Outside the HRC dinner

Pub date July 22, 2008
SectionNews & OpinionSectionOpinion

OPINION On July 26, the Bay Area’s gay and lesbian elite will gather at the posh Westin St. Francis to raise money for the Human Rights Campaign in the name of securing and protecting LGB rights. Despite flip-flopping its position on a federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which should include protections for gender identity as well as sexual orientation, HRC will rake in money to further advance a version of human rights in the political world of Washington, DC in which transgender and gender-non-conforming people are apparently less than human.

Luckily, there’s a fabulous alternative. Outside the Westin St. Francis we’ll be throwing the "Left Out Party: A Genderful Gay-la" in support of an inclusive ENDA that protects gender identity. Leaders in the city’s progressive community will be partying in the streets in support of our transgender brothers and sisters.

Why outside? The not-so-fabulous truth is that in promoting a noninclusive ENDA, the Human Rights Campaign abandoned the values of equality and inclusion. Transgender Americans need employment nondiscrimination protections at the federal level. Period. A recent study of the transgender community in SF found that 70 percent of transgender women in San Francisco are unemployed. This points to the need for an inclusive ENDA.

When ENDA was being discussed in Congress last autumn, important discussions surrounding political strategy were raised: should we secure legislation that protects all LGBT Americans, or should we compromise the rights of those most vulnerable among us for the gains of many?

A unified front made up of every single prominent LGBT organization nationwide, more than 350 LGBT organizations total, answered in favor of protecting all of us.

Publicly, HRC Executive Director Joe Solomonese promised to transgender activists that the organization would oppose any attempt to introduce a noninclusive ENDA. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the nation’s supposed leading LGBT political organization worked to strip gender identity protections from the bill in the name of "political expediency" and "incrementalism."

Since that decision, trans activists have organized pickets at HRC’s annual dinner in Washington and at subsequent dinners in cities across the country. Here in San Francisco, we are raising the bar.

In our city, prominent local elected officials and political organizations came out in support of an inclusive ENDA. The San Francisco LGBT Pride Committee nominated HRC for its annual "Pink Brick" award. All of the city’s LGBT elected officials, as well as many allies such as City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Public Defender Jeff Adachi, and Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin, are refusing to attend the dinner.

HRC’s failed strategy on ENDA has needlessly divided our community at a time when we are poised to make great gains in civil rights. If any silver lining can be found in this debacle, it’s that a huge majority of queer progressive and even mainstream organizations have come forward to remind everyone that civil rights are not something that can be compromised. That’s a San Francisco value we’re all proud of.

Which is why you’ll find us outside the Westin St. Francis this Saturday — because we want to party with all members of our community. Come join the long list of trannies, queers, gender-fabulous performers, studs, twinks, soft butches, queens, shark femmes, and all fighters for social justice — outside!

SF Pride at Work

SF Pride at Work is an LGBT labor organization.