Saturday, 10 November 2007

ENDA the line : Part I

I've been getting an education in US Federal politics recently. Two things struck me: it's actually even dirtier than Australian politics, but far, far less competent. I mean by that that the treachery is unsubtle, the dirty tricks unsophisticated and really quite crude. Frankly, I think any Australian politician at state or federal level could subtly insert daggers in the appropriate backs, and have them thanking him for the privilege. Australian politicos could run rings around this mob of amateurs.

Now let me take you through a long, long story. Now it happens to be about TS Human Rights, but really, the same kind of shennanigans are played out every day. Just have a look at Instapundit's Porkbusters campaign, to see what happens when corruption on a blatant and massive scale isn't an exception, or even the norm, but almost universal.

I'll have to split it into 3 parts. Two describing the main players in the drama, and one the events in their historical context, as they have unfolded over the last three months.

Dramatis Personae:
Representative Barney Frank, Democrat, Massachusetts
Human Rights Commission, the 800lb Gorilla of the "Gay Lobby"
Bit parts played by other GLBT - that is, Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgendered - lobbyists, Speaker Pelosi, and sundry others.

Part I

Now Barney Frank is openly Gay. He's also from Massachusetts, the most "progressive" of all US states, and also one of the most politically if not financially corrupt since time immemorial. It's a fiefdom wholly owned by the Kennedy family ever since Joe made his pile during Prohibition. But it works, and on the whole, results have been as good or better for residents of that state than less odious, but less competent, regimes nearby.

Mr Frank had a little problem in the late 80's. Basically, his apartments were being used by a prostitution business involving underaged boys and men run by a personal assistant. Of course he knew nothing about it, and threw the scapegoat to the wolves as soon as he could - well, that's one view.
From the Washington Post:
Frank, one of two openly gay members of Congress, confirmed Friday that he paid Gobie for sex, hired him with personal funds as an aide and wrote letters on congressional stationery on his behalf to Virginia probation officials, but Frank said he fired Gobie when he learned that clients were visiting the apartment.
By all accounts, the only thing Frank did wrong was hiring such a low-life scumbag as his paid lover. Poor judgement, but not actually evil. Still, because he's a Democrat from Massachusetts, he could even have left someone to drown and still been re-elected. As Kennedy did.

Since then, Rep Frank as being an openly Gay but really quite straight-looking conservative congressman has worked very hard for gay rights. His main success though has been in the time-honoured tradition of all successful politicians, doing little things for little people. Making sure things get done, consideration is given, maybe a little favouritism. He looks after his Clients, as Roman politicos did 2000 years ago. It may not be kosher, but it works, and probably does more good in relieving human misery than all the fine acts and bills in the legislature put together. He has made a lot of friends, not just the rich and powerful, but at the grassroots. He also has the reputation for being one of the most intellectually gifted US politicians, and I can believe it.

Like me though, he's uncomfortable around the flagrantly different. Those who don't conform to the conventional norms of behaviour. Sure he's attracted to men (as am I, now), and has xy chromosomes (as do I), but other than that is really just ... normal (as I try to be). Unlike me though, he hasn't learnt that these misfits and oddities are Human Beings like myself. That's a gift that my peculiar situation has given me, a cure of my priggishness. Some of it. I'm still uncomfortable around Flaming Drag Queens, I will never march in a GLBT Pride parade, I feel I've been drafted into a GLBT movement I support, but am not a part of. I'm Intersexed, formerly Transsexual, and that's a medical and gender issue, not one of unconventional sexual preference. Never mind, those who oppose my existence on the planet don't see the difference, so maybe neither should I.

Barney Frank though really does not "get it" when it comes to transsexuality. Worse, because transsexuals are such a minority, they have been conflated with the much larger groups that make up the Transgendered. That is, the Transvestite men who get a sexual thrill out of dressing up. Not that there's anything wrong with that she says, sniffing in her best schoolmarm "tolerant" manner, implying that of course there is as far as she's concerned... Sorry, being honest with yourself sometimes means admitting feeling things in your heart that your head says you really shouldn't. Oh yes, back to the Transgendered... many Transvestite men are rich and powerful, and they outnumber Transsexuals significantly. To cut them out of rights we are seeking is not just ethically dubious, it's dangerous. They stay in the background, but woe betide you if you cross them. Then there are the Crossdressers, and they are a bit of a conundrum. Their peculiar behaviour has nothing to do with sex, but a lot to do with gender. Some are Transsexuals in denial, as the old joke says: "What is the difference between a Crossdresser and a Transsexual? About 5 years." But many are normal, straight or even hyper-masculine men who have not integrated the male and female sides of their persona. Anyway, they like their bodies just fine the way they are, thanks. They just like the idea of being the opposite sex some of the time, abandoning that whenever it becomes inconvenient. I really don't understand them, but they're harmless.

Then there are the Transsexuals. Women or Men with the wrong shaped bodies. The majority can get sufficient relief by changing their bodies with hormones, not needing the dangerous, painful and expensive surgical reconstruction of genitalia, so they are difficult to differentiate from cross-dressers.

In any event, Barney Frank cannot identify with them. The TVs are straight for one thing, as are many (though not all) of the CDs and TS's. Though for the TS's, being straight means appearing to be gay initially, before they transition.

Barney Frank really, really, really does not like to think of these...things... as being a part of His Group. His Group consisting of conventional, normal looking men who live normal, conventional lives. But who get a thrill from being in bed with a guy.

As Miranda Stevens-Miller wrote:
Some of you might know Barney's reputation for being transphobic. But I felt, with his recent actions in congressional committee, in which he publicly advocated inclusion of transgender women in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), that he may have seen the light. Besides, it was important for Barney Frank and other politicians to see people like us as part of the legitimate political process.
A little while later, I found Barney without a group of people around him, so I once again engaged him in conversation. "So," I said, "does your support of transgender inclusion in the VAWA mean that you might be changing your mind about inclusion of gender-variant people in ENDA?" An innocent enough question, but you would have thought that I was threatening him with a loaded weapon. He got red in the face and started shouting, "Never." His problem was that until we could answer the question of "people with penises in [women's] showers," there is no way that he would support it. The conversation got rather heated to say the least. And with Barney speaking very loudly and repeatedly about "penises in showers," we attracted a lot of attention in the restaurant.
I can imagine.
There was no way to win this argument. In fact, it was déjà vu, recalling a similar conversation we had almost two years ago when Barney was in town for a meeting of the Stonewall Democrats. At that time, it was "men in women's bathrooms."
So it was with a little trepidation that Transgendered people read that it was Barney Frank who was the main sponsor of ENDA - the Employment Non Discrimination Act, that would have protected people from being discriminated against due to sexual orientation or gender identity, the way they are when the discrimination is due to race, creed or colour. Would he really follow through, or would he find a way to make it "Gay Only"? GLB, without the T?

Next Chapter, on the Human Rights Commission, follows shortly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read your comments on America Blog and was impressed enough to link through to yours. This first part was nice, and I am looking forward to the completion of your thoughts. Thanks.

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