A new study released today indicates how woefully behind the times the Democratic Congressional leadership and the Human Rights Campaign are in terms of their support for LGBT "bread and butter" issues, and most especially on workplace rights for transgender and gender variant people. Contrary to the statements of members of Congress such as Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi, and directly in opposition to the HRC polling results released last year commonly considered to be bogus at best if not intentionally tweaked to support their own position which claimed that about 60% of LGBT's supported a non-inclusive ENDA, this survey conducted by Harris Interactive indicates that 71% of Americans believe that transgender workers should be judged on their work performance, not their gender identity. In comparison, those who feel gay and lesbian people should be accorded the same respect polled at only a mere 8% higher at 79%, effectively putting the lie once and for all to that old saw promoted by the Frank/Pelosi/Aravosis crowd that "straight-acting only" civil rights initiatives enjoy much more support that those inclusive of transgender people.
So now with the real truth finally on the table, we're left with reality. Since we now know that gay and lesbian rights don't have substantially more support than transgender rights anymore as some still like to claim, we're forced to conclude that the real motivators for the support of the Democratic Congressional leadership are the two things that the transgender community will never be able to match our lesbian and gay sisters and brothers in: voting numbers and money.
The Democrats are still looking for that easy score without having to actually work for it. We saw it in the way they couldn't even muster the courage to actually include any of us by name in the 2008 Democratic Party Platform, and we're seeing it right now in the way that Barney Frank and the rest of the Dem leadership are still hedging their bets by refusing to stand up and say they will fight to ensure our rights as American citizens to be protected from unjust discrimination. Simply a mention of gender identity in the platform is nice to see but is essentially worthless without a real and specific commitment to action backing it up. In a nutshell, Democratic leaders in Congress are still running away from dealing with us just like HRC does, are still trying to sell us lies about the level of support for our basic rights under the law just like HRC does, and therefore, just like HRC, cannot be trusted to follow through on our behalf fairly and honestly.
Certainly no surprises here to be sure, but this study does provide a certain statistical validity to what many of us have been saying for years, that in the end these people really don't care about anyone or anything other than themselves, their Party, and their own money and political power, certainly not about us. As I've written in the past, these people have been feeding us lies for years now, but it's only recently, when Joe Solmonese got up in front of a podium in front of a thousand transfolks and taught us why the Human Rights Campaign can never be trusted by anyone who isn't rich, white, and politically connected, that everyone else in our community is starting to understand that nothing you hear from any of these people can be accepted as truthful without deep, intensive, and constant verification and re-verification. Even then any promises which might be made can and will not only be reneged upon the moment they become inconvenient, but they'll eagerly fall all over themselves to back up their lies and misrepresentations with dubious statistics and misleading public statements.
The truth telling doesn't stop there, however. This study also reveal several other interesting statistics which are at odds to varying degrees with what our "leaders" are willing to say publicly:
Three out of four (75%) heterosexuals feel that spouses of married heterosexual employees and committed partners of gay and lesbian employees both should receive leave when they lose a spouse/partner or close family member."
More than two-thirds (68%) of heterosexuals feel that spouses of married heterosexual employees and committed partners of gay and lesbian employees both should receive leave rights for family and medical emergencies as outlined in FMLA."
"(A)lmost two-thirds (64%) of heterosexuals feel that spouses of married heterosexual employees and committed partners of gay and lesbian employees both should receive untaxed health benefits under federal law."
You certainly wouldn't think any of this were true if you went solely by the behavior of our "friends" in Congress, that's for sure. It's pretty clear that many of these folks are still stuck somewhere around 1975 in terms of understanding and being tuned in to what's really going on in modern LGBT America.
But wait...it gets even better:
"About two of three (65%) of gays and lesbians faced some sort of discrimination in the workplace."
"Nearly half (47%) of gays and lesbian adults heard anti-gay comments on the job."
"More than one-third (36%) of gays and lesbians say they remain closeted at work."
"One out of five (20%) gays and lesbians report being harassed on the job by co-workers."
Oh yeah, gays and lesbians are just soooooo more popularly accepted than we transfolks are...really.
