May 5, 2012

Queer Issue: Transgender/Transsexual vs. the Gay: Let the Oppression Olympics Begin!

I realise that I'm probably going to offend at least a few people with what I'm about to say, but so be it.

Back when marriage equality was going before the NY State Legislature, I can recall how fired up every major pro-gay (I'm not going to say LGBT for reasons that should be obvious shortly) was. My twitter feed was nearly a constant stream of pro-marriage sentiment. Pro-same sex marriage (and anti-same sex marriage) stories abounded across the media. Albany was flooded with supporters. I can recall reading updates on The Bilerico Project from Rev. Emily C. Heath, who came from out of state to show her support in Albany. Gov. Cuomo himself had long since endorsed marriage equality. There was an energy in the air so thick you could have operated an entire gay pride float solely on the sheer rainbow colored exuberance.

Now, a little less than a year later, GENDA was able to pass (for the fourth time) the NY State Assembly, and now needs to pass the Senate in order to become law. For those who are unaware, GENDA provides key protections for Transgender and Transsexual individuals by preventing discrimination based upon gender identity, as well as strengthening hate crime legislation for crimes committed against Transgender/Transsexual. Unfortunately, GENDA faces what could charitably be called an uphill battle in order to become law. Actually, to be more accurate, it's most likely going to be dead on arrival.

Now here's where things get really disturbing. All of the mainstream organizations that put so much effort into marriage equality, now appear to be taking a nice easy rest rather than working to ensure that GENDA at least has a chance at passing. At a time when pro-LGBTQ organizations should be using the momentum gained from the passage of marriage equality in New York State, they instead appear to be applying to the brakes. There is no energy, and barely a whisper of support from any of the mainstream organizations. I have yet to notice a singel pro-GENDA tweet on my twitter feed. I have not heard of any endorsment from Gov. Cuomo and a quick google search turned up nothing.

Furthermore, all of this is occuring with Justice and Equality Day less than a week away, in which GENDA has at least been decided will be the focus. Maybe I'm asking too much, but I do feel the energy is missing. I have not heard of any endorsment from Gov. Cuomo and if there is coalition building going on, it's going on quietly and behind closed doors.

So let me say it: this is complete and utter bullshit. Transgender/Transsexual individuals (even when compared to gays and lesbians) are more likely to be fired from their jobs, be denied housing, or have to deal regularly with the threat of extreme violence. SONDA already exists to protect people from being fired or denied housing based upon sexual orientation, but there exists no such laws to protect against those issues based upon gender identity. That is, it is illegal to deny housing or fire an employee for reasons related to their sexual orientation but perfectly legal to do so based upon gender identity.

Maybe there are reasons for this situation but I'm not interested in hearing them. I'm tempteted to point fingers, but I only have 10. There is no excuse for the lack of effort and the double standards exhibited by the mainstream pro-LGB (and allegedly pro-LGBT) organizations here. There is a long and extensive history of pro-LGB organizations focusing on pro-LGB issues and completely ignoring the needs of Transgender/Transsexual individuals. This history now seems doomed to repeat itself ad nauseum.

If the mainstream organizations could come together and build the necessary coalitions to pass marriage equality in New York, why is it so much harder to pass something much more basic (and more important to the indviduals who would benefit from it) such as GENDA?

Marriage Equality was strongly opposed by multiple organizations, such as National Organization for Marriage, and became a lightening rod of controversy. At this point in time, GENDA has mostly flown under the radar, which at least has prevented it from coming under the same level of scrutiny. Maybe this is part of the strategy being used by the mainstream LGB organizations, keep GENDA's profile low in order to prevent it from earning the same level of scorn.

I really doubt that is the strategy being used though. My sense is that even if GENDA was more in the spotlight, it still would not be facing down the same opposition that marriage equality faced. Try finding clobber verses for the fundamentalists to use against it and you're going to come up short. Furthermore, whereas even state sanctioned marriage is viewed as a religious concept, employment is not typically subject to the same moral scrutiny. In short, I actually think passing GENDA would be easier than marraiage equality, particularly with the momentum that we gained less than a year ago.

Therefore, the question becomes why is it legislation that when compared to marriage equality, should (in theory) be easier to pass and would have a greater impact for the population that has more need of it, be getting the silent treatement?

I have no words other than to say that I am saddened by the mainstream LGB(T?) organizations lack of public support for GENDA. At a time when we could have another victory on our hands, we have only the barest echo of a whisper.

7 comments:

  1. I very appreciate this article. As a trans woman living in San Francisco, I've grown quite accustomed to the so called LGBT community supporting only LGB rights while the T remains silent. Not to mention various feminist groups that are supposed to be about gender equality, yet they actually oppose any legislation for trans gender individuals due to their false misconceptions about us. I see all sorts of so called "open minded" progressives support LGB rights, women's rights, and anti- racist campaigns, which is a great thing as those issues are indeed important. However, I've grown fed up by their drawing the line at trans gender rights. By doing that, they expose their own hypocrisy....

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  2. I'm not sure what you're asking; Empire State Pride Agenda and the HRC have announced allies to take place in Albany on May 8.

    If there's a lack of interest, the one has to blame the superhero LGBT blogs and activists for said lack of interest.

    And don't get me wrong; I'm not making excuses for ESPA and HRC. They think because they put their event on Facebook and blessed a few activists and bloggers, they don't need to do much else.

    But this is where national transgender activists, and bloggers too, need to be stepping up right now and if you noticed, they're not doing that either.

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    1. Nelson

      Thanks for your thoughts and I considered bringing up the lack of response as well from specific transgender groups. But here's thing, how many transgender people are left unaware that GENDA even passed in the Senate, thanks to the lack of coverage from the mainstream groups and blogs. How many aren't taking an active role because they're thinking that without the support of the mainstream groups that it would be a waste of time and effort to even get fired up?

      Once GENDA passed the Senate, that was the time to light the fire, but no one has stepped up. It's the sound of crickets chirping as far as any media coverage is concerned. Where are the letter writing campaigns, the petitions, the phone banks, the press releases and other statements supporting GENDA, and the requests for endorsments?

      Like I said, there was a *huge* effort put into marriage equality by the major pro-LGBT organizations, but practically nothing is being put out now that GENDA is on the table.

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  3. When NY marriage equality was at stake my twitter feed was on fIRE with gay and lesbian followers shouting at the top of their tweets for passage when it passed it was YESS we done it finally in NY LGBT people have full equality. I was so pissed off I started hammering some our 'allies', why qere they saaying this? This was amainly gay victory not full equality for lgbT people. One tweeter came back to me enGAYged marriage whom I have become good friend with but besides her nothing. Nothing. Sad.

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  4. THANK YOU FOR EXPRESSING THAT TRANSSEXUALS AND TRANSGENDERS ARE DIFFERENT!

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  5. You are welcome. Technically though, you should thank this post by Mercedes Allen on the Bilerico Project, which first made me aware of the issue:
    http://www.bilerico.com/2011/06/the_death_of_transgender.php

    -Jeremy

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  6. For what it's worth, I think Heath may well have covered GENDA this year had she not left Bilerico.

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