Thursday, October 11, 2007

Am I Watching the GLBT Community Implode Over ENDA?

As my co-host on LeftAhead, Mike, mentions, Barney Frank won't unite GENDA and ENDA. According to Frank, two bills offers glb people a real chance at legislative victory that would provide protections from discrimination at the work place. Bay Windows has more on the vote counts, but if Frank is to be believed, ENDA alone would pass by 15-20 votes, while an inclusive ENDA/GENDA wouldn't pass at all - in fact, it would be "vulnerable to anti-trans amendments from Republicans." Of course, this was the major topic on our most recent LeftAhead internet radio show. Mike, Lynne and Laurel thought Frank was making a mistake, as do most glbt organizations and usually even myself. Sometimes, though, I think Frank truly understands how politics - especially civil rights - works: incrementally. ENDA is obviously a very complicated and touchy issue. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I think everyone's right and everyone's wrong. As I've said over and over again, Blogger.com just doesn't come with a crystal ball button to predict the future (maybe in the next beta?).

However, here's what I do know: it's wrong to belittle or attack people in the community for speaking out as John Avarosis has done. The fact that Avarosis is saying what he's saying - and that his points are reverberating throughout the glbt community - is telling. There's a divide among the glb population: some people are completely behind the trans community, willing to forsake their own chance to pass ENDA, while others think more pragmatically. They sympathize with transgendered and transsexual people, but think any progress, even incremental progress, is important. Obviously, people who identify as the latter have questions about whether or not "glbt" is actually one community, or two, or something else.

On one point, Avarosis is as right as a 90 degree angle: if people speak against a completely inclusive ENDA or about how transgendered people fit in the glbt movement, they're immediately labeled by some as transphobic or George Bush Republicans. Heck, Mike's latest blog on the matter was primarily meant to point people out to this response to Avarosis, written by Susan Stryker, an academic on glbt and trans issues. Mike loved the essay, I think it's exactly what's wrong with the GLBT community. For someone who purports to be an academic, I've never seen such a hit piece on someone who would otherwise be an ally (after all, Avarosis says he's for trans rights, he just supports a different way of getting there). Instead of sticking to why Avarosis is wrong, Stryker writes pages to cast Avarosis as either dumb or a charter member of Team 'Ophobia.

This coming from an ex-Republican, former congressional aide, Georgetown-educated, inside-the-Beltway lawyer who studied under Secretary of State Madeleine Albright...

See what I mean? We can't listen to Avaroris, because he used to be a Republican! Never mind the fact that he operates one of the largest progressive blogs on the internet and is in fact gay, there was a point in time where a R used to appear beside his name. Sacrilege! Apparently, being a life-long Democrat is a new litmus test for the greater progressive movement. Let's all go fire Kos from DailyKos, because he used to be a Republican too.

I keep saying this and I don't think people understand what I mean by it - we need to have some serious discussions inside the glbt movement. I should be able to create a post on this subject without having to worry about QueerToday frantically writing posts saying "how dare I" even talk about this sort of issue. How dare I? Well, it's important! If they wanted to be productive, instead of vindictive, they'd be the ones hosting these discussions to help inform and persuade the masses (which I attempted to do on my last LeftAhead podcast, to the praise of at least one person who identifies as transgender).

People need to be able to talk about these issues rationally, free from fear of being publicly tarred and feathered, if we want to count on them being there with us when it really matters (like when a Democrat is elected President). A sizable number of gays, lesbians and bisexual people don't understand what's going on or how we got to be here. We're supposed to tell them to shut up? Or, even worse, ridicule them when they speak their mind?

While I reject Trevor from QueerToday's description of me, even if he were right in saying I have a "chillingly unconcerned white gay male middle to upper class stance on this issue," would that make my view any less important? Do certain gay people in the glbt community not count? (By the way, Trevor, thanks for the lack of curiosity and rush to judgements, but I'm far from being upper class - I come from a single parent home, with a nurse for a mother.) For a movement that demands inclusiveness, we're certainly willing to write off a large number of people for being white, male or middle-to-upper class - millions upon millions, in fact.

Unless we have this dialogue now, the entire movement is screwed. These sorts of attacks, be they QueerToday or Susan Stryker, are the worst kind of obstruction. It's funny, but sometimes I think the glbt population is its own worst enemy: there are those who question why certain things are the way they are, while others scream and yell and attack any of them who raise their voices to ask. Which is worse? Maybe Frank should just totally shelve both ENDAs because, quite frankly, not only are they highly unlikely to pass, I don't know if we actually deserve it.

