Friday, May 29, 2009

Trans-Inclusive ENDA: Is it that hard?

One of the big scandals in the surge for equal rights has been the inclusion of the T in GLBT. I hate to call this a "scandal" because that word, to me, exoticizes and otherizes a group of people within a group of exoticized and otherized people. Maybe "debacle" is a better word... debandal? scandacle?

In any case, one of the big "scandacles" in the past years has been the struggle for protection against workplace discrimination. In 2007, an ENDA bill was presented to Congress that included protection for every part of the GLBT spectrum--including transgender people. Then, some advocates for ENDA got nervous that such a momentous bill wouldn't get passed, and immediately had gender identity dropped from the ENDA bill.

This move in itself was enough to set the transgender community ablaze, and I'm no exception. Since when is it okay to sacrifice one portion of a community just so the others will be able to reap the benefits of a victory? How fucked up is it that there is a hierarchy within a minority group? Clearly, the GLB community is getting the upperhand, and always has. GLB identity has managed to rise from the depths of sexual perversion but transgenderism is still just a naughty nighttime fantasy of men in sparkling high heels and the Dykes on Bikes.

Barney Frank, a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, and an openly gay man, joined in the celebration of a non-inclusive ENDA in 2007. His response to the outrage was like that of a parent to a spoiled child whining about the expensive toy that ze didn't get for Christmas:

The question facing us – the LGBT community and the tens of millions of others who are active supporters of our fight against prejudice – is whether we should pass up the chance to adopt a very good bill because it has one major gap. I believe that it would be a grave error to let this opportunity to pass a sexual orientation nondiscrimination bill go forward, not simply because it is one of the most important advances we’ll have made in securing civil rights for Americans in decades, but because moving forward on this bill now will also better serve the ultimate goal of including people who are transgender than simply accepting total defeat today.

"Stop raining on our parade, Transgender Community, you'll get your turn eventually. Now bask in my glory as I resist employment discrimination, whilst you still have to dress gender appropriate at a job interview for fear of being rejected."

But, in researching all of this, it leads me to wonder... Should "GLBT" drop the "T"?

I've often wondered this before but it has never really occurred to me until now. What are the ties between the GLB and the T community? I used to argue this, saying that, more often than not, a member of the T community was once a member of the GLB community and the decision to transcend traditional gender roles should not inhibit hir from continuing to associate with the community ze was once part of. But, there are plenty of TG/TS/GQ (transgender/transsexual/gender-queer) people who were never and will never be part of the GLB community, whether it's because they retain their heterosexuality in their gender-transgression or because they reject the gender binary altogether. If you denounce the existence of "male" and "female" in the societal sense, you are, in effect, denouncing the existence of "gay" and "straight," as these terms rely solely on conceptions of sex and gender.

Additionally, the logistics of the two groups don't align well at all. The GLB community is focused around a group of people based off of their sexual orientation. The T community has worked for years and years to convince the rest of society that their rallying point has nothing to do with sexual orientation (back to the fetishization of transpeople that I snarkily mentioned earlier). The T community is about self-expression. The T community rallies around the point that everyone involved does not conform to societal expectations placed upon them based on their genitals. Which does, in effect, tie them back to sexuality--GLB people are also not conforming to societal expectations placed upon them based on their genitals. It's that age-old SAT question: If a T is not a GLB, but a GLB is a T, and the government doesn't believe in any of them, then who the hell are we? So, the logical explanation is just for everyone to identify as transgendered. The end.

I'm kidding (sort of). I'm also running around in circles here, I know. But this is why the issue is still debated today. It's so goddamn complicated.

Which is why I love the word "queer." It's so encompassing (for more, there's a post on the word 'queer' a few posts down).

What prompted me to post this was that a trans-inclusive ENDA is slated to be presented to congress sometime in the near future (more, better details here). I'll try to be a little more helpful as updates on this become available. But, until then, keep your eyes and ears peeled, and don't forget to nag the shit out of your political leaders!

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