Let’s get back to business…

22 01 2011

Ok, I’m over my temper tantrum.  And I’ve kind of decided that this blog, going forward, will be my political action blog.  I may continue my personal blog…. who knows.

On the political front, last week following my business in New Hope, I traveled to the big city (no not New York or Chicago..), Washington.  I’ve been reading quite a bit about Trans politics, jumping into discussions here and there, and basically trying to get a better understanding of the issues relevant to our cause.  By which, honestly, I infer the Transsexual cause.

Going through this personally has certainly opened my eyes to many things, primarily just how intolerant and non-compassionate society, American society, can truly be.  It is both amazing and disconcerting how a major political party can incite discrimination and hatred for other human beings and promote it as being ok; interestingly, most of these very hatemongers attend church weekly, ensure that others take notice, and proclaim themselves “devout christians.”  I wonder, do they ever stop to consider, actually think about, what Jesus would think of this or that?  They certainly are so very expeditious to push their cause, all in His name.

But I digress… So I spent about two whole days in D.C. meeting with certain key people in our “community” that, frankly, I do put my trust in and do believe in their working to better our lives.  I know the underlying politics of it all, and I do know that many out there have very strong opinions otherwise.  But I sincerely believe that our “national leadership” is doing the best that they can physically do, given the fact that many of us Transsexuals would rather stay in hiding than try to make things better for others.  It’s much easier to shoot from the safety of cover than stand up and be counted….

I had a wonderful time with my friend Anne, who was kind enough to put up with me for  couple of nights, and we did have an amazing dinner at Ted’s Montana Grill.  and invariably the discussion went to federal policies with regard to Trans-identified, and how as federal employees we do have a long road to travel before things get better.  Anne is the “go-to girl” for anything TransFederal, so if anyone reading along is a federal employee who has transitioned or is contemplating it, please email me and I will provide her contact info; she can really help.  There are some interesting things going on in D.C. for federal Trans employees that hopefully will come to light in the next few months – change is hopefully on the way, but it’s an incredibly slow process.

Wednesday afternoon I had the pleasure of meeting Allyson Robinson at HRC.  Yes, the “evil empire..”  Not my opinion by the way.  She was kind enough to not only take time out of her crazy schedule to talk with me, but also provided a mini-tour and talk of what HRC is working on these days.  We then retired to a local coffee shop and chatted for well over an hour on issues and where things are heading.  Allyson is seriously trying to be the change agent within HRC, and she does serve a valuable purpose, if only for the fact that she is out there, each and every day, fighting for our rights and spreading the word among the masses.  Some would argue that she is simply a “political appointment” or the “token HRC tranny,” but it truly is much more than that.  She is there interacting within HRC, asking where trans issues are being considered in pretty much everything HRC is doing.  It’s also a culture change at HRC to a degree, and although they have certainly made some horrendous missteps through the years, honestly, I am left to believe that they are consciously trying to correct those mistakes.  Allyson is one of the most put-together women I have ever met; regardless of your opinion, at least she is out there, front and center, and doing it.

One new pilot project HRC recently received funding for and is in the process of implementing is basically an outplacement agency for Trans-identified.  They will be rolling this out in targeted cities over the next few months.  What this program will do is provide valuable job search assistance to the community, from writing resumes to what to wear for interviews.  All very vital in the struggle to get people jobs.

Thursday morning, I had the opportunity to have breakfast with Mara Keisling and Harper Jean Tobin of the National Center for Transgender Equality.  Many out there freely take shots at Mara and NCTE, and frankly I don’t think they understand the complete picture of whats happening behind the scenes.  For example.. if you visit the NCTE web, you will leave so very impressed, and also with the idea that, wow, this must be a huge organization with tons of money, so why aren’t they listening, why aren’t they solving issues faster, dammit??

Well, truth be told, NCTE’s “global” nerve center, housed within the offices of another GLB organization in my Union’s building (small world..), consists of about three small offices for all of, what, a staff of SIX people…. six.  Believe me, I met the entire staff… Working on the whole gambit of trans issues, albeit at the federal level, but trust me, they are seriously underpowered and understaffed.  And their budget is pocket change compared to HRC or other LBG organizations.  I think one of NCTE’s faults, and I explained this to Mara, is their not being more transparent about their operation; they truly are operating on a shoestring budget – recently they lost their healthcare issues sponsor and had to let go their healthcare staffer.  One really good point of their office arrangement; they are nestled among the leading LGB organizations – read the Taskforce – and can benefit from the cross-pollenization that occurs as different groups discuss the relevant issues.  Along these lines, I was also able to meet Lisa Mottet of the Taskforce, and another tireless advocate for our rights…

NCTE’s current list of priorities is about three pages long at the moment.  They are a federal-focused advocacy group, meaning that they do not advocate for individuals, but will always refer those having specific issues to others who can, and do, help.  Among NCTE’s hit list are the obvious:  jobs – generation, retention and security; healthcare reform; ID reform; Social Security changes; veteran’s affairs for the trans-identified; and TSA issues.  Is NCTE addressing all of the issues pertinent to everyone?  No.  Could they?  No.  But NCTE does have valued connections and can provide assistance to those with valid issues.  And so far as I know, they don’t turn anyone away who calls and asks for help.

As for Mara…. here’s the five million dollar point – at a minimum, at least SHE is out there, standing tall and being counted, and doing SOMETHING.  And from what I’ve gleaned over the course of the past several months and particularly with our visit, she is doing all that she is physically able to do.  She genuinely understands the issues, and although caught in the crosshairs by the many interests and viewpoints of our “community,” she, I believe, is able to find a balance.  She is genuinely concerned for all who would place themselves under the “trans” umbrella; certainly not an easy task that.  I have read their twitters and their Facebooks and honestly, I don’t know of anyone else in the “community” who travel as tirelessly and fight the fight as she does… and Allyson for that matter.  We as a “community” so very much need to stop the bloodshed, sto the vitriol and the pummeling of each other…. it’s petty, it divides us and certainly detracts from any sort of credibility we could possibly ever hope to achieve.

One issue discussed with all was the concept first raised on Mara’s Facebook about bringing better organization to the Trans community possibly through the establishment of a national “steering”or advisory committee comprised of stakeholders in the community.  I truly believe that better coordination and defining the relevant issues are needed, desperately needed, so that we may commit the fullest attention to those issues that are vitally important.  Like jobs.. like housing.. like ending discrimination… like something so very simple as bathroom access for those who need it every day.  My thoughts on this would be a national committee, whose responsibility it would be to set the agenda and prioritize the issues – with the valued input of the state/local TRANS organizations.  Working in concert with the national committee would be underlying workgroups, whose job it would be to focus on those specific delegated to them.  These workgroups would be comprised of the experts in each area, and they would be responsible for making recommendations of action and in taking action to change policy.  Organizations such as NCTE could not spearhead such a committee, but would have a seat at the table, as would HRC perhaps, and others.

One point I wish to re-emphasize…. it’s very easy to lurk behind the trees and fire potshots at those on the front lines.  Where we fail as a community – as a Transsexual community even – is in numbers.  We are our own worst enemy.  Either stand up and be counted, or else be quiet… you have no right to complain about things if you will not join the fight.  Mara and Allyson are out there, day in and day out, each and every day, at least trying to make a difference, trying to effect change.  Next time, before you shoot off at the mouth, take a look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, “what have I done to help make change?”