Part of the irony is that after I posted my reaction on Facebook to Chad Griffin’s speech to Southern Comfort, the proprietor of a sad little blog that long ago saw what little relevance it may have ever had wash away into the civil rights sewer system decided to direct a hissy fit at me in which he demonstrated the LG disconnect from the lived experience of trans people (how so? well, for starters, said sad little proprietor of said sad little blog seems to think that there is no connection between HRC’s history of employment discrimination against trans women and that discrimination engaged in by other aspects of Gay, Inc., particularly one that committed sex and age discrimination against me several years ago by hiring a lesser-qualified, younger FTM over the 40-year-old, more qualified me.)
FYI – my reaction read:
More of an apology than I expected.
However, I stand by my assertion that reparations are in order. Hiring young people does nothing to heal the wounds of and undo the damage done to the generation who sacrificed to force HRC to get to the point where its ED would say what he said today (and, again, I make no claim to be at top of any list of such sacrificers but I am on it.) HRC actively worked to undermine the careers of people who wanted desperately – and were imminently qualified – to be gainfully employed in doing the work that standing together with HRC and/or any part of Gay, Inc. would have entailed. Saying that we have been “underrepresented” by HRC is indeed accurate; saying that HRC engaged in acts of discrimination against trans people would be both accurate *and* reflective of our “lived experience.”
In the Prop 8 documentary, Griffin – not yet with HRC – muses about those who were criticizing AFER’s strategy in the Prop 8 marriage case. He wonders aloud why people with essentially the same goal as AFER would work against them.
As to the Prop 8 case, more than a few people had very valid concerns about how that case could have gone – and the worst possible outcome would have affected everyone, not just the litigants. I’m sure that over the years, people within HRC have wondered why trans people would protest against HRC, picket HRC, parse its press releases cheering gay-only laws as creating ‘discrimination-free zones’, and – yes – calling the organization a cesspool of transphobia.
Its because we had to.
We were told incessantly – by people who would never even consider looking at our resumes, much less actually hiring us – that we had an obligation to be team players when history has shown that, by no choice of our own, we not only were not on the team, we were not even being allowed into the stadium or even into the parking lot.
Yes, his speech was more of an apology than I expected.
However, I again stand by my assertion that reparations are in order.
The full scope of the irony is that, based on the reactions I’m seeing by trans people to Griffin’s speech, I’m actually giving him more of a benefit of the doubt than anyone.
Here, I’ll attempt to go further than I did (which, again, was in a comment on a Facebook thread) and quantify it: As of right now, I trust Griffin more than I trust Mara Keisling.
After all, given recent events, I think Griffin has a better track record of hiring trans women than the quisling ever has (or likely ever will.) And, despite being the successor-in-interest to Joe Solmonese, Cheryl Jacques and Elizabeth Birch – who, as HRC EDs, by definition participated in the blacklisting of non-adherent trans activists (and I think we all know about the quisling’s track record both in initiating a “cancerous whisper campaign” against trans women who won’t worship her and defending the immoral hiring practices of Gay, Inc.) – I’m at least willing to at least entertain the possibility that Griffin hasn’t initiated any blacklisting of trans activists.
Having said that, HRC’s current M.O. of hiring trans people who either sat out the War Against HRC or are too young to have participated in it – if not supplemented by a very real commitment (financial and otherwise) to a very real, very substantive effort on HRC’s part to mitigate, if not actually undo, the very real, very substantive damage done since the mid-1990s to trans activists, most if not all of whom entered the activism world not wanting to believe what we were hearing about this big, rich gay organization that was actively working against trans people in D.C.
Without reparations to those who were substantively harmed by HRC’s disgusting past (which, as an olive branch, for purposes of this post, I will situate in the past), Griffin’s words will prove to be worse than if he had said nothing at all. Bruce Springsteen rhetorically asked if a dream didn’t come true was it a lie or something worse?
Its the latter.
So I’ll repeat:
And that was perhaps the most humorous part of the hissy fit by the proprietor of a sad little blog that long ago saw what little relevance it may have ever had wash away into the civil rights sewer system.
“HRC isn’t a government. They can’t pay ‘reparations,'” he wrote.
At the same time, this gives HRC a pass and buys into the fallacy that HRC tried pushing on not just trans people but anyone who questioned its gay-only stance on ENDA. I long ago lost track of the number of HRC-oids – often on panels at law conferences – would say “Its not our bill! Its Barney’s bill!” No, HRC isn’t ‘government’, but it long ago wrote the bill.
