Thursday, November 8, 2007

JMO - Why new ENDA is wrong

The House of Representatives yesterday passed an update to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) by a majority but not enough of one once the Senate passes its version and the compromise goes to the President for George Bush to simply veto it. It was, for the most part, an exercise of political wills and power, and a show of public and political rhetoric about sexual orientation and gender identity. It was an excercise in futility, not uncommon for Congress of recent sessions.

While 350 of the top 500 Fortune companies and over 300 human rigthts and LGBT organizations support an all-inclusive ENDA, Congress, the respective leader on these issues in the House, Representatives Barney Franks, decided to jettision gender identity, meaning transpeople, from the bill. In short, they decided adding another few to the many at the expense of another few was politicially expedient and their version of American values.

The saving grace in the process was Representative Tammy Baldwin whose speech on the floor was magnificent and magnanimous in the face of Reprsentatives Barney Franks and Nancy Pelosi's decision not to include transpeople in the ENDA. It was a political decision of the face of it, but in reality it was a cave-in to the religious and conservative Republicans who don't think all Americans are really Americans and worthy of equal rights and protections.

If this version of the bill is passed, and for some odd reason President Bush has a lapse of memory and his own conscience and signs it, it will mean the formerly oppressed will join the ranks of the oppressors. A gay or lesbian manager will have the right to fire a transperson without cause but they can not be similarly fired. The latter is discrimination and the former is simply business as usual. A fired gay or lesbian will have rights, but a transperson is simply unemployed, often again.

And as usual Congress caved into the minority of groups who have mispresented transpeople and this bill to the public, and especially their constituents. It's ok for a Congressional Representative or Senator to be gay or lesbian. And it's ok for anyone of them to be straight with hidden homosexual tendencies. But it's not ok for a person to be transgender and make the life-changing decision to be who they are, and have any hope they will be granted the same rights and privileges as the rest of Americans in the workplace.

Martin Luther King spoke those immortal words, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." Those words apply equally to one's gender. We have long abolished discrimination against one's race, ethnicity, religion, sex, and disabilities, and now ENDA add sexual orientation. But not gender identity.

There are thousands of transpeople, many who have finished their transistion to be physically and legal their new sex and gender, living ordinary lives alongside the rest of Americans, and few if anyone outside family and friends are the wiser. There are tens of thousands of transpeople trying to live as the rest of Americans. But they are discriminated against routinely in their life, and often the victim of violence. The Hate Crime Act prohibits some of this discrimination and the ENDA would prohibit the rest.

But alas, transpeople aren't in ENDA. Since I expect it will see a Presidential veto and not be overridden by Congress, it would be nice to say express some hatred to the LGB groups that wanted to become the many and the oppressor. But I can't and won't. I do hope that the LGB community follows up on their promise to the T-community to help and support their inclusion in ENDA in 2009. But I'm not holding my breath because deep down I feel the same will happen again.

Deja Vu all over, again, and transpeople will again be political fodder, lost in the shuffle and race to join the many. And they'll be handed an IOU saying, "We appreciate your help in the effort for gay and lesbian rights, and we will reciprocate for you sometime in the future when it's politicially expedient to do without political fallout of our own efforts." That is, of course, unless the real Democrats stand up and say they are for every American. As will the President.

But, as the old saying goes, I'm not holding my breath.

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