|Activist Robert Haaland at the mic, while Supervisors Tom Ammiano and Bevan Dufty looked on. Photo by Wendy Lee.
On June 24, at a closed press conference, a coalition of queer progressive organizations were on hand as SF Supervisors Tom Ammiano and Bevan Dufty announced their plan that day to introduce a resolution asking SF elected officials to boycott Human Rights Campaign‚Äôs biggest fundraising gala because of its alleged refusal to advocate for an Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that included gender identity. The resolution also asked that any future federal ENDA legislation include gender identity.
Robert Haaland, openly transgender Co-chair of Pride at Work, an LGBT labor group, spoke of last year, when ‚Äúduring a very painful period in Congress, gender identity was dropped from ENDA.‚ÄĚ He noted that over 350 state and local organizations asked for an inclusive ENDA, whereas HRC supposedly compromised to get the bill passed. Many therefore decided to forego the HRC dinner this year, and some will be actively boycotting outside the Westin St. Francis, where the major fundraiser will be held. ‚ÄúWe will be sending a message that dropping gender identity last year was not acceptable, and that next time when we reintroduce ENDA that it has to include gender identity,‚ÄĚ said Haaland.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt know how words can describe how hurtful that decision was to exclude transgendered people from ENDA, making a unilateral decision‚ÄĚ said Dufty. ‚ÄúAnd why were organizations such as Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Lesbian Rights not involved in the Legislative strategizing?‚ÄĚ He said the original inclusive version of ENDA was a ‚Äúbroadening expansion and recognition of transgender Americans who face the most pervasive and severe employment discrimination.‚ÄĚ He commended first openly lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin for her inclusive amendment, although it did not carry. He said, ‚ÄúWe can‚Äôt advance our cause if we don‚Äôt involve people at a grassroots basis throughout the country in what our strategy is about.‚ÄĚ He said on July 26, he would be holding a special party in his home for those activists who had protested outside the HRC event in an action entitled: ‚ÄúThe Left OUT Party ‚Äď a Genderful Gay-la.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúThere has been a lot of talk about Harvey Milk this year, and Harvey was very cognizant of transgender people and how they were marginalized in the ‚Äė70s,‚ÄĚ said Ammiano. ‚ÄúSo there is certainly no excuse to say this is a new issue.‚ÄĚ He pointed out that in the late ‚Äė70s there was a time when some said that drag queens should not be in the Pride Parade, ‚Äúbecause it‚Äôs giving the wrong impression.‚ÄĚ He questioned, ‚ÄúTo whom? Did it offend their fashion sense?‚ÄĚ He said, ‚ÄúThis kind of mainstream singling out and not recognizing class issues is wrong. We should not be afraid of this issue.‚ÄĚ He concluded, ‚ÄúI‚Äôd like to say that HRC should not put the ‚Äėass‚Äô in ‚Äėassimilation.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
Theresa Sparks, openly transgender President of the Police Commission, informed that she was not speaking for the Commission, but rather for herself. ‚ÄúIt is not our intent to be divisive or split the greater LGBT community apart; it is our intent to provide and encourage inclusion, and to encourage others to include us as well,‚ÄĚ said Sparks. She pointed out that transgenders have been involved in the overall struggle for gay, lesbian, and bisexual rights ‚Äúfrom day one,‚ÄĚ and cited the Compton Cafeteria Riot as predating the Stonewall Riot (which was also led by transgenders and drag queens). She said, ‚ÄúAll we are asking HRC and others is to allow us to be involved in the struggle.‚ÄĚ She said she hoped in the future that HRC could work with coalitions for trans inclusion ‚Äúand go forward together, helping work out a compromise so that we can be included in this bill.‚ÄĚ She concluded, ‚ÄúWe want to be involved; we have been involved; we will continue to be involved; and we‚Äôre asking HRC to involve us, so we can all have equality at the same time.‚ÄĚ
Frances Hsieh, District Representative for Senator Carole Migden, read a letter from the Senator, which in part stated, ‚ÄúI support a federal ENDA that protects all of our citizens in the workplace, especially those who are in most need of protection from discrimination. As Legislators, it is our responsibility to advocate for those who do not have a voice, and we can do that best with the full support of all of our LGBT advocacy organizations.‚ÄĚ
John Newsome, of And Castro For All, pointed out the irony when in years past, some politicos and activists wanted to stall the movement to include people of color and eliminate racism in the Castro - since it seemed untimely and would interfere with same-sex marriage issues. Newsome said the same concept exists with trans inclusion. He said when he worked with HRC in Washington D.C. in 1998-99, it was ‚Äúthe most effective organization that I worked with on the Hill.‚ÄĚ He said, ‚ÄúSince then, I have been told it has become incredibly ineffective.‚ÄĚ He called the unilateral decision on trans exclusion ‚Äúone of the most deceptive, dishonest, dishonorable acts imaginable from a civil rights organization.‚ÄĚ He addressed the concept of ‚Äúincrementalism‚ÄĚ ‚Äď ‚Äúthe notion that we must fight little by little for a set of rights.‚ÄĚ He said, ‚ÄúThis bill has been whittled down to the smallest increment.‚ÄĚ He concluded, ‚ÄúAs a loving act, we must stand together and not tolerate division in our community.‚ÄĚ
Past Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic President (2004) Michael Goldstein spoke on behalf of the Milk Club, saying, ‚ÄúMy entire life has been about human rights, and I know the Milk Club has always been about rights, and not just LGBT rights.‚ÄĚ He said, ‚ÄúSomeone who takes on the name of Human Rights should be ashamed when they leave out one of the most vibrant parts of our community.‚ÄĚ He said, ‚ÄúWe are going to help them get their act together, so that in no way are we going to leave our transgender brothers and sisters behind.‚ÄĚ
Dufty told of a glassed-in ad on Market and Noe, and elsewhere, that was taken out by HRC, depicting an African American woman and the words: ‚ÄúI am a community member; I am a role model; I am transgender; I am HRC.‚ÄĚ Dufty commented, ‚ÄúThis is a clear recognition from HRC that they have work to do.‚ÄĚ
Senator Migden‚Äôs letter summed up quite well: ‚ÄúWe celebrated a victory when the Senate passed historic hate crimes legislation that added sexual orientation, transgender identity, gender, and disability to the current federal hate crimes law. We need to bring that same victory to an inclusive ENDA that includes equal protections in the workplace.‚ÄĚ In conclusion, Migden wrote, ‚ÄúWorking together, we can build the community support that our federal legislators will need in order to pass a fully inclusive ENDA.‚ÄĚ
It should be pointed out that HRC is writing in this Pride issue of gay papers a one-page open letter to the community, part of which states: ‚Äúto put to rest any remaining misperceptions about HRC‚Äôs commitment to an all-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act.‚ÄĚ It goes on to say, in part: ‚ÄúWe have dedicated our resources to education on transgender equality, and toward securing the approximately 40 additional votes needed to pass the bill we want: one that covers the whole community.‚ÄĚ