Monday, June 6, 2011

So … Whose Side Are You On Today?

“I absolutely believe in assimilation…. I don't look at sexual orientation as that big of a deal. It's just an orientation.” — Chastity (now Chaz) Bono

A year back, I made a decision to stop chasing the “breaking news” blogs in the Trans community. There’s plenty of folks out there who can expertly do it, and I didn’t feel the need to strive for redundancy in reporting. This blog will be an exception.

A good friend of mine reported back from the recent Be All conference in Chicago which wrapped up this past weekend. With an eye to pulling in attendance, the event’s special draw and keynote speaker this year was Chaz Bono; fresh from visits to Oprah, David Letterman, et. al.

The keynote went well from all reports, and there was even an Oprah-styled Q&A of Bono after his speech with Mara Keisling up onstage with him.

Following the keynote Q&A the music rose, and from the rear of the stage entered Regina Upright – a local drag queen who (per reports) does a decent Cher impersonation. Faux Cher came out, “fishnetted up to her waist” replete with leather jacket and black curly fall, and began her performance, focusing initially on Bono and working over towards Keisling for some onstage “crowd support.” Apparently Bono and Keisling were having none of it, doling an icy response to the drag artist.

Ms. Upright picked up on the cold shoulder and stepped down from the stage to entertain the keynote lunch crowd. According to the report, both Keisling & Bono were rather visibly steamed and eventually walked off stage during the performance (presumably in protest.) Meanwhile about half of the lunch crowd enjoyed the drag show and blissfully tipped Ms. Upright.

"With hair, heels, and attitude, honey, I am through the roof!" — RuPaul Charles

“It’s like rain on your wedding day.
It’s a free ride when you’ve already paid.” — Ironic, Alanis Morissette

Ironic? At first glance it would seem so.

Chaz Bono in his previous identity (fka: Chastity) was once the lesbian activist poster-child for gay and lesbian equality and a very useful tool for fundraising for his former community organization, the infamous Human Rights Campaign. Back in the HRC days he uttered nary a T-word, being a good company recruit. And of course Mara Keisling gave birth to this recent era of Trans coziness with HRC, of always deferring to gay and lesbian leadership (even on Trans issues) and of holding the tongue with our “allies” in GLB while being unafraid to take on her own community.

However more recent times have seen Chaz’s transition and an end to the public hawking of HRC. And in 2007 Keisling led her NCTE members in joining NTAC and the rest of the Trans community in protesting HRC banquets after the ENDA duplicity debacle that year. Since their two reversals, though, there’s been nothing publicly indicating where either of them stand on HRC or the era of Gay Inc. and GLB(*t) other than the knowledge that the big gay funders continue pressing NCTE to work collegially with HRC once again.

But Chaz and Mara dissing a gay performer at a trans event?

Below the surface, though, there are other reasons in play. If folks have been paying close enough attention, they’ll note that Bono has indicated that he and his mom, Cher, have been “working through things.” Reading between the lines, his mom’s having issues coming to terms with his transition.

Yes, we’re all aware of Cher’s friendship and generous support of the gay and lesbian community and its issues. something I can relate to as my own mom kept pressing me on why I “couldn’t just be gay” for well over a year into my transition. My mom’s best friend was gay, something to which she could relate. But she couldn’t relate to me. Go figure!

So some of our own may find it surprising that when Cher was supporting “GLBT” causes, she was avidly supporting the L and the G, maybe even the B. But the T? Eh, not so much. It’s an irony that I’m certain has not escaped Bono’s attention.

As a result, the “surprise” drag performance by someone dressed as his own mother in explicitly revealing attire was a reminder Chaz wasn’t seeking. Then the added bonus of a caricatured impersonation of gender (even if it was trans women) at Bono’s keynote by a gay man (especially considering his time with HRC and the likelihood he was privy to some choice opinions on T while he was still an L) surely helped the show go over like a lead balloon.

Apparently some in the keynote audience did pick up on the faux pas and were “aghast.” The other half of the crowd were blissfully unaware, laughing, tipping and enjoying the show.

What was the message to take away from this?

"All sins are forgiven once you start making a lot of money." — RuPaul Charles

Once upon a time about a decade ago, we had clearly defined who was opposing us from within GLBT: the conservative elite G&L mindset, personified by HRC and others of similar opinion. Up until about 2002, it was de rigeur for us to be aware of what occurring in Trans America, to know our T history, to have spirited debates but end up unified at the end of the day against those who opposed us being equals.

Since then, the pendulum has swung back. It’s now fashionable to eschew our T history and to frown upon and marginalize those of us who speak out. Unity died in favor of allowing trans individuals to work for and with other communities and groups on causes that may have little or no impact on trans needs, but which may carry some individual reward at some point.

