Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Employee Discrimination Madness

In terms of civil rights protection, nothing's more important than the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). At the minimum, people should be able to go to work without fear of being fired for being gay, something that's completely legal in more states than not. Recently, in a controversial move that would help the bill pass, Representative Barney Frank split ENDA into two: ENDA and GENDA, a bill that was the same, except it protected transgendered people. The reasoning was simple: when transgendered rights were included in ENDA, it wasn't going to get through the house. Makes sense, right?

Well, apparently not. Let's not forget that the gay rights movement is splintered and vicious toward its own. No one wants one subgroup to advance unless everyone else gets the same rights and privileges. That sounds nice in principal, but it's only served to be a weight that's dragging everyone down with it.

Would it have been fair to transgendered folks if they weren't included in the ENDA that had a chance to pass right now? Absolutely not, but it's even more unfair that transgendered advocates have forced a trans-free ENDA to be shelved for now, too. There are people losing their jobs for being gay every day and we had a chance to do something about that. Now that chance is gone, because ENDA didn't solve every problem in one fell swoop (as if that ever happens).

Unfortunately this country has a much longer way to go in terms of understanding "t" than they do "glb." Now, instead of reaching some kind of success so we can concentrate on giving that education and helping transgendered people reach the same achievements, a lot of people cried foul and the entire thing is essentially scratched - to many glbt-cheering audiences, as that link indicates. Are the cheer leaders noble and courageous, or just frogs in water slowly being brought to a boil, shaking their pompoms?

This infighting has got to stop. We need to start working for general progress, instead of tearing each other down. If we keep fighting the same fights over and over again, we're never going to get to even more difficult turf, such as transgendered rights. No one should expect perfect results, perfect laws or perfect proposals. It's just not going to happen and we need to get used to it. The sooner we do, the sooner we can start plugging away to turn the imperfect to better, then to where it should be, but that's not going to happen if people can't accept taking these steps one at a time, at least when we have no other choice.

8 comments:

Mark D. Snyder said...

I disagree with your post in the most sincere and heartfelt way.

Splitting the bills would have divided our community. 90 of the lgbt organizations are standing up for what is right - an all inclusive ENDA.

Why? Because the gender identity and expression language protects all of us - the feminine gay boys, the butch lesbians, all of us.

Also, the trans community is the community that suffers most from employment discrimination. (not to mention housing, which is another fight!)

As a queer person I know I am discriminated against most often because of my gender expression, not my sexual orientation.

Gay leaders like HRC and at times MEQ are the ones dividing our community - the grassroots activists have for the most part been united since day one in the spirit of social justice and liberation for all.

George Bush will no doubt veto this bill - so why divide the bill up and hurt the queer community before he does that. That would please the right wing if we had infiting and division wouldn't it?

How dare you suggest that we leave our gender non-conforming brothers and sister behing. For it was for them, and we, that stonewall even occurred.

Trevor said...

Ryan,

I think your post represents the closed minded, conservative, chillingly unconcerned white gay male middle to upper class stance on this issue.

I have just a few questions.

LGBT, good enough to be in our acronym, but not good enough to be apart of the civil rights movement, or no?

There are more people in this country that can not find a job because of their gender expression than there are who can't because of who they sleep with. Gender expression based discrimination isn’t at all just a trans issue. Think of a gay guy that is very fem, he may not get a job just because his mannerisms are not typical of his gender.

ENDA or GENDA is not going to pass this session anyways because of the veto powers at the white house. Why can’t we stand strong as a COMMUNITY and demand for protections for everyone in our community?

Ryan Adams said...

Think of it this way.

We can either keep losing the same fights over and over again.

Or we can take small victories, build momentum and continually educate the populace on the greater movement.

I'm going with option number 2 when we're facing a gauranteed loss. Now, if there's a chance of winning ENDA now with trans rights attatched to it, I'd be all in favor of it - but that's just not the case.

We can divide ourselves and throw out the baby with the bath water over it, or we can take what we get - allowing us to focus on the more difficult battles now, instead of never. Of course, people in our movement are inept at understanding such things, so we went with "let's wait another 10 years for ENDA" instead of slow and steady progress.

Being content without having a ENDA or GENDA passed this session because of GWB's veto powers is stupidity run amok. It shows a complete and utter lack of understanding in the public perception debate: If you want glbt rights in the future, what better way to show it than putting the Republicans front and center in telling the world certain people should be able to be fired merely for their sexuality. That's a highly unpopular position today, even among many conservatives.

Furthermore, most people don't even know that people can be fired for being gay in most states: putting this issue on the map would have been key to our movement - and there's no way to do that better than a presidential veto. Sadly, that too won't happen because we didn't put this President in a position to veto it. Finally, there's always that 1 in a million chance that the dulled version of ENDA wouldn't have been vetoed, but we'll never know that because we never even tried putting it on his desk.

Laurel said...

imo, the fact that bush will veto enda in any form tells me that this is an excellent time/opportunity to get the educational t discussion going in congress. if as you say people are not there yet, how do we get them there? well, begin the debate. lay the groundwork for inclusive enda in 2008/9 by starting the open and public debate in 2007. seems a no-brainer to me. you're really grasping at straws if you hold out for hope that bush might sign watered-down enda. hey, they guy won't even sign a bill that would give little kids health insurance. so he sure as hell isn't gonna care if i'm fired because i'm gay. sorry ryan, but i have to heartily disagree with you on this one.

Ryan Adams said...

While I'll readily admit it would be quite unhealthy if we all agreed 100% of the time, I will point out this: what better to begin that discussion than a Bush veto?

I'm not naive - I know Bush will almost certainly veto it, but in the end that would have only helped the issue. There's no better way to begin that educational process than alerting a large portion of the public with a Presidential Veto and lots of media attention (which I think it could garner). The first step in educating the populace is showing them that there's a problem, which - in terms of workplace discrimination - really hasn't happened yet.

Laurel said...

i agree that the bush veto may actually help us in th elong run. but the bill we give him to veto must include transfolk. otherwise, the veto (and the debate leading up to congressional votes) is a wasted opportunity.

i wonder if the problem isn't that a trans-inclusive bill can't pass, but that frank isn't the best person to persuade his colleagues on it. just because he is gay doesn't automatically make him the best advocate for all bills related to LGBT concerns. perhaps he is reaching past his capabilities on this one and someone else needs to step up and make it happen?

Ryan Adams said...

Honestly, Laurel, I think ENDA could be the weakest, blandest and worst ENDA possible and still make a huge impact if Bush vetoes it. Then you could even say how bland it was and how insane it was that Bush vetoed it, despite its relative weakness. That way, I think it would be all the easier to make a stronger version next time.

Tom Lang said...

I have to weigh in here too. I think that this country does "get it" -- it is part of its nature. I am not saying it gets it regarding trans-people, heck, it doesnt get it regarding LGB's either.

But where this country does is regarding jobs. We Americans hold our jobs/pocket books/careers/bank accounts almost as highly as we do our faith or our families. And I would even to venture to say that many hold our jobs and income higher than some of our freedoms.

That being said, the conversation which is going on now internally in the LGBT community is one foreign to the mainstream voters. The shift in dialogue needs to be about what ENDA represents not whom it represents. It is about not being able to fire someone, a tax-paying, law abiding citizen just because you are "uncomfortable" with him or her.

This country has been through it already with women, the pregnant women, with people with disabilities, with race, with age. I think this country can relate to the fear of being fired for other reasons aside from not doing ones job.

This dialogue within the LGBT community is and will be a difficult one which will prove to us that we are not necessarily the noble class that we think we are--however, we will be better and stronger for it.

About Ryan's Take