Dear Speaker Pelosi:
Many people will be blogswarming you on this topic, but, before I do so, I want to introduce you to a new acquaintence of mine:
This tiger lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
And I made him sad when I visited the Henry Vilas Zoo on Monday.
I told him that Madison is the only part of Wisconsin where I am equal to non-transgender gays and lesbians. Now, he was proud of Madison and Dane County – but he was saddened to learn that everywhere else in Wisconsin, non-transgender gays and lesbians can discriminate against me, all because, back in 1982, the Wisconsin Legislature enacted a gay rights law that only covered sexual orientation, narrowly defined to only encompass heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality.
Transsexuals, such as myself, need not apply.
You’re from California, Speaker Pelosi.
Your state actually did the same thing back in 1999 – but rectified the mistake four years later. A few other states that initially enacted laws with Wisconsin’s constrictive scope have rectified those mistakes, but history is a strong message in this area: when a jurisdiction makes the mistake of giving gays and lesbians the right to discriminate against trans people, it is extremely unlikely ever to rectify that mistake.
You are, at this juncture in time, being lobbied to move forward with 2010’s version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act – to encourage committee action and, most importantly, actually bring the bill to a floor vote in the House.
And one other thing…
You’re also being lobbied by trans people to ensure that any ENDA that receives House approval is a legitmate one – and I use the word “legitimate” intentionally.
The version of ENDA that the House – under your leadership – passed in 2007 was not legitimate. It would take the Wisconsin reality that I’ve noted above and make it the national standard.
I was a senior in high school when that Wisconsin reality became that state’s standard – and the blueprint for laws in states such as Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maryland and New York – laws that have never been rectified to level the employment playing field in those states.
I was a senior in high school when that Wisconsin reality became that state’s standard – and, now being in my mid-40s, my working life does not have enough years remaining to wait for Congress to take a similar amount of time (even assuming Wisconsin magically rectifies its law now; a rectification that its unlikely) go back and rectify an ENDA that does not include me.
Many members of Congress – perhaps yourself included – have been convinced, during the battle over healthcare reform, to ‘not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.’
With healthcare reform, that is an acceptable – albeit stomach churning – position; whatever law that emerges will do something for all, just not perhaps enough.
However, a non-trans-inclusive ENDA will be, for me and all who are like me, not simply nothing but less than nothing. It will be a law that not only does not protect us, but it will be tantamount to giving license to all – including non-trans gays and lesbians – to discriminate against transgender people with impunity. Do you want history to remember you as being, when it really counted, no better than Bob McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli?
You are the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
You are the leader of a Democratic majority who was put in office precisely to generate the sort of legislative progress that a fully transgender-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act embodies.
Use your power before the FOX-addled electorate is able to take it away from you in November because the people who put you in power stay home and let them take it away.
Use your power to prevent Barney Frank – and all who have a record of opposing the notion that transgender people are equal to gays and lesbians – from again de-legitimizing ENDA.
Use your power to bring the legitimate ENDA to the floor for a legitimate vote.
Use your power to ensure that that legitimate ENDA passes.
For, if you can’t be bothered to do that, please tell me why I should give a damn if John Boehner has your job at this time next year.