17 comments:

Mark D. Snyder said...

The community is not imploding. There are over 280 of the largest LGBT organizations standing up for one united ENDA. The vast majority of us support one ENDA. Frank, Ryan-Vollmar, and a few others are in the minority, and they are the ones trying to divide.

Anonymous said...

Are you joking? We have to be concerned mostly about one guy's precious feelings when we pick on him so meanly for wanting to throw huge segements of the coalition under the bus, for fear he'll take his marbles and go home? Do you see how little sense that makes? How about the trans communities' feelings when we write them off and tell them that civil rights are incremental--think we'll be able to count on them being with us when it really matters? That's what being an ally is all about?

"even if he were right in saying I have a "chillingly unconcerned white gay male middle to upper class stance on this issue," would that make my view any less important? Do certain gay people in the glbt community not count?"

You're obviously upset, but do you realize what you're saying here? Aravosis is being criticized because he still sounds like a Republican in some of his attitudes, and frankly, this does too. Oh noes! Wealthy white men are not being given the deference they deserve! They are the leaders, you are the foot soldiers! Shut up, just do what we tell you is pragmatic, and we'll get to your less important concerns when we're good and ready.

Yeah, that's not what you mean, but that's how it sounds. We're not "writing off" the poor oppressed wealthy white males. But we don't have to fawn all over ourselves agreeing that's it's fine to engage in discussion about throwing our allies under the bus because it's supposedly pragmatic, either, no matter how "uncivil" and "obstructionist" (obstructionist to what? Trans rights?) you find it. Sorry if not seeing how some guy is trying to save us from our mean, inflexible, justice loving selves means we don't "deserve" basic rights. Jesus.

Ryan Adams said...

Mark, I think you could do so much more - and far more efficiently - if you opened up the dialogue and really started talking about these issues. There are literally millions of glb people who don't get transgender issues at all, they have no more of an understanding of it than most straight people. Are they necessarily bad people? Should they be condemned because they don't have a better understanding? The key isn't to basically say 'how dare they hold such views' but to persuade them.

In the grand scheme of things, Susan doesn't matter, 280 organizations don't matter... and neither do I. What matters is how the average glbt person thinks, including those who aren't as politically intuned as you or I. Believe it or not, I'm right with you on most of these issues, we just have completely different views on how to go with them. I'm actually at the point where I think splitting ENDA now isn't the right thing to do either, but it's a political calculation that a lot of people have come to different conclusions with. We can't write those people off, we need to work with them and help get this movement rolling.

Ryan Adams said...

Anon -

" But we don't have to fawn all over ourselves agreeing that's it's fine to engage in discussion about throwing our allies under the bus because it's supposedly pragmatic, either, no matter how 'uncivil' and 'obstructionist' (obstructionist to what? Trans rights?) you find it."

The sad thing is you don't get that I'm pretty much saying the same thing. I'm at the point where I think splitting ENDA at this point *is* a mistake, but we shouldn't treat our allies like enemies. Does that mean we fawn over them? No, but it does mean we respect them. Just like I respect my transgender friends and allies, as well as my straight friends and allies, etc. etc. etc.

Your diatribe, sadly, made my point.

bostonph said...

QueerToday is one of the most juvenile organizations to come around in recent memory. I frequently find them more offensive than the imagined slight they're protesting against.

I was in both ACT-UP and Queer Nation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queer_Nation) in my twenties. We had problems with individual members confusing offensive with effective, but nothing on the scale of the QueerToday "if you don't toe our line you're a douchebag" mantra.

The attacks on Bay Windows and Barney Frank are truly puerile.

Mark D. Snyder said...
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Mark D. Snyder said...
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Mark D. Snyder said...

Ryan,

in response to this:
"Mark, I think you could do so much more - and far more efficiently - if you opened up the dialogue and really started talking vabout these issues."

QueerToday.com is not the only thing I do.

I am in several LGBT speakers bureaus in which I speak at high schools, colleges, and community forums about LGBTQ issues. In those places, I open the dialogue, let everyone speak, and have an amazing time doing it.

I am also on the Board of PFLAG, and have spend many many hours working for and volunteer for the Boston Alliance of LGBT Youth.

So, I assure you, that I do plenty to open the dialogue and educate people.

