By Gwendolyn Ann Smith
A little more than one year ago, I had the dubious pleasure of visiting the offices of the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C. It was hardly a social call: I was outside with a few other members of Transexual Menace, protesting HRC’s continued support of non-inclusive legislation.
After a period of time outside, HRC brought me and another Transexual Menace member inside Ñ as well as a pair of documentary filmmakers we brought with us. We had a tense meeting in a board room where we were again assured that HRC really does care for the transgender community and its causes, and really wants to support transgender-inclusive legislation.
In August of last year, HRC had a meeting where they decided to only support a transgender inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. ENDA has been around for more than ten years now, as have struggles to get transgender people included within the bill.
Last August, many within the transgender community felt that we’d finally got through to them. While I warned that their choice to only support a transgender-inclusive ENDA is lukewarm Ñ and more importantly, did not speak to any other bills Ñ I also tried to remain positive.
Recently, Senator Frank introduced the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2005, which is transgender inclusive. The same day, however, Senator Kennedy introduced the similar Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2005. Senator Kennedy’s is not transgender inclusive.
Also, Representative Waxman introduced H.R. 3128, which is specifically aimed at clarifying existing laws against discrimination within the federal work force, specifically to include sexual orientation as a protected class.
H.R. 3128 also does not include transgender protections.
I don’t want to bog down too far on these bills, or why Frank, Kennedy, Waxman and others did or did not include transgender people within their particular bills. Rather, I want to refocus on the Human Rights Campaign.
They are, of course, supporting all of the above bills, inclusive language or not.
I actually believe that HRC doesn’t understand why this continues to be a sore spot for transgender people. Certainly, HRC has come a long way on transgender issues over the last decade, and even has managed to say the word more than a few times now.
While they seem to have nothing but the best intentions in mind, they also seem to fail at understanding how important it is to see action: if one wants to be an ally to the transgender community, then one has to act like one.
Even though HRC wants us to believe they have our needs in mind, they also seem more than willing to toss out transgender-specific language in just about any bill. Clearly, it is far more important for them to win what they see as a partial Ñ if pyrrhic Ñ victory, then actually show that their equals-sign logo really means something.
HRC comes across like a cheating partner, asking for forgiveness, telling their jilted lovers how much they’ve changed, and just when they might be trusted yet again Ñ they end up in bed with another.
Yes, HRC relationship with the transgender community sounds like the plot line of a country song.
It seems as if HRC is, after a decade plus, unwilling to really change. They remain full of good intentions, but are simply unable to really, honestly turn those into the sort of actions that will help everyone within the community.
Perhaps, yet again, it comes down to turning them away when they ask for money. If this is an organization dedicated to serving our community, then it only stands to reason that they be willing to take a pay cut when the community isn’t being properly served.
I wouldn’t expect that sort of treatment at a fast food joint, so why would I accept it from an organization that sells itself as being interested in equality?
Indeed, like the cheating lover in a country tune, we need to stop taking HRC back when they tell us they’ve changed. If they cannot demonstrate true change by actually standing for equal rights for everyone in the GLBT community, then its time to send them packing.
Maybe that’ll make some sense to their cheatin’ heart.