HRC “isn’t a government”…
which means it isn’t a reality-based POTUS and doesn’t need to get the approval of a racist Republican majority in Congress to pay reparations.
HRC “isn’t a government”…
which means it can do whatever it thinks it can get away with at any given moment.
If Chad Griffin and HRC want to make his speech substantive, they can do it if they want to.
And if Chad Griffin and HRC want to make that speech substantive, they damn well need to make it so sooner rather than later.
After all, this is a sampling of comments I’m seeing from other people (not all T from what I gather – and, while some of these came from names I recognize and some from people I know, (1) many were not and, most importantly, (2) none were sockpuppeted from me) about his speech:
- “don’t think I’ll ever be able to trust the HRC”
- “I’ll believe this when I’m hired at a respectable annual salary for at least 5 years or a lump sum is paid for black-listing for the past 10+ years!”
- “The HRC is not just transphobic but they are also misogynistic”
- “HRC messed up so much in the past that ‘sorry’ does not cut it. They need to make a drastic change to their board. Disburse a large portion of their money to local organizations, and accept the subordinate role in championing trans* rights”
- “So how many trans people are you going to add to the board of directors.. not just the token one “
- “The ‘HRC has been a bad org and I’m sorry’ is insufficient.”
- “VERY VERY late to the party, Chad! “
- “I’m not “sold” on the apology. I feel it is limpid in light the the serious levels of transgressions and blacklisting done by HRC over the past 19 or so years.”
- “They have no credibility on trans* issues.”
- “sorry but they have screwed over Transpeople far too many times to be trusted. It would take a decade of them not stumbling and screwing over Transpeople before I would even start to trust them, longer probably for my Trans friends.”
- “Its ACTIONS not words that will truly show if HRC and its hierarchy truly mean what they are NOW finally apologizing for… The mis-treatment of the Transgender Community.”
- “When we see 1/2 dozen or more hires, I think the community will start believing something real is happening.”
- “We toss your stickers back for a reason, because to us they are signs of just how much we don’t belong, and how disposable we are as a cause for your organization. And those wounds don’t vanish, unfortunately.”
- “lets not forget HRC reps telling trans people they didn’t belong at their protests.”
- “HRC has shown, overwhelmingly, time and time again, that they are not to be trusted. “
- “THIS IS TOO DAMNED LITTLE AND TOO DAMNED LATE! The damage that HRC and like minded organizations (such as the local Stonewall Committee) did to exclude transpeople from the LGBT movement has been a tragic and shameful blot on our history. “
- “We need to insure that a concrete plan of action is in place well before HRC emerges back into the trans* communities lives. HRC has a horrible record and even the apologies for the last incident were poor.”
- “If they follow through, I will thank them. That said, given their lip service, I’ll believe it when I see it.”
- “Trust but verify.”
- “Charlie Brown almost always tries verifying that Lucy will hold the ball this time.”
- “I admire the apology. I am waiting on substantive proof.”
- “I will believe you when I see it with my own eyes.”
- “It’s a start, but HRC has a lot of openly trans-hostile and trans-dismissive operatives. It is going to take a long time to educate or age out these people. HRC has taken this long to apologize to the transgender community when they threw us under the bus on ENDA. I’ve talked to some HRC staffers. They tried to look like they were listening, but they did not hear a word I said to them. They felt perfectly comfortable ignoring the T.”
- “We have heard a very similar song and dance from HRC before.”
- “Chad, Sorry but I don’t believe a freaking word you say.”
- “Their history of abandonment in the past leave this part of the community very leary.”
- “Let’s all walk the walk of inclusion. Talking the talk is necessary but not sufficient. “
- “I sincerely believe that when an organization cause(d)(s) harm, and wants to genuinely apologize for the past actions of that organization, the organization has to not merely admit its transgressions, not merely apologize, but actually ac[ ]
- “Essentially, what he is saying to us is that no matter how much they love us and do all the right things on our behalf, they just can’t seem to get us to trust them. He’s right, that is a keen observation. Why do I say that? Because it is going to take some time before I am willing to include myself in their camp. It could take a generation before the gap is bridged.”
- “That’s not enough. The HRC hasn’t just left the transgender community “underrepresented” and “unrepresented”. The HRC has been blatantly transphobic and openly hateful toward the transgender community. Admit to and apologize for that. Don’t just try to pretend that it never happened.”
