And so, what used to be The Advocate allowed Donna Rose to opine about what she thinks used to be the organization whose Board she resigned from following the fraud committed by Joe Solmonese at the podium at Southern Comfort in 2007. Of 2014’s Chad Griffin, she wrote:
He acknowledged and apologized for past slights and behaviors at the heart of a significant gap between HRC and the trans community in the hopes that fences can finally be mended.
I’ve said before that, based on comments I had seen – and am continuing to see – from trans people who live in the real world (read: not named Donna Rose or not currently collecting paychecks from HRC), I have been giving Griffin as much or more credit than any trans person for what he did say at Southern Comfort. But remember, this is what he said:
I am here today, at Southern Comfort, to deliver a message. I deliver it on behalf of HRC, and I say it here in the hopes that it will eventually be heard by everyone who is willing to hear it.
HRC has done wrong by the transgender community in the past, and I am here to formally apologize.
I am sorry for the times when we stood apart when we should have been standing together.
Even more than that, I am sorry for the times you have been underrepresented or unrepresented by this organization.
An apology? Yes.
An admission of harm done to trans people by people who were allowed to earn a living at HRC? Well….
HRC has done wrong by the transgender community in the past
I guess that that could encompass pretty much everything.
But it also could be linguistic finger-crossing which still allows HRC to avoid actual responsibility for its actual actions – not just against trans activism but against trans activists who dared to speak out against HRC.
I’m not asking you to be the ones to take the first leap of faith. That’s our job. My mom taught me that respect isn’t given, it’s earned.
So where are the reparations, Chad?
Where are – at the very least – the specifics?
I’m not unreasonable. I know that there’s no way that you could stand at the podium in Atlanta and list them all. Lets face it. You’d have been there all night…
just to address the Birch years.
[W]e’re committed to doing more than just speaking out. It’s essential that HRC be meeting transgender people where they are, listening, and acting to create positive change.
So where are the reparations?
Where is the substance?
Where is the willingness to make up for the damage that the pre-you HRC did to trans people who wanted nothing more than to do precisely what you were imploring trans people to do in your speech, you know…
We need all hands on deck.
Where is the willingness to make up for the damage that the pre-you HRC did to trans people who wanted nothing more than to earn a paycheck being deckhands (whether for the S.S. HRC or the S.S. NGLTF or the S.S. Lambda Legal or, well, you get the idea) just like the non-trans people were allowed to be?
Where is the willingness to make up for the blacklisting that the pre-you HRC committed against trans people who pointed out the anti-trans policy that those non-trans deckhands were pushing?
Where is the willingness to make up for the blacklisting that the pre-you HRC committed against trans people who had the temerity to point out that there were no non-trans deckhands?
Where is the willingness to acknowledge any of it? Because, when I see this:
Look, by now it should be clear that I didn’t come here today to tell you that HRC is perfect and that you’re wrong for not seeing it. Because we’re NOT perfect, and you’re NOT wrong.
I see an unwillingness to do anything to make up for what HRC did to entire generation of trans activists who had the temerity to point out when HRC was wrong.
You mentioned, among other people, Monica Roberts, saying “You’re an inspiration to me personally.”
By the time you arrived at HRC, she should have been (or at least have been given the opportunity to be) one of your most senior employees.
What are you going to do about that, Chad?
And all of that brings be back to Donna Rose:
What happened in 2007, when then-HRC president Joe Solmonese stood on that very same stage making promises and commitments that would prove to be inconvenient and hollow less than six weeks later, continues to be a dagger between the shoulders for many of us who dared to believe back then. Perhaps nobody felt that pain more acutely than I.
At the time I was the first and only trans member of the HRC board of directors. I was the cochair of the diversity committee. Jamison Green and I worked tirelessly for the business council, and many of the workplace protections and benefits that have become such an important reality for many trans people today are a direct result of the work that we started. As a board member, I raised a significant amount of money to fund the critical work we were doing, and I spoke passionately and tirelessly at dinners around the country. I rolled up my sleeves and wasn’t afraid to fight on the front lines wherever and whenever necessary. Why? Because I believed. I trusted that the organization would stay true to the lofty ideals I thought we represented.
And your presence there allowed at least some people to think that you were an employee, that, instead of simply deploying a Kool-Aid drinker to sell a bill of goods to people who jobs or other sources of income, HRC was actually willing to allow a trans woman to earn a living doing the activism that trans women were not then being allowed to earn a paycheck doing.
What happened was deeply, deeply personal, and there has still been no closure for me. But that’s water under the bridge at this point, and none of that is Chad’s fault.
I’m willing to concede that its not his fault.
I’m not willing to concede that none of it was your own fault.
You should have known better.
By 2007, the generation of trans activists that I’m demanding reparations for had already been thoroughly blacklisted by the Birch-Jacques-Solmonese-era HRC. By 2007, HRC had a well-established record – well over a decade (more if you want to go all the way back to the organization’s founder) – of lying, double-speaking and non-speaking on trans issues.
Oh, and it had a track record of having had slightly more than one trans employee (one actual out trans man – for 18 months or so – and another trans man who, as of 2007, was still largely a phantom) in 27 years of existence.
You should have known better.
You should have known what the organization you were sucking money out of trans activism for really thought of you, people like you and what matters to you and people like you.
Maybe everything is just “water under the bridge” to you.
But being able to say that HRC’s past actions are just “water under the bridge” is a luxury that the people whose lives and careers were negatively impacted by the organization that you shilled for cannot afford.
We are owed reparations. (Quite frankly Donna, you’re owed some as well, but if you’re unwilling to demand it, then just keep sipping your Kool-Aid and forever cease commenting on HRC’s relations with trans people.)
At SCC Chad Griffin promised:
with my sweet Southern mom and all of you as my witness, that we won’t stop fighting until everyone in this room and everyone across this country has the equal protection, equal opportunity, and equal dignity that we all deserve as human beings.
Forget the stopping point. I want you, Chad Griffin, and HRC to address the starting point – the point at which HRC begins to substantively undo the un-equalizing that it heaped upon trans people. Don’t want to start with me? Fine. Start with Monica. Or Alyson Meiselman. Or Vanessa Edwards-Foster. But if you’re serious about moving forward, you and the current incarnation of your organization have to do more than offer a generalized acknowledgement of ill-treatment; the very real damage that your predecessors and their acolytes did to the lives and careers of real individuals requires very real reparations.
One of the current crop of HRC trans employees, Allison Vankuiken, said last week on Facebook – in response to my observation that Griffin’s speech was nice but that he and his organization must do something for the trans people who wanted (and who were amply qualified for) Gay, Inc. employment when it would not have even looked at a resume from Vankuiken or any other trans woman:
I have a deep respect and appreciation for those who came before me. It’s because of your work and the struggles you endured that I am where I am and proud to be out. For that I thank you.
Its not your obligation to thank any of us, Allison. Its is, however, the obligation of you, Chad Griffin and the entire organization to open up HRC’s wallet to make up for, to the degree it is possible this far down the line, the damage done to the individuals among those people you claim to have a deep respect for who your current employer actively excluded from any possibility of ever holding a job such as the one you have now.
ENDABlog2 now has a donation button, so if you – or anyone else who actually desires to begin moving forward – want to start the ball rolling, feel free. But if you weren’t there, it isn’t your obligation. Chad wasn’t there, but he is as much a successor-in-interest to the sins of the organization as is the organization itself.
As an institution, HRC knows who it harmed – and how.
As an institution, if HRC actually wants to move forward, it knows how.