The Phantom Penance

We are approaching the tenth anniversary of the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision in Goins v. West Group (one of the trans judicial cases that neither Cathy Brennan nor Elizabeth Hungerford nor any of their apologists will tell those who would be affected by the Brennan-Hungerford exterminationism manifesto should it be implemented with force of law how they feel should have been decided.)

In the immediate aftermath of the ahistorical nonsense that the court foisted on the state in its decision, there was a community debriefing/decompression session held in Minneapolis on a cold December evening.

Not all that many people could be bothered to show up for it.

I recall a visibly dismayed Juli Goins opining, when she spoke at the gathering, that apparently people felt as though staying home to watch The West Wing was more important than discussing what the Minnesota Supreme Court had done to her, to all trans people in the state and to the Minnesota Human Rights Act itself.

Several people addressed the attendees from the ersatz stage.  Some of the attendees spoke from their positions in the audience.

One of those who spoke from the audience was affiliated with the National Gay-Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF.)

That person said that one way to prevent such travesties as the Goins decision in the future was more education about trans issues.

After the gathering was officially over, I went up to speak to the person.  I said that the suggestion was nice (because, contextually at least, it really was not quivalent to the perpetual HRC-St. Barney ENDA lie of ‘more education is necessary’) – and then kindly and tastefully suggested that perhaps one way for that professed goal to be attained was for NGLTF to hire some trans people to do the educating.

Anyone who has ever made any attempt whatsoever to discuss the obscene underrepresentation of trans people (particularly trans women) among the ranks of those who are permitted to earn a living with gay rights organizations, you know what came next: the person looked at me as if I had just clubbed a bunch of baby seals, puppies and kittens to death in the person’s presence.

It would be charitable to describe the person’s words thereafter as ‘defensive.’

It would be accurate to summarize those words as ‘How dare you question us??!??!’

And, no, the person affiliated with NGLTF to whom I refer above was not Sue Hyde

It also was not Matt Foreman.  Keep geography and the timeline in mind: This was late 2001 in Minnesota.  It would still be a year before New York’s Empire State Pride Agenda (ESPA), under Foreman’s stewardship, signed off on legislation giving that state’s gays and lesbians the right to discriminate against trans people

We would love to have transgender inclusion, but not at the expense of SONDA.

Then, four months later, Foreman moved on to NGLTF whilst crowing:

that NGLTF employs an attorney full time to advise local efforts aimed at protecting transgender rights.

A non-trans attorney…

in 2001, 2003 and now.

Yes, Matt Foreman received a de facto promotion from head of a state group that was – and still is – willing to bulldoze trans needs to get gays’ wants to a national organization that had a reputation for being trans-inclusive (despite, curiously, not having any trans people gainfully employed to do the inclusiv-ing.)  The result of this, of course, was not to convert Foreman in any substantive sense (even though he has professed regret about what happened in New York in 2002), but instead to neuter what was left of NGLTF’s credibility on the trans-inclusion argument. 

Recall one of the few instances of Chris Crain saying something that was remotely reality-based?

Foreman and his allies regularly engaged it such ridiculousness regularly during the ENDA debate, accusing anyone who agreed with Barney on tactics of being a transphobe. Ironic given that Foreman himself used Barney’s tactics to get New York’s state gay rights law passed.

Yes, Foreman signs off on civil rights apartheid for trans people in 2002 and he gets a promotion and, presumably, a raise.  (It is reasonable to assume that while with NGLTF he pulled down somewhere between the the $80K that The Quisling is paid to subvert trans rights from inside the trans movement and the $330K that Joe Solmonese was paid to subvert them from all other vantage points; it is also reasonable to assume that in his current position as a program director at the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund he is in no danger needing the aid of a homeless shelter.)  And then when the ENDA hit the fan in 2007, a notorious gay male transphobe like Crain is able to accurately call out the head of the national gay rights group that claims to be trans-friendly as being a hypocrite for opposing the lie of ‘incremental progress.’