- “I just can’t find it in me to financially support HRC in any way until they do more than just talk. An apology was well needed, but it needs to be a start toward better treatment, not an endpoint.”
Are you listening to that, Chad?
If you don’t want to think of yourself as being the successor-in-interest to Joe Solmonese, Cheryl Jacques and Elizabeth Birch, then think of yourself as having assumed their mortgage – with a balloon payment owing.
And I’m curious as to whether any of Chad’s new hires are listening.
One of them hopped in on a Facebook thread about Chad’s speech and the fact that reparations are in order if the speech is to mean anything. Among other things, she said of HRC:
I’ve been with them since the start of the year and had nothing but an amazing experience with the organization.
I am well aware of the history and believe they are a different organization then <sic> they were in the past. I don’t say this based on the words I’ve heard, but by the actions I’ve seen from them across the country and how I’ve been treated.
They’ve hired some amazing staff, they’ve been funding projects, and doing advocacy across the country regarding employment, health, and policy. Basically everything that matters and this is just the start.
Moving forward, I would encourage folks to not sit back and watch from the sidelines, but actually get involved and work with them to advance our interests.
[F]or purposes of this comment I am taking you at your word regarding your experience there thus far and your optimism.
However, I hope that you can understand the skepticism and other negative feelings from people such as myself, Alyson [Meiselman, who was also part of the thread] and other trans women of equal and/or more expertise who, had your current employer actually been an honest broker on trans issues during the two decades prior to your hiring, would possibly have been there to greet you as long-term HRC veterans on your first day at HRC.
Your statement really seems to sidestep the matter of the very real professional damage that your employer did to trans women (and many trans men) who, 10 or 15 or more years ago, with law degrees and relevant activism experience in hand, were seeking to be able to do what you’re doing now: bringing home a paycheck for your activism work instead of neglecting your family, finances and health to engage in activism – often by necessity against your current employer – only to run into the brick wall erected by your current employer: a brick wall of refusal to even consider hiring a trans woman, a brick wall of being labeled as troublemakers (or worse) for refusing to accept your employer’s propaganda (and I’m trying to be nice in this post, but if you’re unwilling to accept that what your current employer told people about trans issues in general and ENDA specifically ca. 1998 – which I understand predated you as well as Chad – was propaganda, then you yourself are not coming to this conversation as an honest broker), a brick wall of your current employer active and aggressive blacklisting trans people (and their supporters) who questioned the HRC party line.
Employment at HRC doesn’t simply mean a paycheck it is a gateway to other advocacy-related employment, academia and politics. Improper exclusion from employment at HRC (and the other organizations that the blacklisting shut us out from) didn’t simply keep a paycheck away from us; it has had reverberations that have directly harmed the discriminated-against trans people for years already and will continue to have negative reverberations for years to come.
Alyson should be the dean of a law school or a judge now – after a career in gainfully-employed LGBT activism which led to a law professorship and beyond. I should be a law prof – after gainfully-employed LGBT activism allowed me to generate a resume that has on it several years of gainful employment in LGBT activism in addition to the dozen law review articles I’ve published on transgender law (all done on my own time and on my own dime.) I could list many more people who your current employer blacklisted, but they’re not in the conversation, so I’m not going to invoke their names.
I don’t expect you to pony up the reparations or suddenly make the commitment to do so that needs to be made (and soon); I imagine that under the best of circumstances that’s above your pay grade – but dodging all of the above while essentially giving a pro-HRC pep talk (and, I reiterate, even I acknowledge that at least some pro-HRC speak may be warranted at the moment) to the trans people who literally sacrificed our well-beings to push HRC in the direction that led to the point where Chad Griffin would hire you isn’t going to win you, or Chad or HRC any friends. In fact, it is only going to reinforce the lingering suspicion that nothing HRC says to the trans community as a whole has any substance, even if there are a couple of trans women collecting paychecks there right now.
In summation: Our reward for not sitting on the sidelines of the activism that actually needed to be done in order to not be buried by the trans-erasive version of corporate gay activism that the HRC elite of the 1990s and 2000s was pushing was to be blacklisted by an organization that, subsequently, genuinely wondered why we would refer to it as the Human Right Scampaign or even the cesspool of transphobia.
Reparations are in order.
And that is not debatable.