Mostly, here, I’m going to crib the words of Vanessa Edwards-Foster – from a piece she did for TransAdvocate back in 2007 entitled “Hero Worship”:
[I]f you’re of a mind to keep folks like Jeff Soref, or Joe Solmonese or HRC or even the exalted “ally” Rep. Barney Frank on the Pedestal of Heroes, feel free. I’ll respectfully and unequivocally disagree. HRC and Barney make no sacrifices – they’re simply doing what is expected of them to earn their paycheck each week. Ask them to find a real 9 to 5 job, and then do what they do on the side in their “spare time”! If our community’s heroes can be dismissed, shut out, disreputably labeled, disemployed, underemployed or fully unemployed, and live this for decades, then perhaps we can hope for a day when we’re all egalitarian, and allow the gay and lesbian community to experience the same type of living standards we enjoy.
Until that day is met, I really don’t want to hear about their “heroism” any longer.
Number of trans people since then who have been allowed to earn their paychecks each week in relevant, policy-related, Gay, Inc. jobs instead of doing the work in their spare time? Ridiculously few.
Number of trans women? Even fewer.
Over the past few years, the transgender community has had its share of reports of heroism from Mara Keisling and Lisa Mottet of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) about the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA). It flew in the face of what this writer and many others active in the trans rights game knew as conventional wisdom. These claims were oft-repeated by others who believed this new “heroic” phase of both Barney and HRC, disbursed by blogs, claimed on list-servs, spoken about by the hand-chosen few trans people they use for PC PR, and even distributed on a prominent trans activist’s newsletter, providing a well-orchestrated legitimacy to these reputably embattled folks.
In the face of claims from our true allies on the Hill (congress-critters’ staffers, for those needing elaboration), we were always countered by Mara and Lisa with claims that “these [staffers] have their own [agenda] for wanting to bring HRC and Barney Frank down” and other dismissive explanations.
And, of course, we were – and still are – implicitly expected to believe that the Quisling and Mottet couldn’t possibly have permanent employment for themselves as their own(ly) real agenda.
[W]ho are considered the transgender community’s heroes? How about the well-funded organizations that never leave transgenders behind in their support? When HR 3128, the “Federal Employment Protection Act” (known as the Waxman Bill in the community) was introduced in 2004 protecting sexual orientation, but not gender identity, the National Organization of Women stood up to oppose the bill for it’s lack of inclusion, as did AFL-CIO’s Pride At Work and (after initially signing on) Parents, Family & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). All of the aforementioned organizations were heroic.
Even NCTE couldn’t oppose the bill, instead helping quietly to generate support within the trans community and supportive allies in favor of the bill (prompting one ally from the gay and lesbian community to wonder to this writer “how is this transgender advocacy?”) Was this an example of trans heroism?
In your heart – brain and every other part of your body – you know what the answer is.