In reading a thread on Pam's House Blend, someone added a link to an article from Providence Journal columnist Froma Harrop: There is no pleasing fringes on transgendered rights.
Let's start with a quote:
No one has earned more stripes promoting gay rights than Frank, but the Democrat now finds himself targeted by, of all groups, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. And as usual, he's not holding return fire.
"For some of these people, you can never be an ally," Frank told me. And the proper response is to "call their bluff."
I don't think I ever been so angry with Barney Frank. At times I've respected him. At times I've been disappointed by him. But really, this is the first time I've ever been genuinely enraged by something he said.
Although I've objected to some of Frank's prior statements, I understand where he's coming from. He thinks that a TG-inclusive ENDA will sink the bill he's been working for his whole life. It's understandable that he's concerned about it.
Now, to be fair to Frank, it's not entirely clear how much of the blindsided mendacity reflected in this column is Harrop's own incompetence and how much is Frank's hostility. For example:
At issue is Frank's decision to remove language on "gender identity" from a bill that protects gay men and lesbians in the workplace. This is a reference to the "transgender" community -- people who do not identify with the gender assigned them at birth. Cross-dressers are one example.
Cross-dressers? I'm sure that didn't come from Frank. I'm not sure where the hell it came from. But, most importantly, it's simply wrong. Cross-dressers are not transgendered, except to ignorant people who don't understand the difference between a drag queen and a transsexual.
But here's what it boils down to for me, and it's really quite simple: the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and Lambda Legal are telling Frank he's wrong on this. They're telling him that the stripped-down bill isn't nearly as inclusive as he thinks it is. As Lambda notes:
removing gender identity] "diminished the bill not only by excluding transgender people — a consequence we oppose in itself. The cut also made the bill far weaker by denying protection of the earlier version to those who may not identify as transgender but who are discriminated against because they are perceived as gender nonconforming. Lesbians, gay men and bisexuals frequently are perceived that way.
Harrop's bias and spin on this is clear-- calling these groups "fringe" groups suggests a complete and utter lack of understanding of any of the history behind the lesbian and gay movement. It's not clear to me whether this is incompetence or malice, but either way, it's not a good thing.
I've said this before: In Vermont, we recently passed legislation protecting gender identity. This was first vetoed, then revised, then signed into law by our Governor. Our Conservative Republican governor. This did not create a "Terri Schaivo" moment, as suggested in Harrop's article. Indeed, it almost happened without notice and I've not seen any indication of it ever being an election issue. Harrop's opinion piece references a mention of needing to get votes from Indiana, without mentioning that Indiana is currently considering legislation to add full protections, including gender identity.
But back to Frank: on one level he's right. He's probably not going anywhere. He's not at risk for electoral defeat over this. But that's really not the point. That line "call their bluff" just really says something meaningful to me that makes me both angry and sad. "Call their bluff" suggests that he's not dealing with people who are serious about the issues. Obviously he's just dealing with a bunch of crybabies who will shut the @&*! up once he calls our @&*! bluff.
And, really, that sort of attitude doesn't help.
When Frank uses language that frames us not as people with strong disagreements but, instead, as people who are whiners who don't take the legislative process seriously, he's doing everyone involved a disservice. It's one thing for him to be so entrenched in his position that he's unable to objectively view the inherent flaws in his current procedure. It's another thing for him to actively demonize those who disagree with him.
That, to me, is unacceptable.