And so we find ourselves today. A sizable portion of us are unaware of what’s happening to our own at this moment in time; thus the invited Cher drag performer for Chaz Bono. The powers at Be All weren’t doing it of meanness. They were unaware.

Similarly for those who now wish to ally or work with HRC or similar groups who may not consider us as equals, they can do so without troubling themselves on how it affects the community. Those who support the HRCs of the world today, may well be the ones who publicly oppose them tomorrow … and maybe even support them yet again a couple days down the road. What’s to stop them?

Speaking out and letting folks know what’s happening? That fell out of favor about a decade ago. Why ruin the moment for these individuals …?

Oh! Happy pride month, y'all. Are we proud?

“If I could turn back time ….
I don’t know why I did the things I did.
I don’t know why I said the things I said.
Pride’s like a knife, it can cut deep inside.” — If I Could Turn Back Time, Cher

“Parents have to understand: if your kid isn't you, don't blame the kid.” — Chaz Bono

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hello Again ....

“Back in black. I hit the sack.
It’s been too long I'm glad to be back.
Yes I'm let loose from the noose
That's kept me hanging about.
I keep looking at the sky 'cause it's gettin' me high.
Forget the hearse 'cause I'll never die
I got nine lives, cat's eyes,
Usin' every one of them and running wild
‘Cause I’m back.” — Back In Black, AC/DC

Yes, it has been awhile ….

First my apologies to those following my blog. There are a couple reasons I’ve been dormant this past year.

One reason was good news reasons: I began dating and have found love. Sid Maxwell and I have been a serious item since early April last year, after he and his ex split up. Sid is one of my former-members from the now-defunct Texas Assn. for Transsexual Support (TATS) from back in the late 90’s (yes, he’s a trans man). And while he did drop out and go stealth for most of the past decade, he was at least a little involved in trans activism of sorts.

In the late 90’s, there was only one chapter of PFLAG in America that refused to add trans members or families of trans folks to their mission, and that chapter was right here in Houston. There was bad blood going back some years between members and previous trans activists (which I won’t go into here). However, I was bound to change that and comprised a panel presentation to the members and board of Houston’s PFLAG. Sid Maxwell was the lone trans man on the panel I moderated. And as postscript, we won them over and got a unanimous vote to change the local to match the national inclusion after that Sept. 1999 panel.

The second and more pertinent reason I self-imposed silence had to do with politics. In early spring of last year I began to hear the messaging efforts surrounding the 2009-introduced ENDA bill. In a nutshell: the bloggers (with their criticisms) were going to sink the bill (ENDA) and end up being the reason it would fail on Capitol Hill. Essentially it was preemptive diversion of blame from the parties heavily involved in the bill’s process to the outside folks panning the process from the outside.

This messaging effort was virtually the same wording as what was used in 2007. Replace the word “bloggers” with NTAC and you have a mirror image of the 2007 discreditation effort immediately before Barney Frank actually did what we in NTAC were warning about. This time, however, the message wasn’t originating from Mara Keisling and NCTE, but instead from HRC’s and Barney Frank’s folks. Eerily same messaging from two directions, two years apart.

I saw the handwriting on the wall. Rather than play into the snare they set for me, I decided to do the opposite and not give them any words to turn around and use as artillery against me. Zero.

I spent the better portion of a month up on the Hill immediately following 2009’s inauguration day ensuring I got all our freshmen up to speed on “Trans” and was the first person those offices saw from the Trans community. In fact, I even let some of these Trans HRC/Barney folks know which offices in the Senate needed more work and educating and shared other notes from office visits with them. And so … once they wanted us out of the dialogue, what did the silence accomplish? Ab-so-freaking-lutely nothing. Silence gives them (whichever party) a "free pass" and gives those imposed-upon nothing but heartburn, frustration and nothing else.

We had enough votes in the House to vote ENDA through with trans inclusion in the last congressional session – one with super-majorities of Dems in the House and a brief period of the same in the Senate. And again, just as in 2007 with Mara Keisling’s attempts, they can’t finger me for doing anything untoward regarding their efforts. All we got was wholly screwed over.

Moral: never be silent in order to be polite or to keep decorum. Speak out, speak loudly and never cease!

Initially I planned on writing this at New Years, but as fate would have it, I enjoyed a series of Windows crashes with my video card, and then finally a totally loss of use thanks to my motherboard issues and simultaneous loss of income. For now, though, I have a temporary fix.

So this blogger / activist / lobbyist is now reactivating and now has a question to the NCTE’s, the HRC’s, the NGLTF’s and the Barney Frank’s of our political world: what the F#@^% happened to employment non discrimination???!!!

And don't even think of pointing your fingers at me.

“Lucy, you have some ‘splaining to do.” — Desi Arnaz as Ricky Ricardo on ‘I Love Lucy’