Saturday, October 06, 2007

Must Read on ENDA and Trans Issue

John Avarosis at Americablog has a really interesting post on the dynamics of ENDA. There's a lot there, talking about myriad issues surrounding the bill and the entire lgbt movement. Given the importance of the piece, everyone should check it out. Seriously, I can't stress how important it is to read the whole damn thing - and then think about it. Here's a particularly good snippet:

But when I speak to friends and colleagues privately, senior members of the gay political/journalistic establishment, and just plain old gay friends around the country (and our own readers), the message I hear is far different from what I'm hearing from the groups. I'm clearly hearing three things. Well, four:

1. I feel empathy for transgendered people, and support their struggle for civil rights.

2. I want ENDA to pass this year even if we can't include transgendered people.

3. I don't understand when transgendered people became part of the gay community?

And then there's always #4: Please don't tell anyone I told you this.

What I'm hearing is a message far different from what you hear from NGLTF and some of the louder activist claiming to speak for the enlightened masses. I think that a lot of gay people never truly accepted the transgender revolution that was thrust upon them. They simply sat back and shut up about their questions and concerns and doubts out of a sense of shame that it was somehow impolite to even question what was happening, and fear that if they did ask questions they'd be marked as bigots. And now, that paper-thin transgender revolution is coming home to roost.

In many ways, he's right. Breaking up ENDA to make it easier to pass, which is the short-term pragmatic thing to do, would certainly be followed up on by the more hardcore people. However, many more glb people just aren't going to immerse themselves in a battle for GENDA, even if they sympathize with transgendered people.

We have to admit the facts: there are differences between "glb" and "t," and I'm not just talking about Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Certainly, those differences and misunderstandings prevent a lot of people who are glb from truly embracing the needs of transgendered and transsexual people. As I've stated a few times, the glbt movement has asked trans people to sacrifice before and didn't follow up on it. Part of that is because we haven't been as successful with glb rights as we'd like - and the movement's been busy. Yet, no one can really deny that trans rights have been slowed at times because of "glb" indifference, at least by some people and organizations.

Given all the transgendered people I've been close to in the past, I'd like to say I'm not 'some of those people,' but knowing everything I know I've still advocated for pragmatic solutions, at least during the Bush Administration. I may be willing to work hard for a GENDA too, but I know there's hundreds of thousands of gay and bisexual people that won't. I know that if ENDA would pass, it's very unlikely for GENDA to follow it for at least 2-3 years, if not a decade. So, given that, am I still urging for the pragmatic solution?

Maybe, maybe not. It's tough to say to millions of gay people that they should suffer too, all because the American people have an even more ignorant attitude toward transgendered people than they do gays and lesbians. Haven't gay people already suffered enough? Then again, if glb people don't embrace the transgendered community, who will?

I don't know what's the right solution in the long term battle. I don't know how successful current glbt advocates can be in the future on transgendered rights if we don't completely link our fates with the trans community now. It's just too damn hard to predict. Will continuous progress eventually mean continual transgendered progress, as I'd like to think? Unfortunately, doesn't come equipped with a crystal ball. More importantly, the decision isn't up to me, bloggers, writers or even the major players at HRC and other organizations. As Avarosis illustrates, it'll come from whatever argument compels at least a majority of glb people.

However, I've been right all along in saying there's a schism in the glbt community; that people are looking out for their own interests - and, sadly, are quite willing to tear down our supposed allies in order to protect self interests. Should we expect anything more from human beings? Well, history says it's quite possible, but only under certain conditions. John Avarosis makes the great point that no revolution will be successful unless it's embraced by the people within it. Has the gay community - as a whole - truly accepted the transgendered community as a part of the same struggle? Not according to Avarosis.

If the GLBT movement is going to succeed as a wide-spread movement, instead of splintering apart, it's clear that GLB and T people need to have a meeting of the minds - before we can ever address the differences between when something's pragmatic and when it's downright selfish. Unfortunately, that's a very slow, grassroots process. In this current climate of tearing each other apart, do we have the patience to go through it?


As an aside, this is one of the most important issue facing the GLBT movement today - at least on par with marriage equality, DADT, ENDA and hate crimes. As such, I plan on tackling it on a near-future LeftAhead! podcast. I'll be looking for knowledgeable guests for the show; send me an email if you're interested in that discussion.

Furthermore, I actually think it would make for a compelling Blog Left Massachusetts event. I'd be willing to help organize it if I could get a few others involved too.

Send me emails. Let's do our part to have that "meeting of the minds" right where it matters most, the grassroots.


Laurel said...

consider the source, Ryan. Aravosis has been outspokenly trans-phobic. And not just around this enda bill. So, read his stuff, but realize what his personal bias is.

Ryan Adams said...

I'm not saying I agree with everything he said, but I think he makes some interesting points. What I really took out of it is that before a majority of glb people are going to be willing to sacrifice on stuff like waiting additional years on ENDA, we're going to have to really come to the discussion tables at grassroot levels and become the community we claim to be.

Furthermore, while I don't know whether Avarosis is transphobic or not, I do know that as soon as people even question things like splitting ENDA, they're labeled as such and caste as George Bush Republicans (witness Trevor's attack on me in my original ENDA thread - which was especially insulting considering the fact that I've been a strong proponent of trans-rights on and off my blog).

I don't think it's transphobic to say that there are not-so-subtle differences between sexuality and gender identity and those differences have placed a divide in the GLBT community that won't be cured until we learn to become that community, to not undermine each others' causes and to make sure we're advocating for each group in the umbrella fairly and responsibly. Those are hefty decisions that people are going to have to make on an individual basis and can't just be by decrees given out by the larger organizations.

Ryan Adams said...

Laurel, think you could make time for a LeftAhead podcast? I really think you'd add a lot to the discussion, if you're willing. We do it Tuesdays @ 2:30, though I'm not sure which one will be devoted to this topic. All it takes is a phone to connect. Send me an email if you're interested; I really want someone with at least a slightly different viewpoint than myself to be our guest.

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