Wednesday, February 13, 2008


OK, so the following opinion piece was written by Jon Winklemen and published in the Nov. 16 2007 NY Blade -- which I have appropriated off of Facebook.

My response to the people shouting to cut off ENDA because it does not include trans-protections is this: IT'S A FREAKING START. A brilliant idea: let's stop a good bill from going through because it does not include everyone in the community. Alright, a fine argument, but, at the moment, there are no protections for anyone.

I will say this now, if they leave out the G in LGBT and just tried to pass an LBT protections bill -- GO AHEAD! Because, guess what, the G will probably come soon.

If you don't believe that things are getting better and the addition of "T" won't be easier in 3, 4, or 5 years, or under a Dem-Congress + Dem-Pres, then you're not paying attention. ENDA as it is is a START. It isn't even the end of the freaking movement. It's not like we're picking a presidential candidate here -- "Here's what you got, now run with it." No, laws build off each other. And one law enacted helps to enact further, related laws.

So, LET ENDA PASS! Yes, I would love to have the T in there, and I prefer that it would be in there, and I think there should be honest, fully heart felt attempts to add it onto the bill... but, don't go as far as to try to BLOCK the bill as it is now.


And here's the original post that got me riled up:

$30 Million Lies: Joe Must Go!
HRC should be accountable for ENDA betrayal.

The Human Rights Campaign proudly positions itself as the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization in the country. Indeed, with an annual budget of more than $30 million, HRC is responsible for managing the largest share of our community’s investment in securing equality for all Americans.

What does that $30 million buy the LGBT Community? $30 million certainly buys us mugs, baseball caps, necklaces and blue and gold teddy bears with a logo that was appropriated from another organization without permission or credit. $30 million buys exclusive black-tie dinners, boxes of non-descript bumper stickers and a concert tour with Cyndi Lauper. I believe it is time for our community to be demanding a much larger return on our money.

In the recent debate over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, HRC failed to take a principled position to oppose a stripped-down version of the legislation out of fear that the organization would lose its “special relationships” on Capitol Hill. HRC President Joe Solmonese routinely cited this as the chief excuse for their inaction. It was then that HRC showed its true colors and what our $30 million was actually buying.

LET US BE CLEAR. HRC had previously committed itself to the passage of an ENDA, which provided protections on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity. Yet, it has become clear that HRC told our community that they maintained a strategy to ensure the passage of this legislation when they clearly did not and never had any intention of doing so.

HRC has devoted a large amount of time during the past month to forwarding the argument that the debate over ENDA was about incremental tactics, which get us something, versus moral absolutes, which achieve nothing. This was a false argument, and as stewards of our community’s treasure, we shouldn’t let the leadership of HRC get away with this. Promoting this lie might have suited the nuanced position of HRC but it did not serve its members or the community it claims to represent. $30 million should buy strategy and strength
not subterfuge and spin.

Although HRC continued to tell its membership that the organization was feverishly working for an inclusive ENDA during the past month, it was not. The public statement of HRC did not neatly match its aggressive private push for a non-inclusive bill. As constituents, it is time we demand that our $30 million buys accountability.

I do believe that HRC used our hard earned money to build a power base on Capitol Hill, yet it refused to use that power when our community was at stake. Political insiders consent that HRC’s public opposition could have stopped a bad bill from moving forward. Instead, HRC chose to preserve its “special relationships” by failing to demonstrate its strength. Our community deserves a power player, not an over-eager intern just happy to take notes in dictatorial meetings. $30 million should advance the protections of our most vulnerable members rather than the careers and connection of a few elite insiders.

IT IS TIME THAT our community demands accountability and answers from the leadership at the Human Rights Campaign. HRC should publicly declare that it will oppose any future efforts to strip gender identity from non-discrimination bills.

The organization should use its congressional scorecard to reward the seven Members of Congress who opposed the substitute ENDA out of pro-LGBT principals and not give them anything less than a perfect score on the ENDA vote. And HRC should demonstrate what efforts it will now undertake to truly educate Congress on issues of gender identity (again, it has been asking for our money under the assumption that it already has).

