Last week, the House of Representatives passed a version of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that includes protections for sexual orientation but not gender identity.Â The Senate is unlikely to vote on ENDA this year and Bush has promised a veto.Â Although the debate over ENDA has been a divisive one, itâ€™s also had a unifying effect. More than 360 organizations banded together as United ENDA to support civil rights legislation only if it protects all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Of course, the ENDA debate has had negative impacts, as well.Â In October,Â when the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) announced it wouldnâ€™t oppose a stripped down ENDA, Donna Rose, the first and only openly transgender member of their board of directors, resigned in protest.
The author of the autobiographical Wrapped in Blue:Â A Journey of Self Discovery, Rose co-chaired HRCâ€™s Business Council, played a significant role in the annual Corporate Equality Index and was featured in HRCâ€™s corporate training film, Understanding Transgender.Â The activist (donnarose.com) currently sits on the boards of GLAAD and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and previously served on Out and Equalâ€™s transgender advisory committee and the board of advisors for the National Center for Transgender Equality. A frequent public speaker, sheâ€™s been featured on Entertainment Tonight,Â in USA Today and in local publications across the country. In 2004, The Advocate honored Rose as a â€śGay Corporate Leader.â€ť Â
In an open letter announcing her resignation from HRC, Rose called her participation on the board â€śa heavy burden.â€ť
â€śThe relationship between HRC and the transgender community is one scarred by betrayal, distrust and angerâ€¦[which has] made HRC the focal point for a significant amount of the disaffection felt byâ€¦the transgender community. I automatically inherited much of that.â€ť
Members of the trans community accused Rose of selling-out and legitimizing HRCâ€™s non-supportive behavior, but Rose disagrees, â€śWeâ€™re best served both by having a voice at the tableâ€¦and by maintaining pressure from the outside.Â My participation there has helped to change things for the better.â€ť Â
Still, Rose viewed HRCâ€™s position on ENDA as abandonment of the trans community. â€śIf HRC isnâ€™t willing to put teeth to its commitment to not support something, than thereâ€™s an implicit indication that itâ€™s OK to support it.â€ť
Rose says the debacle impacted her deeply.Â â€śItâ€™s reminded me why politics have always left a sour taste in my mouth.Â I [found] this entire experience to be such a misguided, short-sighted, wasteful effort.â€ť
Her faith was partially restored when United ENDA (unitedenda.org) formed. â€śI believe that this has been a testâ€¦that will actually help us in the long run. Itâ€™sâ€¦forced organizations to make decisions about community versus incrementalism andâ€¦thereâ€™s nearly universal agreement on the ultimate goal: fully-inclusive legislation.â€ť Â
Still, Rose admits, the ENDA debates illustrated that trans people are â€śstill as misunderstood in the GLB community asâ€¦ in society at large; andâ€¦ homophobia is as rampant in the trans community as it is in society at large.Â What will it take to overcome those barriers?Â First, education:Â we need people to cross those barriers, to educate about our lives and to demystify the labels.Â Second, time:Â these things wonâ€™t happen overnight.â€ť
Rose isnâ€™t hanging all her hopes on a trans-inclusive ENDA. â€śFranklyâ€¦I donâ€™t believe ENDA will have nearly the impact that some [do].Â I think it provides a sense of cultural legitimacy, [but] I donâ€™t think that legislation alone will shatter the barriers that prevent us from being hired, that keep us under-employed or that force us out of jobs.â€ť
â€śThere are two parts to this equation,â€ť Rose argues.Â â€śOne is legislation, but the other is a broader cultural comfort.Â ENDA will put laws in place but time, commitment and continued integration into broader society will need to happen to truly address the issues many of us face. These are not quick fixes.â€ť
Fortunately, Rose is committed to the long haul.Â â€śIâ€™m dedicated to our community, to generations who will come after us, and to doing what I can to make things better.Â My social consciousness is alive and well.â€ť
This is Jacob Anderson-Minshallâ€™s 100th TransNation column.Â The trans writer also co-authored Blind Leap, the second installment of the Blind Eye mystery series available now.Â For more information visit anderson-minshall.com or email email@example.com.
Correction: TransNation inadvertently reported that Daan Erikson (â€śMedia Matters, Oct. 25) is currently a sophomore.Â He is currently completing his junior year.