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U.S. | LGBTI / Queer

One more reason to protest HRC
by mary
Thursday Oct 4th, 2007 11:22 AM
hrc= not trans peoples rights
Community. Integrity. Leadership. Vision. These are the foundational pillars
of Equality. These are the values that draw many of us into advocacy roles.
Those tenets provide a clear roadmap when things like politics, expediency,
agenda, and power cloud the picture as they so often do. They pave the way
to the moral high-ground, and those who follow them with trust and patience
will ultimately find their efforts rewarded.

My name is Donna Rose, and I am the first and only openly transgender member
of the Board of Directors of the Human Rights Campaign. I am the national
co-chair for Diversity. I am the co-chair appointee-elect for the Business
Council. I have spoken at events around the country on behalf of the
organization, and I am a respected advocate for the transgender community.

My participation on the HRC Board has been a heavy burden. The relationship
between HRC and the transgender community is one scarred by betrayal,
distrust, and anger. I have become a focal point for much of that
frustration and I accepted that responsibility with the hope that I could
help to change it. In some very real ways I think I have been able to do
that, or at least to help make that happen, and am tremendously proud of all

we have achieved.

HRC has done some wonderful work to support the transgender community.
Workplaces around the country are recognizing the unique challenges faced by
transgender employees and are moving in record numbers to protect them as
valued members of an inclusive workforce. Educational tools to help
demystify our lives and to provide a human perspective have paved to way to
a better understanding of who we are and our challenges. We have set high
standards and we have held others accountable to them. The question at hand
is whether we, as an organization, hold ourselves accountable to those same
high expectations.

Transgender is not simply the 'T' in GLBT. It is people who, for one reason
or another, may not express their gender in ways that conform to traditional
gender norms or expectations. That covers everyone from transsexuals, to
queer youth, to feminine acting men, to masculine appearing women. It is a
broad label that cannot be confined to a specific silo of people. It is
anyone who chooses to live authentically. To think that the work that we are
doing on behalf of the entire GLBT community simply benefits or protects
part of us is to choose a simplistic view of a complex community. In a very
real way, the T is anyone who expresses themselves differently. To some it
is about gender. To me, it is about freedom.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is a core piece of legislation.

It would guarantee that GLBT people will not get fired from their jobs
because of discrimination and prejudice. It makes a strong statement that
discrimination of any kind is unacceptable, and it recognizes the critical
role of employment and career as something more than simply a paycheck. It
is a source of pride, of achievement, of belonging, of security, and in a
very real way it is a validation of person-hood.

Unemployment and under-employment is the single most significant issue
facing transgender people today. The high-profile case of Susan Stanton,
city manager from Largo, FL who was fired early this year after an exemplary
17-year career there simply because she was outed as being transgender,
demonstrates the continuing experience that many of us continue to face each
and every day in workplaces around this country. Although workplaces have
made tremendous strides in enacting supportive policy, bad things still
happen and the overall message being sent is that we're somehow expendable.
In years past these things happened quietly, going unnoticed. Those days are
numbered.

That's why ENDA is so important. It is more than simply a statement that
it's not ok to fire GLBT people for reasons unrelated to work performance.
It's a statement that we are a community. It's recognition of people who may
not express their gender in traditional ways does not affect a person's
ability to contribute as simply another part of a diverse workforce. It's a
validation of those foundational pillars that line the moral high ground.
And, it's recognition that each of us has value, and none of us will be left

behind.

The current situation regarding ENDA is nothing short of a politically
misguided tragedy. A tool that could and should be a unifying beacon on the
heels of the historic passage of fully inclusive Hate Crime legislation has
been split. Transgender brothers and sisters again find themselves
separated, isolated, and disempowered. People in positions of power have
decided that their personal legacy and the promise of political expediency
are more important than protecting our entire beautiful community. The time
is here to make a strong statement to demonstrate to them that they are
wrong.