Sue Hyde signs off on a call for discrimination against transsexuals in 1977 and…

well, you know…

In 1974, Hyde cofounded Red Tomato, a production company that for eight years produced cultural events for women and lesbians in St. Louis, Missouri. Hyde relocated to Boston, Massachusetts in 1983 and became the editor of the Gay Community News, a position which she held for the next two years. In 1985, Hyde and others founded the Gay and Lesbian Defense Committee in response to Governor Michael Dukakis’ policy on foster care placements that banned same-sex couples from consideration. Hyde was hired by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in 1986, and has worked for the organization since that time.

and you really know…

For two decades, Sue Hyde has inspired and nurtured organizers and led community members to participate in democracy with the goal of securing freedom, justice and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people and their families.

She is a seasoned community organizer and advocate whose issue portfolio at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force has included repeal of sodomy laws, rescission of the military’s ban on openly gay, lesbian and bisexual servicemembers, passage of local and state civil rights laws, training leaders to effectively oppose right-wing incursions in their communities, directing the annual Creating Change Conference, and securing marriage equality for same-sex couples.

Hyde is an accomplished public speaker, teacher and writer whose wit, wisdom and wry observations of politics in these United States frame a tireless dedication to community building and an inexhaustible faith in our movement and its people. She was the recipient of the 2002 Stonewall Award in recognition of lifetime service to the LGBT political movement.

She also serves as the Task Force New England field organizer and lives in Cambridge, Mass., with her partner and their two children

Yes, an oral history interview and an NGLTF website bio that doesn’t mention that in 1977 she openly advocated for discrimination against transsexuals.

And she doesn’t appear to have ever been in need of the aid of a homeless shelter either.

Hyde responded to Marti Abernathey’s revelation that Hyde was one of the 22 lesbians who demanded that Olivia Records engage in anti-transsexual employment discrimination.

I understand and appreciate the anger that is generated by the outrageous letter to the women of Olivia Records.  It’s a personal humiliation to me that I signed such a letter, driven by ignorance and the identity politics of the time.  I am deeply regretful and sorry for my participation in the 1977 defaming of Sandy Stone and all trans people.  Nothing can make up for that kind of discrimination. But I hope that the work I have done since that time expresses my commitment to social justice and legal equality for trans sisters and brothers. I work to transform the world so that no one’s life will be diminished by gender-based and/or sexual orientation discrimination.

What about the personal suffering and misery that trans people who have been on the short end of the transphobia that metasticized throughout the gay rights industry that was in the process of professionalizing in the late 1970s?  What about the personal suffering and misery that trans people who have been denied employment inside and outside of that gay rights industry during the quarter-century that Hyde has been employed by NGLTF? What about the personal suffering of those who gave up on attempting to secure LGBT advocacy-related work when it became clear that even ‘the good organization’ had no intention of ever hiring a trans woman (and, yes, in 2001 I had a resume in at NGLTF – a resume that was given about as much consideration as a meth addict gives dental floss – but I know that even at least one trans woman attorney with far more experience than myself was given a similar mental gloss while seeking employment there at that time.)

To the readers of this post: How many people do you know (gay, trans or otherwise) who have not had to look for a job since the year that Bill Buckner let the ball go through his legs?  (Does the Massachusetts reference seem like a low blow?  Well, I could have said ‘since three years before Massachusetts gays and lesbians engineered a gay-only rights law for themselves,’ right?)

To Sue Hyde: Its not as simple as whether or not your 2011 apology for your actions in 1977 is 1000% genuine.  That is between you and your conscience – and I can think of no non-blunt way to say this: I suspect that you sleep as well every night as Joe Solmonese does, and as well as Barney Frank does, and as well as Elizabeth Birch does, and as well as Winnie Stachelberg does, and as well as Cathy Brennan does, and as well as Norah Vincent does, and as well as Victoria Brownworth does, and as well as Janice Raymond does.

