Friday, August 01, 2008

HRC hires its first trans woman

The trans blogosphere has been buzzing the last few days over the Human Rights Campaign's hiring on ordained Baptist minister Allyson Robinson as their Associate Director of Diversity.

I personally know Allyson from the My Husband Betty forum and I'd agree with Mercedes Allen's characterization of it being a case of "optimistic, hopeful transfolk trying to step into a situation to make a positive difference." Is she being naive? Quite possibly, but she won't find out unless she tries -- although I and others have cautioned her to be wary of being used as the token trans woman. To be honest, it's not a job I'd wish on my worst enemy and Allyson has already taken heat from some trans activists for being a supposed quisling.

That said, while I've got no love for HRC, painting every move in terms of evil intent is counter-productive. It's important to give adversaries carrots as well as sticks. Otherwise if they think you'll never be satisfied, what incentive is there to change their behavior? Likewise, it can alienate potential allies, as Bil has noted. And praising things like this hire doesn't mean that we can't also note our anger at their current position on ENDA, which would exclude protections for gender identity and expression (for not only trans people, but anyone (gay or hetero) who's not straight-acting enough).

It may be that Allyson's hiring is a simply defensive move on HRC's part. Even true, that's not entirely a bad thing, in that it shows HRC is feeling the heat. Regardless, I think we ought to be applauding the appointment -- and simultaneously challenging HRC to demonstrate that Allyson won't be just a figurehead.

I think it's important to provide kudos/carrots as well as sticks, even to someone as intensively disliked as HRC is by much of the trans communities due to their broken promise on ENDA. If nothing else, it's just good strategy -- if your adversary thinks you'll never be satisfied no matter what, then what incentive do they have for doing what you'd like them do?

Likewise, I agree with Donna Rose that the knee-jerk vitriol toward HRC on the part of some trans activist is becoming counter-productive. In a variety of activist arenas, I've seen folks who are "infatuated with anger" and who seem to assume that rage equals commitment to the cause. Now don't get me wrong, there is often plenty to be angry about -- but one has to channel that anger effectively. Part of that is knowing when to rage and when to be diplomatic. To be able to disagree violently, but but yet civilly. Part of it is remembering that adversaries are people too. As a friend of mine said: "Be fierce, but be loving too." Constant vilification may be emotionally satisfying, but it also tends to alienate potential allies -- and the small size of the trans communities inherently means we'll need allies. There are LGB folks who do think HRC's actions on ENDA were shameful, and others who, when the story is told, are willing to support us. But unrelenting, undiscriminating rage is off-putting to say the least and just plays into HRC's hands by allowing them to write us off as a bunch bitter cranks.


blank said...

Perhaps it will lead more positive things; one never knows until one tries. I am pleased that all are willing to try. Why complain before one see that the final mix yeilds?

Unknown said...

"First" trans woman? Was Donna Rose not hired, or does she not count or what?

helen_boyd said...

Donna Rose was a board member, not an employee.

tgcyndi said...

The assessment posted in this message is in alignment with my own first impression of Allyson.

While leading a small-but-sincere demonstration outside the Chicago hrc summer fundraising gala a couple of weeks ago, a tall, well-dressed, blonde trans-woman with a very lovely smile approached me. I greeted this unfamiliar "newcomer" warmly and extended my hand in greeting.

I then offered her an "official" 3-color protest sign and an invitation to join in the "festivities". She recoiled as though I was handing her a rattlesnake.

It was only then that she introduced herself as hrc's newest trans-employee.

It took a moment for me to fully process the unexpected information she had just shared, but once that moment had passed, we then proceeded to engage in a brief but pleasant conversation.

My gut instinct is that Allyson really DOES have altruistic intentions (bless her heart), as well as high hopes of actually being able to make a positive difference on behalf of the trans-community with her new masters.

While a healthy dose of skepticism is in order here, based on hrc's historically disingenuous actions of the past few years, I will allow her the benefit of the doubt and remain cautiously optimistic that perhaps miracles CAN still happen, and will reserve judgement until Allyson has had ample opportunity to prove she is truly capable of "grace under fire".

I wish her the best of luck.

She'll need it.

>>> (all respect, no restraint) Cyndi Richards - chair, Illinois Gender Advocates

Unknown said...

Congrats to Allyson!

I certainly hope she does well there.

Sadly, I won't be able to stop my rather loud opposition to HRC's betrayals until they are more honest about their goals, or are true to their word.

Hope springs etc.