I think this is also a great opportunity to share with folks the mission of QueerToday - which was originally to get progressive/queer opinions into the media both gay and mainstream - something we have succeeded at quite well. QueerToday the blog is not necessarily geared towards the average straight person looking to learn more about what it means to be transgender - there are other resources for that.

Bostonph:
QueerToday bloggers (and posts) range from extremeley academic to silly and emotional. We have all kinds of posts on our blog.

Our protests that have occurred off the blog have been far from juvenile. They have been historical - uniting immigrants rights groups,anti-war groups, and others. Something that hasn't happened in Boston in years.

The activists and bloggers that participate in QueerToday are extremeley dedicated people - most of whom work full time for amazing non profits like BAGLY, Community Church, in health care, domestic violence abuse, and with the developmentally disabled. It is fun and nice for us to have a blog to vent and share our opinions and emotions even though we risk being lumped into some broad category like "juvenile."

Anonymous said...

I hate to break it to you, but the fact is that there is no GLBT community. There are a number of communities of interests on various issues, but there is not unified community. I do realize that more than a couple of national operations that market themselves as GLBT, such as HRC and NGLTF, but they haven't been able to accomplish anything for even GLs at the national level.

I'm generally amused that Ts have hitched their wagons to useless national organizations that used to push G&L rights. They (the Ts) almost deep-sixed a carefully worked out compromise that would have amended the NYS anti-discrimination law to add "sexual orientation." The Ts haven't laid the ground work to add T to most anti-discrimination laws, and, until they do, I will resent the fact that they are willing to mau-mau to delay passage of anti-discrimination laws that might benefit G&Ls.

Note to Laurel: I know what your handle is over at Pam's place. I hate to tell you, but the fact is that the Ts there and elsewhere are more than a bit annoying. If you don't genuflect before them, they bitch and moan ad nauseum. They aren't winning themselves any friends. And, that's beside the fact that, whenever I refresh the pages from Pam's place, they have been crashing my browser, which is annoying since I used tabbed browsing.

--raj

Anonymous said...

"The sad thing is you don't get that I'm pretty much saying the same thing."

*groans* No, Ryan, the sad thing is that you don't seem to get that what you say matters, but HOW you say it matters also. That's the damn point, You don't want to split ENDA, but this rhetoric is still elitist and divisive (and I hope I can point out that the trans community makes up a larger proportion of the population than the wealthy, if we're talking about pragmatism, and still "deserve" my citizenship under your inclusive regime). This groaning about how nobody listens to the rich white guys anymore could have been written by Peter Porcupine--why don't you complain about PC, too? Aravosis isn't being "attacked" just because he's being disagreed with, it's not a crime to point out how his attitudes are unhelpful and elitist.

But if you can't understand why being thrown under the bus by one's allies is an emotional issue, you should go back and read your old entries about the Health care people and the Process people when they were going, "Hey, don't take this personally, we're all allies, we're just more important than you and since you can't get it done anyway, have faith that when we write you off now we'll have your back later."

If you want to be the progressive vanguard, you might want to avoid sounding like kos, who's managed to upset just about every community in the progressive coalition with his indifference to the concerns of any voices outside a handful of power brokers who know best, and who can never understand what all te fuss is about or why anyone's upset when he tells them so.

Laurel said...

raj, you're not seriously blaming the T people posting at Pam's for your browser problems, are you? LOL!

I think that the idea or existence of "LGBT community" differs from place to place around the country. Pam (who lives in NC) had a great post up recently where she reminded us that LGBT people DO stick together and have quite a cohesive community in states like hers. The reason being, that they all suffer from heavy heterosupremecy. And, there simply aren't as many people out down there, because there are no state-level protections. So LGBT people need to and do stick together.

So, don't be so quick to judge the national situation sitting as you are (I presume) in a state that legally protects you quite well. It aint that way everywhere.

And...since you never responded to me at Pam's I get to raise the point with you again here: "LGB" and "T" are not two distinct groups. Many T's are LGB. The heterosexual ones are highly likely to be firm allies (if we don't shit on them) because they face a lot of the same crap that LGB people do from society at large. So, it is silly to try to separate the two groups - they overlap heavily.

bostonph said...

The activists and bloggers that participate in QueerToday are extremeley dedicated people - most of whom work full time for amazing non profits like BAGLY, Community Church, in health care, domestic violence abuse, and with the developmentally disabled. It is fun and nice for us to have a blog to vent and share our opinions and emotions even though we risk being lumped into some broad category like "juvenile."