Hopefully, this study and others like it will finally put the cap on the stream of lies we've been hearing from the Democrats about our basic civil rights as American citizens for decades now. If Barney and the House Dems are going to turn tail and cower under a rock again when called upon to stand up for justice for transgender people, we should make certain to publicize these statistics far and wide to illustrate that it's not really the level of acceptance that's causing the Dems to refuse to stand up for real American justice, it's just that we don't have the money and votes to purchase the same level of fairness and equal treatment from our federal government which other citizens are extended automatically.
Yes, Barack Obama is a messenger of hope. The real problem is that the Democratic Congressional leadership routinely marks such messages "Return To Sender" when they concern LGBT people, and especially transgender people. If they want to prove to us that things have changed, one hearing isn't going to do it. After promises and more promises all suddenly just disappearing without a trace the moment they become inconvenient for cowardly do-nothing Democrats, it's no longer reasonable to take anything at all from these people simply on faith.
As always, words mean nothing here. The real proof is in the legislation itself and in the votes it receives. See that big hole in ENDA? The one Barney Frank left when he ripped hardworking, taxpaying Transgender-Americans out of it? See that other huge chunk gone? You know, the one that would have protected us from unjust bigotry committed by those who hide behind religion to discriminate against and disparage those unlike themselves? That's the real Democratic Congressional leadership in action, the one behind all the politically correct rhetoric and positive words. It's important to remember that we can't believe what they tell us because if there's anything we've learned over the course of this battle it's that until a member of Congress is actually willing to back up their words with their vote it's nothing more than yet another meaningless hot air blast from DC.
We can only hope that this new study will inspire Congress to take a serious look at how they've been dealing with our issues, and how utterly antiquated their thinking is on the key political issues of our lives. I'm not holding my breath, mind you, but at least we can hope that finally we can get some real support from Congress so people like me don't have to rip them to shreds again next year for selling out us and our basic civil rights under the law for the umpteenth time.
Congress gets it. We know they get it. They know we know they get it. And now, we have the stats to back it up.
It's time to put up or shut up, Congressional Dems, because you may get through this election relatively unscathed, but if you folks screw us over again there will be hell to pay, and this time, we're bringing friends, lots of them, and they're a lot more powerful and influential than we are. Progressives are furious because now everyone knows how you've been treating us for years and they don't like it anymore than we do. You know the tide has turned and it's time for you people to join much of the rest of the country and the western world in the 21st century in terms of LGBT rights. Get over your bigotry, get over your cowardice, stand up like the leaders you're supposed to be and do what you know needs to be done. No more bullshit, no more excuses. African-Americans had far less popular support when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, but it passed because we had a President and a Congress that made it happen because they knew it was the right thing to do.
To my way of thinking, the transgender community now is like the odd smaller child who has been unmercifully bullied by old and larger children for years until finally one day he comes to school with a baseball bat and waits around the corner for those bullies to try to beat him up again. He stands and he waits, knowing that the moment those bullies try to throw that first punch again, he's going for the home run swing to the head. He sees his tormentors coming down the street, he grips his bat tightly and waits for the punch to the gut he knows is coming...
What happens next? Well, that's up to you folks in Congress. You want to be friends now? You want us to trust you? Why should we? We have dozens upon dozens of reasons not to believe anything you say, but what credible reason have we been given to believe you're worthy of our trust? You're still too scared to even mention us by name in the Party platform and somehow you think that kind of political cowardice is going gain you the trust of a minority group you've treated like crap now for decades? I mean, you have to be kidding, right?
Trust needs to be justified with action. Words are not enough because they never have been. If you're ready to treat us like equals, Congress, then prove it. Don't talk about it, do it. Since you've long since lost the right to expect the benefit of the doubt, it's the only way most of us are going to take you seriously when you say you support us.
As a writer and a radio host, I know that words can and do matter. As an activist and political observer, I know that words coming from politicians mean nothing unless they're backed up by action.
We're behind that fence now, Congress, gripping our bat, pulling back to swing, waiting for the bullies to reach the corner...and here you come. We're ready for you, and so are our big strong friends standing behind us, ready to jump in and hurt you like you've hurt us, over and over and over. The real question is: Are you ready for us?