Sunday, November 4, 2007

Barney Frank Reception

I attended the reception for Barney Frank this past Saturday, which was held at the very beautiful home of Christine Donohue (who herself is running for judgeship for the Superior Court of PA) and sponsored by Stonewall Democrats. It was very nice and I and a number of my friends from the University and from around town were there. But my main goal of the afternoon was to hear what Rep. Frank had to say about the Employment Nondiscrimination Act.

The facts; ENDA will be coming up for a vote this week; Rep Baldwin will offer and then pull her amendment so it will not receive a vote; ENDA without gender identity protections will go forward for a vote (Rep’s Doyle and Altmire stated that they were going to vote yea for this bill); and then it’s the wait to see if the Senate picks it up. None of this is actually new, but a couple things caught my attention.

The first was a comment made by Rep. Frank about how politicians say one thing and do another. One might ask “how is this new?”, but being reminded of this does make this whole situation understandable. My hypothesis is that Reps told activists/lobbyists one thing (that they are supportive of gender identity within ENDA) and then told their leadership another (I can’t vote for this). That could explain the disparate perceptions between Rep Frank and activists. But being a good scientist I can’t either find support or nonsupport of this hypothesis because I don’t have the data to make such a pronouncement. But it does bring attention to the problems inherent in this process. How do we as activists know when people are not only supportive but also willing to act on that feeling?

Needless to say, those supporting gender identity and trans inclusion not only need to continue their work but to step things up a bit. In addition, those of us (and include myself in this) who have been a bit lax in getting involved need to get more involved. We need to move out of our comfort zone because politicians need more education and those currently working toward inclusion need the help. We can no longer be complacent. This includes PA Rep. Frankel’s ENDA for Pennsylvania, which could suffer the same fate as the federal ENDA. In addition, we need more leadership from our Rep’s to help us identify areas of concern and to act upon them. I told Rep. Frank that I thought the process in which all this happened caused much of the problem. Rather than just stripping gender identity out behind closed doors that if he and others spoke to community activists about the situation, even if it would have lead to the same noninclusive bill, that might have diffused people’s anger over the situation.

This brings me to my second observation about Rep. Frank. I don’t think I exist in his community. I think he is very fixated within a very specific idea of a gay and lesbian community and see’s the transgender community as something distinct as opposed to being part of a larger whole. That is not to say that he hates transpeople, it’s more that he gives us as much thought as he does with the Llama Milk Producers of America. We exist in his eyes, but not much more than that. Rep. Baldwin, on the other hand, sees transpeople as being part of her community. Much of this is generational, and Rep. Frank is not alone. There are many LGB people (with varying degrees of animosity) with the same feeling that transpeople are not part of their community. They are a group that people have been neglected in being educated about trans issues. We have been focusing primarily upon the transphobia and trans-ignorance of non-LGB people rather than the transphobia and trans-ignorance found among LGB people. I also want to include dealing with the homophobia found among transpeople in this as well. All this fighting ignores those of us who are queer in our sexuality and our gender and who end up getting caught up in this mess.

My to do list is as follows:

1. Contact Mara Keisling and ask her about her needs in educating politicians.

2. Contact Rep. Doyle for his advice in educating his peers.

3. Contact PA Rep Frankle to ask him what needs to be done so that the PA ENDA remains inclusive of gender identity.

Regardless of my personal feelings for many of the people and groups involved, there is much to be done and I don’t feel I have the luxury of righteous anger no matter how appropriate it is.


  1. I had really wanted to go to this event but had to work.

    I think you're right about the generational aspect.

    It's a shame because the Ts should not be thrown overboard in the LGBT alphabet just to get something passed. Certainly the part of the general public who discriminates does not see make the distinction.

  2. I worked the sign-in table.

    Many electeds & candidates attended, including Mike Doyle, Dan Onorato, Bruce Kraus, Brenda Frazier, Bill Peduto, Doug Shields, Dan Frankel, Valerie McDonald, Michael Lamb, Musmanno, McVay...

    Additionally Dem. cmte. members from throughout the city attended, as did Dem. leaders from Venango, Armstrong & other counties.

    Oddly absent: Luke Ravenstahl.

  3. Emilia,

    Something else to consider is how we can keep working on trans inclusion right here in Allegheny County and Pittsburgh. There are two key LGBT political groups -- the Gertrude Stein Club and the Steel City Stonewall Democrats. Getting involved in those organizations is a good way to reach key decision makers within the community and beyond.


  4. To be fair
    Mr.Frank was invited to Pittsburgh
    as keynote speaker for the annual ACDC Kennedy Lawrence Dinner held on Saturday evening at 5:30.The dinner consisted of approximately 700 people and inclusive of those you mentioned above also attended by Mr. Ravenstahl. Seperate events were held earlier that day so more people whom were unable to attend the dinner could meet Mr. Frank.