Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Blame and the Culture War

Good evening!  First, let's start with the political stuff. has published a survey asking which of 4 people should be held accountable for the fact that ENDA is stalled and dead despite promises to the contrary (see it here).
Who should we hold accountable next?
Our so-called “friends” in Congress who promised passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act this year have already conceded defeat. It may not be nice and it certainly won’t get us invited to any fancy Washington cocktail parties, but we aren’t going down without a fight! Which Democratic leader do you think GetEQUAL should hold accountable?

Stop by and give an opinion if you've got one.  I'm interested in the results - who is perceived as the biggest villain here.  Personally, I believe that both blame and credit come with being in a position of power.  The person in the position of the highest power of those 4 is the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.  However, I honestly don't know that any of those 4 is to blame.  I'm surprised that the President isn't on that list as well as, honestly, he's the one many would blame.

We are living in difficult times.  I don't need to remind anyone of that but somehow that gets forgotten in the context of promises and agendas and political realities.  Attention has been far more focused on Health Care reform, the financial mess, recent events in the Gulf, wars, unemployment, immigration, and any number of other things so the giddiness of the election has given way to the practical realities of politics.  Some would say that the moment has passed but I don't know if there ever really was a moment  in the first place.

That said, I remain as committed and as optimistic as I ever was.  ENDA will become the law of the land during my lifetime.  Not just any ENDA, but a fully inclusive one.  It may not happen during this session of Congress (I daresay, it won't).  To be perfectly honest, it may not even happen under this President - the November elections will change the landscape significantly.  But that doesn't change the fact that we're engaged in a culture war where a key element to ultimate victory is Time.  And, just as I'm confident that I'll be able to marry again so too am I confident that employment protections for future generations will become the law of the land.  It's just a matter of time.

Ironically, I'll bet if they added a blame box on that survey for "Transgender People" there are more than a handful in the LGB community who would blame us for it's non-movement more than any particular politician.  We're perceived to be the most controversial component of it and the incrementalists who threw us overboard last time would do it again in a heartbeat this time if given the chance.  You know who is preventing that?  The people on that blame survey!  Ironic, isn't it?

Honestly, though, I can't help but wonder.  Is the end-game of this really ENDA?  Or, is it a world where people who might express their gender in unique ways can get hired and work and take full advantage of ALL the benefits that a company offers to its employees without fear of harassment, being fired, or worse?  The same as I think people may have put too much confidence in what would happen with the election of a new President so too am I concerned that people are putting too much emphasis on a piece of legislation and what that would actually achieve.  I'm not trivializing ENDA - I'm simply saying that expectations need to be managed and people mustn't lose sight of what the legislation is supposed to achieve.  Those in the trenches of the culture war will still be there the day after ENDA passes (whenever that is) and for a long time afterwards.  That's just the reality of it....

I've mentioned before that in order for a company to receive a perfect 100 on the Corporate Equality Index starting next year they'll need to have at least one benefit plan that removes all exclusions for transgender procedures.  That means that more companies will be covering things that many of us have grown up simply expecting to have to pay for ourselves, and that financial barrier has been insurmountable for many of us.  More than that, though, is that these changes recognize the fact that these procedures are more than simply cosmetic.  It's all part of the same culture war I mentioned earlier.

Anyways, as companies write to me I find it interesting to see the words they use to describe what used to be crudely termed "sex change" surgeries.  For a while it seemed that many of us used the acronyms SRS or GRS - some of us could argue about these things for hours.  In any event, one company is calling these procedures "Gender Affirmation Surgeries" (GAS) and is adding them to their benefits package.  Now, if only we could get hired by these companies.

On the home front, I haven't been out of the house yet today.   I had expected to go to the fitness center but that never happened.  It's not like I'm missing anything because it's friggin' hot out there - right now it's 8:30pm and still 100 degrees.  The forecast high for tomorrow is 113+.   I don't think I'm over-sharing by admitting I've had some sort of intestinal thing going on for what seems like weeks now.  It's good for keeping my waistline trim, but not so good for other aspects of my life.  I wish it would pass.

There's an interview with Candis Cayne in Windy City Times today where she describes an upcoming role she's playing:
Windy City Times: Hey there. So you've got a new guest spot coming up on Drop Dead Diva.
Candis Cayne: Yes! I'm super-excited about that. They wanted to kind of discuss the idea of me playing a transgendered character who was married to a woman, and then went through the transition, and so it ended up that the two women were married. And so where's the legal ramification in that and how is that going to work out? Her wife dies and now my character has the house and the assets, and her parents want to take it all away from me because they say we weren't legally married. And so it kind of explores that law. It was a really good experience. And Lifetime was so happy with it, they're going to air it at OutFest next year, and we're going to do a panel afterwards with Cybill Shepherd, because she was on that episode, too.   (read the entire interview and drool over the photos here)

It sounds as though that has some potential, especially the fact that they're going to follow it up with a discussion.  We've come a long way from outdated stereotype stuff, but just when I think we're really making headway with meaty topics and characters like this I'm reminded of the Miller commercials that I showed yesterday.  As I say - culture war.  Two steps forward, one step back.


Anonymous said...


I would like to share some news about expanding marriage rights regardless of the gender of the couple

Sara said...

And so ... because ENDA is not the "end-game", much more emphasis needs to be placed on how to achieve a successful work-place transition, and how to proceed in a world without ENDA and where the sharp corners have no padding. Activists need to be talking about things like good decision-making, planning, attitude, personality, managed expectations, optimism, education, perseverance, and just good old-fashioned "don't ever give up". These are life skills that can (and are) applied to situations that are not trans-related. We need to see transexuality (I can't address anything else, sorry) as nothing special, just another difficult life situation that needs to be dealt with and "moved on from".

Most transexuals do the above anyway ...

Sara ...

Mercedes Allen said...

You wrote:
"I don't know if there ever really was a moment in the first place"

As long as there is a lobby against any group of people, there is never a perfect moment to achieve rights. No one should wait for one.

But being that people are being forced to wait, one can also look at other ways to change the narrative about trans people.

and you wrote:
"I'll bet if they added a blame box on that survey for "Transgender People" there are more than a handful in the LGB community who would blame us for it's non-movement more than any particular politician"

That's been growing for awhile, now. Personally, I'm not altogether sure that UnitedENDA would happen now, if it came to that, so it's probably fortunate that the statement was made strongly enough in 2008 to still reverberate.

"people are putting too much emphasis on a piece of legislation"

It's a step, but only a step -- a signal that bold, flagrant discrimination is no longer acceptable.