In 2004 the HRC Board voted to support only fully-inclusive Federal
legislation. That decision paved the way to my participation with the
organization, and was a significant step in the healing process. Since that
time we have worked together tirelessly towards a goal of Equality for all.
Less than a month ago HRC President Joe Solmonese stood before almost 900
transgender people at the Southern Comfort Conference in Atlanta to pledge
ongoing support and solidarity. In his keynote address he indicated that not

only would HRC support only a fully inclusive ENDA, but that it would
actively oppose anything less. That single pledge changed hearts and minds
that day, and the ripple affect throughout the transgender community was
that we finally were one single GLBT community working together. Sadly,
recent events indicate that those promises were hollow.

An impressive coalition of local and national organizations has lined up to
actively oppose the divisive strategy that would leave some of our brothers
and sisters without workplace protections. This effort has galvanized
community spirit and commitment in ways few could have imagined, and it has
demonstrated to those who would divide us that anything less than full
inclusion is unacceptable Organization after organization has seized the
moral high ground knowing that this is a historic opportunity that cannot be

squandered, and that it is our moral obligation to ourselves and to
generations that will follow to make a loud, clear, unmistakable statement
that we are a community and we will not be divided. There is a single
significant organization glaringly missing from that list. The Human Rights
Campaign has chosen not to be there.

It is impossible to remove passion and emotion from what has happened.
Indeed, those are the fuels that propel us. That being said please know that

this entire situation has affected me deeply and profoundly. Still, I will
not sling mud at the organization to who I have given my heart, my energies,
and my trust. I will not give in to my frustration and disappointment that
Joe's words of less than a month ago have proven to be hollow promises. This
unfortunate turn of events has forced me to make some very difficult
personal decisions about integrity, character, community, and leadership.
Although I can find any number of logical and personal reasons to continue
in my capacity as a board member, I cannot escape the moral implications of
the decision before me. Using that as my guide, as difficult as it is for me

to make, the decision is an obvious one.

I hereby submit my resignation from my post on the Board of the Human Rights
Campaign effective Monday Oct. 8, 2007. I call on other like-minded board
members, steering committee leaders, donors, corporate sponsors, and
volunteers to think long and hard about whether this organization still
stands for your values and to take decisive action as well. More than simply
a question of organization policy, this is a test of principle and integrity

and although it pains me greatly to see what has happened it is clear to me
that there can only be one path. Character is not for compromise. I cannot
align myself with an organization that I can't trust to stand-up for all of
us. More than that, I cannot give half-hearted support to an organization
that has now chosen to forsake the tenets that have guided my efforts from
day one.

I align myself and my energies with the groundswell of community sentiment
that has universally stood to oppose this divisive strategy. I wish my
friends and colleagues from the Human Rights Campaign the best, and I expect
that time will prove their decision to take a neutral stance and to fracture

our community to be short-sighted and misguided. I accept the notion that we
all want the same thing. It's just that I couldn't disagree more with this
destructive strategy to get there. I urge the board and the leadership to
reconsider their position and the join a unified community that supports a
single all-inclusive bill.

History teaches painful lessons. Any celebration of rights gained at the
expense of others is not a celebration. It is a failure of effective
leadership. It is to offer the promise of a tomorrow that you know in your
heart will never come. It is to choose to turn your back on those who need
you most, who do not have the voice or the stature to speak for themselves.

The time is here for leaders to lead, for those who say they stand for
community to act forcefully and with purpose. Anything less is to forsake
the pillars of Equality for the empty promise of something less. The word
that we have for that in our language is "Courage". It's the kind of courage
it takes for GLBT people to show up for work each and every day, living
authentically, wondering if that will be their last day. I call on my
brothers and sisters at the Human Rights Campaign, for Speaker Pelosi and
Congressman Frank, and for equality-minded leaders everywhere to lead by
example and to do the right thing.

In Solidarity for Equality,

Donna Rose