Saturday, July 19, 2008

In Response To Meghan Stabler

Yesterday the Human Rights Campaign's Backstory blog published the full unedited text of a letter to the editor of the Bay Area Reporter in support of HRC written by transgender activist and HRC Business Council member Meghan Stabler. Unfortunately, Backstory doesn't allow comments (gee, I wonder why?), so I thought I'd just turn mine into a blog post.

I've never met or spoken to Ms. Stabler and so I would not presume to pass judgment on her or her motives, but I believe this letter gives one an insight into the way the HRC faithful see the rift between HRC and the transgender community. For example:

"We must work together for the best strategy to secure employment protections that cover our entire community. To separate our community via a continuance of anger and in-fighting will not move our inclusive need forward. I fear that it will only add more fuel to those so-called "citizens" groups that are doing all in their power and in their coffers to hold equality back, and in some cases put back and down, ALL LGBT people."

Right off the bat, I take issue with Meghan Stabler's entire premise. WE did not separate our community. WE did not break our promises. WE did not endorse leaving the poorest and most victimized behind to gain advantage for the wealthier and less different-seeming segments of our community.

WE didn't start this...but we're sure as hell going to finish it.

"My involvement with HRC is part of my personal commitment to do all I can. I don't like "sides;" I never have. I hate injustice and inequality. Most of all I hate conflict, especially now that I see conflict within our community. In my opinion we must move forward and show cohesively that we are one community that is equal to the rest of America, at home and in the workplace."

Again Stabler seems to be relying on this faulty premise, that the conflict is a result of the actions of the trans community rather than the actions and choices of the Human Rights Campaign leadership which precipitated those actions in the first place. Stabler is essentially labeling the trans community and our allies divisive for getting upset about the HRC leadership's despicable behavior and speaking out against it. The closest she even comes to acknowledging that HRC has some responsibility here is when she says:

"I, too, was disappointed by the separation of Gender and Sexual Orientation from an inclusive-ENDA, and I was dismayed about how the leadership and board of HRC handled it."

Not exactly what you'd call a strong condemnation, is it? Maybe it's the US vs. UK English thing, but I'm "disappointed" and "dismayed" when there's an hour wait for a table at my favorite restaurant. When I'm lied to and have my community's interests betrayed by an organization that claims to speak for me and others like me, I feel something entirely different. For a long time, far too many in this community have been "disappointed" and "dismayed" but not enough have been genuinely pissed off and angry enough to do something about it. Things are different now, though. For once, maybe even for the first time, the numbers are finally on our side.

I don't say all this to attack Meghan Stabler personally. Again, I don't know her. I have no doubt whatsoever that she is sincere in her opinions. I also think, however, that she has fully bought into the HRC leadership's view of things and we are seeing that viewpoint clearly depicted in her letter. If I am correct here it would explain a lot about why we have yet to see an apology from these people: They really don't believe they've done anything wrong. That, of course, right there is the problem, and the crux upon which this entire conflict rests:

HRC's leadership sees their position on ENDA as smart politics, but most of the politically-conscious American LGBT community sees it as unjust, immoral, and bad behavior.

When you strip away all the politics and political posturing, it's really no more complicated than that. It isn't the trans community that's being divisive here. The true voice of the greater American LGBT community is demanding transgender inclusion in an ever-increasing chorus, but it's the Human Rights Campaign leadership that stands alone here, apart from the vast majority, endorsing legislation that offers protections only to the straight-appearing Queer elite, taking the very same position on transgender inclusion as the Log Cabin Republicans. It's not the trans community, but rather the Human Rights Campaign leadership which has chosen to separate itself from the will and political agenda of the greater community. HRC is isolated because it chose to isolate itself. If it wishes to rejoin this movement and perhaps someday be seen as a leader again then it must move to where the rest of us are. This community has moved on, past the divisive "ivory tower" politics of HRC, to a truly progressive agenda which demands that no American's right to be protected against discrimination ever be considered negotiable.

It all comes down to the simple reality that HRC's leadership knows perfectly well that its position on ENDA is in direct opposition to the one held by most of our community. They simply don't care. They are not qualified to represent us and they need to step aside and let a credible organization that truly reflects the will and the interests of the American LGBT community like NGLTF take the reins of this movement.

Of course, HRC doesn't want to step aside, but I think as time goes on this organization will find itself with less and less of a choice in that regard. That decision has already been made by the people, and the politicians are dutifully following suit. It's only a matter of time now before HRC finds itself disempowered in Congress, perhaps even left out of the loop on major LGBT political issues as the politicians increasingly look to our chosen leaders for guidance on where our community actually is on the important issues of the day. And y'know, I really don't think that time is all that far off.

Karma can be such a bitch.

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