Friday, September 28, 2007

A Transgender-Exclusive ENDA?

The collective movement for LGBT rights barely had time to celebrate the historic passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the U.S. Senate before details emerged that House Democrats have reportedly proposed dropping gender identity and expression from the bill. The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Parents, Friends & Families of Lesbians and Gays, the Anti-Violence Project and other organizations immediately blasted the proposal in an hastily prepared statement.

"If media reports from the last 24 hours are accurate, it is unconscionable that Congressional leaders would rush to a decision to strip protections for transgender people at the same time as states across the nation are adding these protections at an unprecedented pace," it read.

The Washington Blade first broke this possible development on Sept. 26. The Human Rights Campaign expressed its deep disappointment over the alleged move but did not comment beyond that in an interview with the paper yesterday. The HRC faced scathing criticism after it initially refused to endorse a trans-inclusive ENDA. It changed course in 2004 after transgender activists protested outside their Washington headquarters.

The apparent discomfort over a trans-inclusive ENDA reflects a broader concern among the so-called movement for LGBT rights that its leaders, many of whom are wealthy white gay men, include the T [transgender people] at their collective table merely to appear inclusive. This cynical concern is reflected among many activists here in Bushwick, in New York and elsewhere with whom I regularly speak. The movement contains a myriad of hard-working, passionate and persistent activists who remain deeply committed to the advancement of fairness and equality. The current debate will highlight who stands with transgender Americans or who simply delivers good sound bites to appear inclusive.

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