“A non-inclusive ENDA is not ENDA at all”
Leaders in the trans community continue to lambaste the nation’s largest lgbt organization for failing to decry a divided ENDA. While on their web site HRC has issued a “nationwide call to action” in support of an inclusive ENDA, they have not yet called upon U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Congress to cancel plans to move forward with the current bill if “gender identity” cannot be reinserted into it.
This puts the HRC in the minority among lgbt groups. Nearly 50 national lgbt organizations have formed a loose coalition calling on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to oppose any non-inclusive version of ENDA. The HRC is not a part of this action, and has instead elected to remain “neutral” on the new legislation, according to David Smith, HRC’s vice president of programs.
This, say trans leaders, is a direct contradiction to HRC policy, enacted in 2004, to support only civil rights legislation that is inclusive of gender identity. The seeming hypocrisy of HRC’s actions caused Donna Rose, the first transgender member of the HRC board of directors, to resign.
“Less than a month ago, HRC President Joe Solmonese stood before almost 900 transgender people at the Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta to pledge ongoing support and solidarity,” said Rose, in a statement released to the media Oct. 3. “In his keynote address, he indicated that not only would HRC support only a fully inclusive ENDA, but that it would actively oppose anything less. That single pledge changed hearts and minds that day, and the ripple affect throughout the transgender community was that we finally were one single GLBT community working together. Sadly, recent events indicate that those promises were hollow.”
Locally, trans leaders have been no less passionate in expressing their disappointment.
“On one hand, they said they will support the transgender community and on the other they just seek out their own agenda,” said Michelle Fox-Phillips, co-founder of Transgender Detroit. “How many times over the years has the transgender community heard, ‘we will get the LGB rights and then come back for the trans community.’ That has not happened yet in many instances. How much longer can the transgender community wait?”
Rachel Crandall, executive director of TransGender Michigan, said she now has mixed feelings about HRC.
“I appreciate their call for support, but what we need them to do is what all the other organizations are doing and say ‘no ENDA without total inclusiveness,'” she said. “A non-inclusive ENDA is no ENDA at all. People aren’t talking about that. People, especially HRC, are not willing to say, ‘hey, we need total inclusion to support us.'”
Crandall said that gays and lesbians will be vulnerable under a non-inclusive ENDA as well; that they could still be fired for gender expression.
“People think it’s a matter of the trannies against the rest of the gay community, but it’s not only the gender expression and identity of transgender people that need to be protected,” she said. “Most lesbian and gay people have gender identity traits that need to be protected as much of ours.”
In her resignation statement, Rose said that ENDA is the issue on which the trans community, and their allies, must take a stand.
“Unemployment and under-employment is the single most significant issue facing transgender people today,” said Rose. “The high-profile case of Susan Stanton, city manager from Largo, Fla. who was fired early this year after an exemplary 17-year career there simply because she was outed as being transgender, demonstrates the continuing experience that many of us continue to face each and every day in workplaces around this country.
“Although workplaces have made tremendous strides in enacting supportive policy, bad things still happen and the overall message being sent is that we’re somehow expendable. In years past these things happened quietly, going unnoticed. Those days are numbered.”