Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Incrementalists Dirty Little "Secret"

The Human Rights Campaign hopes you're not paying attention. Barney Frank hopes you'll look the other way. John Aravosis is crossing his fingers that you won't draw the only logical conclusion. These folks and those who think about basic civil rights protections like they do don't want you to know the truth, a truth that has been obvious for years now, proven accurate in every state in this country that has enacted anti-discrimination protections for their LGBT citizens except for one:

Protecting the transgendered and gender-variant from discrimination enjoys substantially more support among American voters nationwide than same-sex marriage does, or probably ever will.

We saw that reality played out yet again this week in New York. The Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), the bill that would protect transgender and gender-variant New Yorkers from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accomodations statewide, was passed by the New York State Assembly yesterday by an overwhelming vote of 103-33. Same sex-marriage was passed by this same legislative body last year by a vote of 85-61. Doing the math, we discover that a little more than 56% of the 150-member Assembly voted in favor of the bill. Comparing the numbers on GENDA, however, we see that a whopping 68% of these same legislators chose to vote in favor of protecting transgender and gender-variant New Yorkers from discrimination, about 12% higher than voted in favor of the marriage bill.

Many similar stories can be told as well. Here in my home state of New Jersey, for example, state legislators fell all over themselves to pass civil unions in order to comply with the state's high court ruling that gay and lesbian New Jerseyans must be guaranteed the same rights as heterosexuals, but not actually grant the real equality the court intended to ensure for all state residents by legalizing same-sex marriage. Shortly thereafter, however, New Jersey's State Senate voted unanimously, 35-0, and the state Assembly voted by an almost equally overwhelming margin, 65-10, to add protections for transgender and gender-variant citizens to the state's existing anti-discrimination law.

Even back in 2002, over 60% polled in the conservative state of North Carolina supported protecting transgender people from employment discrimination, according to an HRC survey conducted that year, and support for these protections has only grown over that time, even as state after state passed laws and constitutional amendments preventing their states from recognizing same-sex unions. To my knowledge, while some states have chosen not to enact protections for transgender and gender-variant citizens when they were voted on, no state has ever voted to enact a law or amend their constitution to prevent such protections from being enacted in the future.

The conclusion here is inescapable to anyone really paying attention: There's far more support in this country for protecting transgender and gender-variant Americans from discrimination than there is or ever has been for legalizing same-sex marriage.

Yet, what we see and hear coming from HRC, Barney Frank, and so many others is the opposite of what has been conclusively proven over and over to be reality, that rights for transgender and gender-variant Americans is somehow less palatable to the American public at large than the right of same-sex couples to be married.

I'm not trying to make value comparisons here. Both goals are supremely worthy, both deserve to become the law of the land as soon as is humanly possible. My issue is with the hypocrisy of those like HRC and Barney Frank especially who continue pounding the drum for same-sex marriage while at the same time advocating for the exclusion of transgender and gender-variant Americans from basic civil rights legislation, claiming that there's not enough support for it to pass. Were they truly honest and consistant in their advocacy for LGBT equality, they'd acknowledge that it's far more likely to be able to pass anti-discrimination laws in the near future which would protect all LGBT Americans than it is that we'll see same-sex marriage become legalized at the federal level.

The numbers don't lie, only those who are willing to sacrifice the truth in the pursuit of personal and political gain are doing that here. It's time for us to focus on these realities, speak truth to power, and make sure everyone knows and understands what is true, what has always been true, that more Americans support basic anti-discrimination protections for transgender and gender-variant Americans, the goal these people refuse to fight for fairly and honestly, than support same-sex marriage, the goal they continue to advocate for with every erg of effort, energy and political clout they can possibly muster.

If these people truly believe in the kind of incrementalism they claim is the only way to advocate these issues, let's see them bow to the reality we all know to be true because the numbers prove it to be. Let's see them get in line and wait patiently their turn to attain their goals as they'd have us do. If they really do believe their own rhetoric, that incrementalism is the only way to achieve these goals, let's see Barney Frank, HRC, and all the rest of the same-sex marriage advocates adhere to the political logic they try to impose upon us and willingly accept their proper place in the incrementalism line, behind us.


planet trans said...

Transgender people's popularity is increasing partly due to people rebelling under the oppression of Bush's manufactured killing fields. We are seen as reminiscent to the hippies who were the countries conscious during Vietnam.
Our job is to make the hidden agenda of Frank and Solmonese transparent.
That is what they are afraid of and that is our weapon.

Nichole said...

Oops! Careful! We'll hear talk of the Transgender Agenda from Aravosis, The Washington Blade and Huffington Press if stuff like this gets out!

Of course it's absolutely correct, some fairly conservative locales have passed trans-friendly legislation, especially on municipal levels, and also on state levels. I believe that gay marriage has received a tad less support on all levels.

As I recall, Barney Frank called for trans people to build our grassroots support in that fashion. Perhaps he should watch us and see how that's done?