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The HRC working on trans equality

Commentary: Trans Progressive

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) bills itself as the largest LGBT civil rights organization in the U.S., but it has a reputation of not being trans friendly. In the 110th Congress (2007/2008), the HRC was the only LGBT civil rights organization that supported the non-trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) put forward in 2007 by congressional leadership. And recently there was an incident at the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) rally in Washington, D.C. involving a trans man holding a trans flag on the speaker stage and an HRC staffer asking the man three times to leave the stage with the flag because “marriage equality isn’t a transgender issue.” Marriage equality very much is a trans issue – a component of the discussion that hasn’t been messaged.

But the HRC has been recently working on trans issues in a way most trans people aren’t aware of, and if I could fault them on this aspect of their work is that they’re not highlighting it enough to the trans community. Being more vocal and transparent about their trans work is one of the ways that the HRC can build trust with trans people.

June 19 the governor of Delaware signed an anti-discrimination and hate crimes protection law based on gender identity. Field organizers Sarah Warbelow and Karl Bach were dispatched by the HRC to work on both that bill and the state’s marriage equality bill. Their strategy included working with local organizers, such as the Equality Delaware coalition (a coalition led by unpaid staffers Lisa Goodwin and Mark Purpura), and their tactics included keeping the gender identity bill as much as possible below the radar. They had trans people, such as trans men Jay and Matthew, who quietly organized community and allies to support the bill.

By quietly organizing on the gender identity bill, the opposition “heat” was almost exclusively directed at the marriage equality bill, and therefore representatives in both of their legislative branch houses were not deluged with anti-transgender emails, phone calls or snail mail.

The HRC raised money specifically to work on the gender identity bill, and hired six additional contract field organizers. The eight organizers began mobilizing on the ground in January. They used the human infrastructure for the marriage equality bill to go back to the same legislators, who were lobbied and voted for the marriage equality bill, to message that the gender equality bill was also an equality bill. And, 5,000 lobbying communications with legislators were logged for the gender identity bill; those included emails, postcards and in-person lobbying of Delaware legislators. The HRC field organizers also trained those in-person lobbyists prior to them visiting their legislators, and trained people how to write concise letters to the editor of local publications in support of the gender identity bill.

By staying low key, the coalition working on the gender identity bill didn’t have to deal with the “bathroom bill” meme. To sate the arguments by the concerns some legislators had about facilities with unavoidable nudity – such as locker rooms – the bill spelled out that trans people could not be required to use a facility that conflicted with their gender identities; however, reasonable accommodations could be made. So if a business, such as a gym, only had male and female facilities, then a trans person could be accommodated by being provided a curtain to change behind in the facility that corresponded to the trans person’s gender identity as a legal allowed public accommodation.

And it’s not like this is the first time the HRC has worked on trans anti-discrimination legislation. They provided field organizers and/or other resources to combat the Arizona “papers to pee” legislation, as well as providing field organizers and/or other resources toward passing anti-discrimination legislation in Maryland and New York – states where we haven’t as yet achieved antidiscrimination protections based on gender identity, but without a doubt will achieve in the future.

The HRC is actively working on achieving ordinary equality for trans people. Having the best funded, largest LGBT organization working for trans equality can’t be seen as anything but a great thing – especially when seen in the light of the big victory for trans equality in Delaware.

Frankly, I’m delighted to highlight the HRC’s efforts on transgender issues. These need to be highlighted for so many reasons, but especially because if the HRC is to build trust with the trans community, trans people need to know what the HRC is doing with and for them.



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Posted by LGBT Weekly on Jun 27, 2013. Filed under Bottom Highlights, Trans Progressive. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

10 Comments for “The HRC working on trans equality”

  1. Claire Slemmer

    Thank you for this article, Autumn. I am the Co-Chair of Community Outreach for HRC-SD. Serving the Trans Community is a major priority for us – and for me personally. Your priorities and concerns are essential for us to make the best decisions – so much so that we’ve reserved my co-chair teammate position for a Trans person. I’d love to get your thinking. Claire. 619-606-3784.

  2. Autumn,
    Certainly HRC should be commended for the support that they gave to the effort in Delaware, but I am concerned that you gave no recognition to the local transpeople and the one person in the actual forefront that made the legislative victory possible. If there was no Delaware “face” to the trans community, there would be no law, and although HRC needs to publicize all their efforts to keep the dollars flowing, the real leadership, the person who galvanized Equality Delaware, the Barbara Gittings Delaware Stonewall Democrats and all the allies was a young woman, perhaps the first out trans White House intern, a modest yet very bright and effective Sarah McBride.

    I’m not knocking HRC in any way, they jumped on a winner and did good, but I wish trans people would give trans people credit for accomplishments, not just assume the leadership and heavy lifting was done by our great allies.

    I did some work with Sarah on the Trans United for Obama effort and later met her in January of this year where I served along with her on a panel in Delaware to promote the trans bill. I was and am very impressed.

  3. Autumn, glad to read this! I knew that HRC was in our corner when I read their booklet on coming out as trans a feew years ago. I am a member of HRC. However, I had no idea as to the extent that HRC has been working on legislation around the country. I can understand why they want to do this in a low-key fashion for now. After all, transgender people and our issues are about 20 years behind the LG and B communities which are more known about and becoming more accepted in our society. I know that the push for LGB rights had to start out that way as well and we will find trans will become more acceptable as more of us come out.

    • A Woman, Period

      ROTFL! The more that is known about the TG community (i.e. that it is not really people born with a medical condition, but mostly people who are choosing to cross dress) the less likely it is to advance. Transsexuals are tired of having you hid behind our skirts, so to speak, and we are speaking out. Gays have won rights because they have been successful in showing they are not making a choice. Good luck with that… When someone lives most of their life as a successful man, albeit one with a secret history of fethishtic crossdressing, and then suddenly decides he is “really” a woman, that is a bit hard to swallow. As people learn more, they will accept such silliness less, and less.

  4. SorryButNoToHRC

    HRC has transgender blood on their hands. I have lived through 2 full rounds of HRC lies and broken promises that took place over decades. “Highlighting” that HRC is now “quietly organizing” so that “a trans person could be accommodated by being provided a curtain to change behind” is truly outrageous. HRC continues to think, and works to make other people think, of trans people as an embarassment to hide away. No, we don’t want to “win” the right to be “seperate but equal”. Did you miss the news of the Coy MATHIS case? Now she can pee in the girl’s room if she needs to, just like any other girl. Autumn, you, of all people, know the prejudice against us. If they want to help, they can work on their own prejudices and remember what it felt like to be attacked in a locker room for being a homosexual. With “allies” like HRC, you are only helping to keep trans people needlessly shamed for another century.

    • A Woman, Period

      So, you think a “woman” with a penis should be allowed to force it on real women? Seriously? That is why I strongly oppose transgender extremism.

  5. HRC is the Judas goat leading the Tee-Gee sheep into further marginalization.
    When are you Tee-Gees going to see what’s going on? Your political greenery and resources were used to forward the agenda of the gays and lesbians now that they have their civil rights, they are going to toss you aside like a used condom. You have been brainwashed into thinking you need them for your own fight, you don’t. Just get on with your life, that is what most gays and lesbians do, most of them are not involved in this stupid so called civil rights movement, they are out earning paychecks, enjoying life and loving those who love them.

    Stop being a battery for the gay and lesbian movement, and get on with your lives.

    Anne

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