I didn't question your dedication; I questioned your focus and effectiveness. "Juvenile" isn't a "broad category" as you so pretentiously and defensively state. It's a description of your words and actions. I'm talking about the bizarre attacks on Diesel and the idiotic Queering Christ posts as well.

BAGLY is a great organization. Queer Today frequently comes off as a bunch of spoiled brats. That your response to criticism is inevitably some variant on "we can't be wrong, the sun shines out of our ass" doesn't help.

Fifteen years ago, some Queer Natio members disagreed with AIDS Action paying Larry Kessler, so they posted fliers attacking him as an assimilationist pig and enemy of gay people.

In retrospect their actions seem even dumber than they did then. So will yours.

Protecting trans rights is important. You're not going to get there by calling Barny Frank a "fucker" or dismissing people like me and Ryan or even Raj. It's not like any of us are straight or remotely conservative. If you can't convince us, well....

Ryan Adams said...

Anon 8:13,

I'm not talking elitist. I'm not telling people to avoid being emotional. GET EMOTIONAL! This is an extremely important issue; the more emotional people get, the better.

All that said, we need to focus all of our energy in ways that will actually help us. That's what I'm talking about here. Instead of attacking Barney Frank, tell him how much you care about keeping it inclusive. Give him lots of facts. Tell him this bill isn't going to pass anyway - and that we're sending the wrong message to our trans brothers and sisters. We need to rally, not divide. And, if we ultimate fail at all regards, then we still can't go on the Barney-is-evil meme, because there are other battles on other days that we will need him to fight with us.

The important thing to remember is that respecting people for differences of opinion is different than not doing anything to change it. We can put pressure on the Democrats to do the right thing. If we can't get Barney Frank to listen, there are luckily hundreds of other congresspeople to appeal to. Let them know that Frank's wrong, at least given today's realities.

Mark D. Snyder said...

I don't recall ever attacking or dismissing Ryan, bostonph, we've been debating rather respectfully I think.

Mark D. Snyder said...

QueerToday is unique because of our diversity in views, opinions, and styles of posts - and because we disagree with each other openly on the blog. I know that it frustrates some people that queertoday does not always have one voice or opinion, but we allow our bloggers to openly vent and disagree with each other. I have said I would not have posted what Trevor did, but I'm not going to take down his post - queertoday is non-hierarchical. Check out the about us section of our blog for more on this.

And Ryan, I'm sorry that space has been taken up on your blog to argue about queertoday. I do agressively respond when people stereotype our entire team of bloggers and activists.

Thank you (Ryan) for your patience, and thank you for remaining respectful.

Ryan Adams said...

Mark, I do get that your blog is open and perhaps I shouldn't have been talking about your blog as a whole, though I wouldn't want to take it to the individual level either.

I'm more than happy to have talked about these issues - so feel free to make more space. Like I said on my most recent blog; this is exactly the sorts of things I think need to happen. It's better to keep feelings out in the open than bottle them in. I really hope that you don't take any of these criticisms I've made as a personal assault on your blog, your organization or yourself; it really isn't that. It's just some open criticism that I hope is constructive that's geared for the community as a whole. The entire progressive movement, never mind glbt movement, has long been fighting each other instead of their opponents - instead of having difficult, but meaningful heated discussions. The latter are positive and happening right here, the former just tear us down.

Ultimately, I think we're going to be successful on ENDA. It's not going to pass this year, sadly, in any form - which is why it'll be important to be organizing over the next year or two for a strong, inclusive ENDA. We need to target those who wouldn't support a trans-inclusive ENDA and either get them to change their minds or try to unseat them - heady stuff, with only a year to do it. My bet is there could even be a Massachusetts congressperson or two to be swayed. So, like I said, there is work to do and hopefully we can manage to do it.

Mark D. Snyder said...

Ryan,
thanks. and nope, i think you've been respectful all along as far as our discussions go. (the same can't be said for bostonph unfortunately)

thank you for keeping this discussion alive, i agree about its importance 100%.

i really think we need to educate lgb and straight people about the importance of gender expression protections becauase they protect every butch woman and femmy man gay straight bi or trans - and i think that is a good way to frame this and "sell" it to more mainstream legislators. heck, women could be fired for wearing pants in some situations today!

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