As part of that, HRC should set a numerical goal of 10 percent transgender representation on its national boards and all local steering committees. $30 million should buy a commitment from HRC to actually do the job we are paying HRC to do.

Furthermore, HRC holds its own staff accountable for actions that contradict the policy of its Board of Directors. For more than a month, HRC privately lobbied for a non-inclusive ENDA while telling its members that they were doing everything they could to build support for gender identity protections. This was not only a public lie, but also a betrayal of their own organizational policy—and a fireable offense at most organizations. HRC should dismiss any strategist or staff member who is guilty. $30 million dollars should buy institutional integrity.

Privately, many LGBT organizations, their leaders and other community activists are saying they can no longer trust the word of Joe Solmonese and others in HRC’s staff that acted with deceit and duplicity on ENDA. However, HRC is a $30 million juggernaut that also acts as the conduit between donors and smaller grassroots organizations. They fear dissent will be punished and their organizations will lose vital funding. $30 million should buy trust, partnership and respect for others. It should not buy fear, smear or the threat of retaliation.

HRC is supposed to act as our guardian. Perhaps it is time for Joe Solmonese to resign his position so HRC can rebuild the credibility and trust it has lost. The Roman poet Juvenal wrote “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” colloquially translated as “Who watches the watchers?” At the very least, it is time for our community to demand our largest organization become more accountable and effective with the $30 millions we give to it. It is time we demand “JOE MUST GO!”

Jon Winkleman has been a local community activist on LGBT, HIV, reproductive choice and labor issues for more than two decades with many different grassroots organizations, though the views represented here do not necessarily reflect those organizations.

The JOE MUST GO coalition will rally on the National Transgender Day of Remembrance, 6-8 p.m. Tuesday Nov. 20, in Sheridan Square at Christopher Street. The rally honors the transgender heroes who participated in the Stonewall Rebellion and also protests HRC’s betrayal of the transgender community, as HRC will be hosting a networking event at the Stonewall Bar across the street.
© 2007 The New York Blade A Window Media Publication


Kara said...

As everyone agrees, this bill has about a zero percent chance of actually becoming law under the current administration. If this is to be a symbolic vote, why not have it be the best one it can be?

So, tell me, how how much lobbying have you done for any version of ENDA (especially an all-inclusive one)? The trans community has been doing just that for years. In fact, I have trudged up there myself. Written letters. Made calls. Unless you have been there too, please, your arguments do not hold any weight.

Once a group has been added to a bill then left out is is *hugely* more difficult to add them back in. Incrementalism is also rarely (if ever) a successful political strategy.

The facts are simple and well-documented. Joe said the HRC would oppose any legislation that was not fully inclusive to 1,000 witnesses (and many more after the fact since it was videotaped). The going got tough towards the end (as it would for pretty much any bill, especially those that do not benefit the mainstream). Rather than flex it's political muscle as Joe said the HRC would they took the easier path. Do you care to dispute any of those statements?

Barry Floore said...

First off, I would hope that the T would be included. That is the ideal situation -- please don't misunderstand me. I love and respect my trans-identified brethren -- I think yours is the fight ahead.

HOWEVER, the bill still helps some of us, and I think it is possible that if we move forward with it, then we will, ultimately, be more easily able to pass a trans-inclusive bill under a more understanding administration. (Getting the ENDA passed under the Bush admin is gonna be hard enough without the trans-inclusion.)

SO: I'll issue a challenge to you, my darling:

My next blog (I just posted one about the Texas ban being overturned) will be about supporting ENDA and calling your legislator. And this will be our pitch: "We support ENDA (HR2015), but we also support trans-inclusion, and request that the Baldwin Amendment be reconsidered in the legislation."

And we'll ask people to post dates and times that they called and who they called.

Would you be ready to support in that way?

Barry Floore said...

PS The blog may be posted tomrow as I have to assemble dates and names and numbers and such, so give me a day or so.