Friday, October 12, 2007

"How the T got into GLBT."

In his blogs Gay lawyer John Aravosis asked "how the T got into GLBT." He should study some GLBT history.

They're the ones who started our movement. It would be more accurate to ask how butch fags and lipstick lesbians overtook the movement started by radical trannies.

A drag queen, José Sarria ("The Widdow Norton") ran for San Francisco County Supervisor in 1962 as perhaps the first openly queer candidate for public office in the USA

Trannies at Compton's Cafeteria in San Francisco in 1966 started demonstrations that made huge strides in raising awareness of GLBT issues.

Trannies were part of the Stonewall uprising.

The pre-stonewall GLBT movement owes much to Magnus Hirschfield's "Scientific Humanitarian Committee" which pioneered our movement in Germany from the early 20th century to the beginning of the "Reich." Hirschfield was a transvestite who advocated for "third sex" gender variant men and women.

Trannies have ALWAYS been at the forefront of the queer rights movement.

Now some "incrementalists" think we can more easily win some rights by jettisoning our transgendered brothers and sisters. We'd never be where we are today without their courage, and this non-TG gay man would not want to be a party to the betrayal that is being advocated.

Let our TG friends wait for rights later? How much later? And will the gays and lesbians really remember the trannies later after we have been divided against each other for the larger group to take a moderate gain?

And when nelly men and butch women are fired for their gender non-conformity, will bosses say they weren't axed for being gay, but for gender variant behavior? If protection for gays only extends to the gays who can pass for straight, that's not much protection.

It is unfortunate that this issue did not get widespread attention sooner and that people who worked hard on ENDA are getting blindsided at the last minute, but "better late than never." We must never tell our TG brothers and sisters who have included both the most heroic and the most vulnerable among us that their rights are any less urgent than our own. Indeed without assurance of their rights, there is little assurance of ours.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Include Transgenders in ENDA!

Dear Rep. Pelosi,

As a gay man and a longtime activist I am as eager as anyone to see civil rights legislation such as ENDA in place, but I am not willing to tell my transgendered brothers and sister s that they are any less entitled to job protection than I. Not only do they need the protection so much more than I do, but they have always been at the forefront of the GLBT movement. Cutting them out of this legislation would be a terrible betrayal.

As a longtime activist I have seen transmen and transwomen put their lives on the line for our larger community. In August of 1966 transgendered women at Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco’s Tenderloin rebelled against harassment in an incident that rallied the nascent queer community to new heights of activism. This was echoed in New York three years later at the Stonewall uprising, also started by trannies.

If we betray these sisters and brothers who have done so much and risked so much for us all, saying, later, later, when would that “later” be? If gay men and lesbians are willing to cast off our transgendered comrades now, when will they be willing to welcome them back in to the struggle for equality? And what perverse logic makes them even temporarily expendible?

The old logic of community organization is to include everyone. I have to wonder about the gays and lesbians who think that we should work for transgenders’ rights later. Later when? Will these “incrementalist” homosexuals be any more willing to fight for others’ rights later than they are now? Or will the protections afforded by civil rights for gays and lesbians satisfy them so that they forget our tranny friends as easily as they are willing to now?

I’ve seen enough transphobia in the gay community, not to mention just plain old self-satisfied complacency that I have little faith in this sort of incrementalism. I know politics often requires long treks by baby steps, but let us take those steps together, and never leave our brothers, our sisters, and often in this case, our heroes and pioneers behind.

Yours truly,

Jack Fertig

Republican Love

An acquaintance has said that anyone who refuses to date members of a particular political party is being intolerant. This point has otherwise been raised, and on the surface it seems reasonable. Scratch a little deeper and it provokes what is in reality a more important question. What should we tolerate?

"Intolerance" is one of those words that depends much on context. My friends, family, and lovers have pretty well covered the world of colors, religions, nationalities, sexual orientations, genders, ages, shapes and sizes. (Granted, friends and family cover a wider range than lovers, especially on the last half of that list.) With firm belief in Dr. King's famous dream, I do indeed judge people not by any of those factors, but by the measure of their character.

Still, the bedroom is no place to be PC. We accept without question that it is quite all right to be sexually attracted only to certain physical types, even – if expressed respectfully – men or women only of a particular color, and we expect people generally to favor their own age group. And would our "tolerant" friend criticize specifying character traits? And what says more about a person's character than his politics?

The Republican Party has so exploited homophobia in its recent campaigns that when someone tells me that he doesn't support that, but votes for them for other reasons, it sounds too much like, "Please understand, Mr. Rabinowitz, I'm not anti-Semitic. I just support the National Socialists because they represent the best hope for Germany's future." And what are these other reasons? Despite their talk of fiscal prudence, from Nixon on, the Republicans have consistently erased government surpluses and/or plunged our country deeper and deeper into debt. When they talk about "getting government off your back," they are clearly only talking to the industrialists while workers, consumers, and our environment suffer from de-regulation, but the GOP scrambles to erode basic civil rights, further criminalize recreational drugs, and to stigmatize queers. As much as they rail against "bloated government bureaucracy" they continue to build ludicrously inefficient bureaucracies in the security sector while starving essential services like schools and hospitals.

Even if one accepts the military policies of our government, the Pentagon is obscenely wasteful and top heavy. And the machisto posturing of the Republican chickenhawks in the White House adds insult to injury while our youngsters are being sent to die for Carlyle, Halliburton, and Bechtel in Iraq.

Despite the fact that Nazi David Duke was a Republican candidate for Governor of Louisiana, and Prescott Bush was a big supporter of Hitler, it is true that generally comparing Republicans to Nazis confuses all proportion and perspective. So I'm not really comparing them when I say "Would it be ˜intolerant" to refuse to kiss a Nazi? I'm just saying you have to draw the line somewhere. Sure the Republican Party is better than the Nazis, but "better than the Nazis" is a mighty low standard, not nearly good enough. The GOP has done such damage that, while I am willing to discuss politics and argue points with people from nearly any political perspective, I don't feel ethically required to get snuggly with people who are collusive in destroying our civil liberties, environment, and economy.