Its not as simple as whether or not what you’ve done over the last quarter-century stands in opposition to what you were a signatory to in 1977.  What price have you ever paid for what you did in 1977?  What price has any of the signatories to that 1977 demand for discrimination against transsexuals – yourself, D.A. “Ollie” Oliveira, Evan Paxton, Sally Piano,  Gael Sapiro, Leni Schwendinger, Ruth Scovill, Pat Tinkler, Karla Tornella, Fran Tornabee, Lisa Vogel, Shebar Windstone, Martha Pelman, JoAnne Barry, Bobbie Birleffi, Alix Dobkin, Susan Elizabeth, Maxine Feldman, Bonnie Lockhart, Margot McFederie, Joan Medlin and Copa Mountain[looks like Copa lucked out; the scan obscures the last few letters] – ever paid for making that demand?  So far as I can tell none of you have ever paid any price – and at the very least you all were made out to be heroes (albeit not by name) by Janice Raymond in The Transsexual Empire for standing up to the howwibil, howwibul Frankensteinian transsexual horde that was demanding to be as equal in law and society as you non-transsexual lesbians were.  (Vogel’s transphobic business entity was recently defended by one of the new  generation of trans-exterminationists; is the circle ever really broken?)

You want to know what price trans people have paid for what you now profess to feel personally humiliated by after having collected a paycheck from the same employer for the last twenty-five years?

Look at the employment rolls of the various arms of Gay, Inc.

Shit, just look at the employment rolls of your own employer.

And, because there is now a new generation of trans-exterminationists polluting civil rights discourse and wallowing in fake victimhood when their targets get angry enough about what the new generation of trans-exterminationists actually have in store for transsexuals (as opposed to what they portray themselves as intending) that they say things that perhaps even the intended targets of exterminationism shouldn’t say, I need to make this crystal clear: I am neither advocating violence nor winkedly-and-noddingly saying that I’d smile if it occurred.

To the contrary…

I want all of the signatories to that 1977 demand, all of the people who capitalized on that era of transphobia and are unapolagetic, and all of the people who who hide in the plain sight of 21st Century faux-trans-inclusivity while nevertheless working to infuse trans-exterminationism into LGB(t) policy to live for a thousand years – and to never sleep a wink, tortured every minute of every night by the hopes, dreams, careers and lives that the philosophy that you signed onto in 1977 undermined, diminished, subverted and/or ended.

But I know that you, at most, will be Judah Rosenthal, who…

after the awful deed is done, he finds that he’s plagued by deep-rooted guilt. Little sparks of his religious background which he’d rejected are suddenly stirred up. He hears his father’s voice. He imagines that God is watching his every move. Suddenly, it’s not an empty universe at all, but a just and moral one, and he’s violated it. Now, he’s panic-stricken. He’s on the verge of a mental collapse-an inch away from confessing the whole thing to the police. And then one morning, he awakens. The sun is shining, his family is around him and mysteriously, the crisis has lifted. He takes his family on a vacation to Europe and as the months pass, he finds he’s not punished. In fact, he prospers. The killing gets attributed to another person-a drifter who has a number of other murders to his credit, so I mean, what the hell? One more doesn’t even matter. Now he’s scott-free. His life is completely back to normal. Back to his protected world of wealth and privilege.

You, Sue Hyde, may now, 34 years after the fact, initially be suffering from pangs of guilt (after being reminded of it by Marti Abernathey), and you may even lapse into a few fits of attempts to inflict amnesia on yourself (alcohol? whatever?).  Eventually, though, you’ll get over it and you’ll be completely back to normal, back to your protected world of Gay, Inc. privilege, just as unpunished as you have been since 1977 – while the history books place the blame for all of the 1970s lesbian-centered transphobia on Jean O’Leary, Mary Daly and Janice Raymond.

They too, though, are in reality also unpunished – even the two of the three who, in the Barry Lyndon sense, are now equal to all of the trans people who have died because of legitimized political trans-exterminationism over the last forty years.  The other?

How many people have the 22 signatories of 1977 – and those influenced by them – prevented, directly or indirectly, from ever coming close to being in a position to be anything emerita?

I hope that the work I have done since that time expresses my commitment to social justice and legal equality for trans sisters and brothers.

