managed to make it economically feasible on my zero budget! As Mara Drummond mentioned last night while we were at dinner, being trans is almost like being in a club like the Masons or something, where there are chapters and friends in every town!

I didn’t really do the tourist thing, per se (though I did have an open invitation to do so with Angie Martin & Georgie Jessup). Unfortunately I haven’t been able to work it into the schedule as yet, and may not get to do that.

However, I did get chance the weekend before last to go out to watch a local heavy metal band whose drummer is a personal friend of Angie’s. Scarlet Angel played a little bar in Glen Burnie called Crossroads, and did a very good job with both covers and also a couple of their originals. In my day, I went through a heavy metal phase, so all the songs were familiar (yes, I’m a rocker chick!) And somehow I ended up being the hit of the bar, per Angie. It was fun!

“Plug me in, I'm alive tonight
Out on the streets again.” — Live Wire, Motley Crue

Additionally I got to hang out in southern Maryland with my other friends Pat & Frannie O’Grady, and tagged along with them to their friend’s place to a Super Bowl party!

But the trip wasn’t just fun and games. The bulk of last week (with the exception of the ice day that President Obama chided us all about), I hit the Hill and made contacts with our newbie Congress Critters’ offices. There’s not much in the way of staffing in most of the offices, though a few have completed enough of the process to get a few visits with the pertinent folks.

The House side seems more settled than the Senate (true to their more tempered and deliberative nature). So there weren’t too many permanent contacts met yet – though I did get a chance to shake hands and get a quick hello with Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO). He’s a nice guy: easy, down-to-earth without a whiff of the pretension or elitism.

Of course I was kicking myself that I didn’t think to bring a camera! Oh well.

One thing I did which took me off my normal routine was to leave Capitol Hill a little early and drive over to Annapolis on Groundhog Day for Equality Maryland’s (EqMD) GLBT Lobby Day. Frannie had invited me to go with her, and as it was an evening event as opposed to the daytime lobbying we typically do, it worked right into the schedule!

A pleasant surprise was getting to see some familiar faces once I arrived in Annapolis’ Lawyers Mall in front of the Capitol Building. Dana Beyer was chatting up Frannie as I arrived (thankfully I found them in the crowd as I’d left my cell phone back in Gaithersburg). Soon after, I got chance to reconnect with Bishop Gene Robinson who was scheduled to speak at the EqMD rally. We chatted for some time, and I introduced him to Frannie, and Dana got a chance to meet him as well.

Upon turning around, I spotted another ghost from the past: Donna Cartwright was also waiting to buttonhole Rev. Gene for a chat about church politics. She was there for the Lobby Day as well.

There was actually a pretty sizable crowd of GLB and T and especially a notable number of allies! It was heartening to note their number one issue of their two “asks” was transgender non discrimination – the second being marriage equality.

“Teachers keep on teachin’.
Preachers keep on preachin’.” — Higher Ground, Stevie Wonder

Before the speeches ended, Frannie and I, along with our other crew from District 27, made our way to the first of our three office visits, along with April Arford who brought along photos of her and her spouse’s kids (they officially married in Connecticut after their civil union in Vermont) and Sandy Bell, an ally and vice-president of Maryland’s chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW).

April was on her first-ever lobby visits, while we trannies and Sandy were old hands at this. As such, we let her do the bulk of the talking to get her feet wet, and comfortable in doing her own advocacy.

The immediate thing that struck me was the layout and look of the offices in the House and Senate. Rather than the typical straight line hallways with individual office doors lining them, these were all halls leading to perpendicular halls, leading to warrens of groups of offices seemingly divided into counties. The second feature that was unique was how others were officed in committee office groupings. Apparently Maryland doesn’t just gather in committee meetings, but I take it they also caucus per county and per state region as well – very different than Texas’ federal style of simple committee caucusing.

The first office visit was with a Delegate who reminded me a lot of one of Texas’ former Reps, Debra Danburg. April represented well in her first visit. Frannie took the supporting role, feeding “leaders” to spur her district progeny to discuss other topics she’d not touched upon and gentle reminders of points overlooked. The easy rapport she had with the Delegate at the end of the meeting, with her inquiring about Frannie’s wife Pat and other personal chit-chat, discussing the campaign strategy for the following year let me know that Frannie was at ease in political waters.

April, being new, was more frustrated with not being able to score her goal: a co-sponsorship. It’s a tough lesson to learn, especially when you’re new. We explained that it’s better to have candor as it’s someone you can have faith in – even when the answer isn’t as advantageous as you’d like. The alternative is to have someone who will lie to appease and get your hopes up, then dash them.

For those of us who’ve been in the game for years, politically reality creeps in: this particular case had a very highly-placed delegate elected in southern Maryland, not wanting to be the lead bill-carrier or co-sponsor and candidly explaining the numbers game of trying to hold another potential “R” seat in “D” hands. To neo-activists like April, it’s infuriating and may appear cowardly. But for Frannie and I, it’s part of what we’ve lived with our entire political experiences – political reality.

“People keep on learnin’….
World keep on turnin’.” — Higher Ground, Stevie Wonder

In fact, watching Frannie lead around the group through the two other office visits – including one with the Senate President’s Chief of Staff, Vicki Gruber, was impressive. There was nothing preachy or elitist in the manner, very informative and matter-of-fact. The irony of the trans person leading and training the new gay and lesbian and ally activists wasn’t lost on me: it took me back a decade to my own training of groups of newbie gay and lesbian activists, some of whom would become leaders themselves – even an HRC board of governors member! We may not be good enough to hire or lead, but we do know our stuff well enough to train those who will.

In another vein, it was also sad. While she’ll never admit it now, Frannie’s got a great manner and knowledge for things political. Only five years earlier, she was making her initial visits as part of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC) Lobby Days, and for whom she later joined the board. Now five years later, she’s admittedly burned out of politics. While on the board of Equality Maryland, another prominent member of a prominent transgender organization dressed her down as “crazy” to be involved with NTAC.

Yes we’ve long heard of “trannies eating their own” – and this was a shining example of it. All in the name of competition and winning at all costs…. As a result, what should be one of our better advocates wants nothing to do with it.

Somewhere, somehow, I can imagine JoeSo reading this and grinning from ear to ear. “One more down….” But for every one of us they knock out, two more pop up to take their place!

“They keep adding to our numbers
As they shoot my people down!” — What About Me?, Quicksilver Messenger Service

After gathering at a post-lobbying kaffeeklatch in a Senate meeting room, I got chance to meet both former and current EqMD executive director, Dan Furmansky and the current, Kate Runyon. Kate seems really nice, and very energetic – from what I could see, a good addition for EqMD.

Afterwards, Sandy Bell, Frannie and I joined Dan, Sandy Rawls of TransUnited in Baltimore and Maryanne Arnow, a trans activist from Montgomery County at the Ram’s Head for dinner. We also met up with Mara Drummond after dinner and chatted some more, before I ended up crawling back home at the crack of midnight.

And of course, what greeted me when I got back to Gaithersburg? Snow. Again! This is likely insignificant to folks up here, but in all my life I’ve never been around this much ice and snow in such a short period of time – two and a half weeks!

Well, it’s now one day to IFGE Conference, and I have a committee meeting tonight, two interviews (one thankfully can be done at IFGE) and a board meeting I hope to be able to call in to – and plenty more still on the plate waiting to be done.

I may be unemployed, near broke and a “sunbird” up here in the land of ice and snow that causes us to shut in. Somehow this doesn’t seem like a leisurely life.

“Time moves along: You don't have a life anymore.
Time moves along: You don't have a job.” — Life Of Leisure, Luscious Jackson