Friday, October 05, 2007

The Right Thing

I see governmental legislation as a process of intrigues and liaisons by individuals having very little short term interest in "justice". The most skilled operators within the convoluted system can strategize to move the state and it's citizens toward ultimate long term goals. It's a nuanced tactical game built on compromise. The right has been very skilled in this, moving the nation away from it's founding principle of fairness and it's trajectory of inclusion. I wish the left (what I guess used to be the center) could be just as savvy.

I worked with a person for about a decade. In that time, J went from an established married man in a long time career to a single woman in college relearning life as well. J sacrificed everything, family, community, career and all savings and financial security in order to release and realize V, who had been in there all along. V didn't have any easier a time of it. As a trans woman she still struggles: one state couldn't reconcile her new gender identity so she moved to one which could; a second career proved hostile to her appearance so she entered school again for schooling in a third. She finished high in her class and received good internship evaluations, but cannot land a position- in a field short of qualified candidates - here in this city . She's now heading to Massachusetts to try her luck there. V is probably the bravest, strongest person I will ever know.

I posted much of what's below as a comment on Aaron's blog. Like many reasonable and articulate folks he's concerned with the ENDA meltdown.

I don't spend ALL day reading blogs, so maybe I've missed this, but what tactical benefit exists for trans people in creating a bill which can not pass? I'm not trying to be provocative in this obviously pro-inclusion forum. It's a totally serious question.

I think the history of civil rights has been characterized by a few landmark watersheds, but mostly gradual and incremental change through refining previous legislation - and importantly, changes in public mores spurred by the examples of legislation.

Of course including trans folk in legal protection is the right thing to do. But it was just as clearly "the right thing" to include gay people in the civil rights legislation of the 50's and 60's. To do so then would have stalled the inclusion movement for everyone - and we, the whole alphabet of queer acronyms wouldn't be as far along as a community NOW if that position had been asserted THEN. None of us.
[The Constitution would have fizzled over slavery, the Bill of Rights aborted over women's suffrage.]

Demanding that legislators (who are largely uninterested in the struggles of queer peoples) rile their general constituencies (who are largely uninterested in the struggles of queer peoples) by voting for a bill with no popular support doesn't seem like a practical way of moving inclusion forward for anyone.

Long an iconoclast swimming my issues and positions up stream against unsympathetic masses, my Dad frequently reminded that I ask myself what was more important: to BE right, or make the right thing HAPPEN. If the right thing is civil rights for trans people, I haven't been shown how sinking ENDA is the way to make it happen.

Just about everyone I know is university educated and lives in a large coastal city where their left of center positions (which I share) are embraced by a majority. Like me, they work in fields where their sexual orientation is small liability (and in my case is something of an asset- the art/design world is like the Gay National Guard). As a group our identities seem to hinge on our principled positions - which we reinforced and congratulate ourselves on at our all white/all middle class gatherings over engaging yet nuanced glasses of Shiraz or ironic cans of Bud and Pabst Blue Ribbon - and on our condescension toward those who don't loudly tout them. I wonder if we should consider more what effect our positions have on folks outside of our privleged realm or the trajectory of our own lives. I wonder if we shouldn't consider more the wisdom of my cranky Yankee codger dad who understands that battles must be lost to win wars, and that we must make sacrifices ourselves to enable greater victories down the line.
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