09 October 2007

ENDA and the Ts

ENDA, for those who don't know, is a bill before Congress which is meant to prevent workplace discrimination against homos (in a similar vein to the Civil Rights Act of 1967, which left out homos and folks with disabilities; the disabled got added in the nineties). ENDA has been thirty years in the making and this year, for the first time, might have a chance to pass.

So, what's the problem?


Transgendered, transsexual (not transvestite. Guiliani is still covered). The newest version of the bill had the T in it, but Barney Frank, the openly homotastic sponsor of the bill chose to drop the T because there is no way in hell it would pass with the T in it. And then all hell broke loose.

John Aravosis, of AMERICAblog, wrote this article on Salon regarding the issue, as well as blogging about it extensively. And, as Aravosis is wont to do, he upset some people; my raison d'blog is this post on the Curvature. I generally respect the writers of the Curvature and the associated feminist blogs, and I respect their opinion this time, but I do think their reasoning is faulty. Follows is the comment I left on the Curvature; I think it sums my feelings up:

Frankly, I think y'all are a) taking Aravosis out of context, and b) passing too harsh of judgment upon him.

The first sentence of the paragraph whose quote, in this blog, begins "Civil rights legislation -- hell, all legislation..." actually begins in Aravosis' article as "The main argument, which I support: practical politics." And he's right. Yes, I agree fully that it sucks that women did not get the vote (federally) for fifty years after black men. And I fully understand the consternation of everyone on account of that. However, and I am saying this as a white gay female -- I think it is better for a minority to be partially represented than Not Represented At All. Furthermore, if you get into the history of the suffrage movements, for one thing it was a huge step for black men to even be recognised as men (and for black women to be recognised as women), and for another, there was precedent for -men- to vote. Women voting, no matter what their race, was a whole other kettle of fish for the country to deal with.

Does this make it right? Hell no. Never, at all. But it -is- the political evolutionary process. Things take time because people are stubborn. For me (or anyone) to argue passage of ENDA with the T or not at all, we would have to cease taking advantage of civil unions, domestic partnerships, and the domestic benefits offered by some employers. Why? Because our ultimate goal is marriage, and anything less is an insult, right?

I disagree -- while I would prefer (of course) federally recognised marriage, right now I would be happy knowing that any kids/cats/wealth I produce with my future wife would go to her if something hideous happens to me, and vice versa. If the government has to call that a civil union in order for that to happen, then so be it.

I fully understand that my example is different from the "T or not to T" issue -- but my point is that -any- step towards protection for the nontraditional/heterosexual community is a step in the right direction, and I believe that would be the point which Aravosis is arguing.

As for Aravosis being judgmental, the full sentence reads "I'm not passing judgment, I respect transgendered people and sympathize with their cause, but I simply don't get how I am just as closely related to a transsexual (who is often not gay) as I am to a lesbian (who is). Is it wrong for me to simply ask why?"

So the man is saying that he does not identify with the transsexual/transgender experience, but that he DOES identify with the gay experience. It looks to me like he's being honest. He is not being judgmental; he is saying that he does not feel related to a man who identifies as a woman. What's wrong with that? I cannot begin to identify with the experience of any given black person, and you know what? I cannot identify with the transsexual or transgender experience either.

Does this mean that I, and therefore Aravosis, find that the T does not deserve protection? By his own words, no, and neither do I.

The passage of ENDA (sans the T) at least puts the gay community into a better position to provide support and protection for the T community, and that alone is reason enough for its passage. Is it ideal? Not at all, and as soon as it passes we have to immediately begin work for an amendment to include the T, but progression and reform in this country has NEVER happened at once, it has NEVER been anywhere near good enough on the first go (just look up how Jim Crow affected the black man's vote), and it has NEVER affected all parts of any community equally.

We have to keep working for that, and in the interim, turning on people who dare be honest about their opinions (which may or may not coincide fully with our own) will be only a slide backward.

I am, as most people know, a fervent arguer against the excuse, as I see it, of the zeitgeist, or the time period in which something happened. I think that is a pass on all of the atrocities committed by people at other people. I have never stood for the argument of "Well, that's just how things were," because that leaves us open for "Well, that's just how things are," and I don't think that human morality has evolved that much -- we know, in our brains and hearts whether or not it is ok to enslave, beat, kill, and oppress each other, but we do whatever is most convenient and what ensures our own power. Because I'll bet you that if Jesus Christ Himself were to show up and officiate a gay wedding, the fundies would crucify Him.

At any rate, my point is that despite the fact that slow change is not at all quick enough, it is the reality of how things work. That does not make it right at all, and it seriously pisses me off when people tell that it's just how things work; I think that people should, as soon as they recognise hideousness, change it, instead of the process. However, the process is better than nothing at all, and it is unfair to eviscerate people who argue in favour of doing a practical something rather than a symbolic nothing.

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