HRC can become a thermostat instead of a thermometerTrans Progressive Thursday, November 10th, 2011
Commentary: Trans Progressive
A few columns ago I wrote that I believe the HRC, when it comes to transgender community issues, is an anvil and not a hammer; a thermometer and not a thermostat. I stated this in relation to a Martin Luther King Jr. quote from Strength To Love:
“Longfellow said, ‘In this world a man must either be anvil or hammer,’ meaning that he is either a molder of society or is molded by society. Who doubts today most men are anvils and are shaped by patterns of the majority? Or to change the figure, most people are thermometers that record or register the temperature of majority opinion, not thermostats that transform and regulate the temperature of society.”
The HRC is divided into two organizations of note; the HRC and its sister organization the HRC Foundation. Joe Solmonese is the executive of both. While the HRC Foundation has a recent history of progressive work on transgender community issues – such as on faith and workplace issues – the HRC hasn’t taken a real lead on transgender political issues. In my opinion, the HRC is a thermometer on transgender issues, not a thermostat.
There is an opportunity for the HRC to change course on transgender issues. Right now, the HRC has a search committee assembled to select a new executive director for both the HRC and HRC Foundation. This is because Joe Solmonese leaves both his positions next March.
Here are some ideas on what the HRC could do to become more of a thermostat on transgender issues rather than a thermometer.
Hire more transgender staffers
The HRC and the HRC Foundation together have a staff that numbers approximately 150. Only one staffer on the HRC’s Web site is identified as transgender. Here are some ideas of where transgender people, or people specifically focused on transgender issues, could be added, which would send a message of a real change in direction on transgender issues:
An organization that identifies itself as the largest LGBT civil rights organization needs a T voice in their policy setting department.
The HRC currently has a number of regional field organizers that are dispatched to help organize volunteers for state and local legislative action, whether these are legislative votes or for LGBT issue-specific initiatives or referendums. Adding one transgender field organizer who could be dispatched nationally for trans-specific legislative action would add to the organization’s skill set, as well as demonstrate to the transgender community that the HRC credibly applies resources to transgender political issues.
The HRC needs to demonstrate to the LGBT community, as well as the business community, that there are transgender people eminently capable of being workplace supervisors and managers.
Update their health care policy to include transition
Currently, San Francisco, Portland, Multnomah County, Ore. and a number of Fortune 500 companies have more progressive health care policies for transitioning trans people. The HRC, as the managers of the LGBT Corporate Equality index, should set by example a very high bar of what best policy should include for trans-specific health care benefits, not letting municipalities and some Fortune 500 businesses set a better example than the HRC does.
Devote more resources to transgender issues
According to Dana Beyer, the executive director of Gender Rights Maryland, and a former member of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Board of Governors, the HRC spends more on the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) than on passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). ENDA would affect more transgender people than DOMA. Significantly more HRC resources are devoted to marriage equality than basic civil rights protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Diverting a small, but significant amount more of the HRC’s resources toward basic civil rights protections for transgender people, especially through a field organizer specifically assigned to work on gender identity and expression issues would be a significant way for the HRC to gain credibility with the transgender community.
Dana Beyer stated the following in a Washington Blade article discussing the selection of a new executive director for the HRC and HRC Foundation:
“Many of us are hoping HRC will change its direction on some of these issues under a new president. But the president is really nothing more than a reflection of the board of directors. If the board of directors doesn’t want to change the direction of the organization, it doesn’t matter who the next president is.”
The HRC’s search committee for their new executive director, and the full HRC board, has an opportunity to become a thermostat on transgender issues. Only time will tell if the organization takes a lead on transgender issues, or takes the tack of “staying the course.”
Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=17125