It expresses to me your commitment to feathering your professional nest for a quarter-century while your employer has generated a track record of non-employment of trans people that, were the issue race instead of transsexuality, would never pass disparate impact muster (while your employer’s main rhetorical competitor has employed two openly trans tokens – something that I can never decide makes it better or worse than NGLTF.)

You, the 21 other sigantories, their defenders, their apologists and those who may genuinely harbor no evil toward my people but whose civil rights psyches have been polluted indirectly by trans-exterminationism-influenced policy, created the morass of gay-led transphobic shit that trans people since the 1970s have had to fight first before ever thinking about the LGBT community as a whole – a fight which, via our mere participation in, conveniently allows you and all of those in the privileged permanent gay rights employment class to brand any trans person with any record of questioning overt institutional gay transphobia or making any suggestion that there might possibly be some gay transphobia even in the absence of anything as obvious as a 1977-style, Sister-ish manifesto as a ‘screaming tranny,’ which, of course, allows you and all of those in the privileged permanent gay rights employment class to remain in your protected world of activism wealth and permanent employment privilege.

I’ll repeat what I said above: Whether or not your 2011 apology for your actions in 1977 is 1000% genuine is between you and your conscience. 

I work to transform the world so that no one’s life will be diminished by gender-based and/or sexual orientation discrimination.

Would you like a list of all of the trans people who do so without receiving a paycheck (many bankrupting themselves in the process) but who have tried to receive a paycheck for doing so?

Or are you already at the party, fearlessly sitting next to the inebriated, heart-eviscerated Woody Allen?

The catholic church tried forgiving itself for the Inquisition.

Take a hint.

4 Responses to The Phantom Penance

  1. Juli H. Goins says:

    Hello.

    I don’t often have much to say about the decision in 2001. I came to learn around that time that the case was never about me, the individual, but I still felt like I had to absorb the brunt of backlash and appropriation by a playing field of other people. The other people have ranged the gamut of pro-trans, anti-trans, and everyone else who seems to have an opinion on the case. While many now affirm that the case was poor law, it’s still standing jurisprudence. To look at the big picture, there needs to be a focus on rectifying the future, not some feedback-loop analysis of an analysis of an analysis on misgivings, slights, and other hurts for “the community”.

    Katrina, there are limitless reasons why I really try to move past the case. The biggest one is it’s no longer relevant. It’s the past. It destroyed my young, emerging future. Yes, I understand my remark here ignores the body of your essay. Please indulge me the opportunity to say something on my own behalf.

    I don’t like my name being spoken for by anyone — whether the state of Minnesota in their policy pages, OutFront in their history pages, anonymous people on the internet who have opinions on anything and everything, or with all due respect, on the ENDAblog. In every instance, I am a signifier for other entities to advance their own ends. In every instance I’ve been made someone else’s signifier, I have also been denied my personhood — and with it, my voice.

    Since you brought up that night in December, could you allow me to speak on it, to express what I was not allowed to on that night or ever after? Could I have more than the last two or three minutes of a community townhall meeting in which everyone got to speak save me? Just once? My voice is pretty squeaky because it’s not very loud and it hasn’t been used much.

    In the long run, I was probably hurt more by the turnout of that townhall than I was even by the supreme court of Minnesota or Lewis Freeman, the HR director at West Group who cruelly started my hell to begin with. I naïvely believed I would be seeing a lot of empathetic faces that night. It was almost three months after the “war on terror” was announced, and between that, the dot-bomb recession, and my name being firebranded in the Twin Cities courtesy of the court opinion, my temp employment on which I’d relied for four years had dried up instantly. I was utterly broke, on the verge of eviction, had no food at home, and had just lost my phone service (with it, the internet, too).

    So when I was asked to be on the “after-party” panel to discuss the case with my name on it, I thought it would give me the chance to speak, to directly engage with the attendees from the panel stage, to share with them what I was experiencing being in the middle of a firing zone and what I might do next. That wasn’t what happened.

    What happened, after the talks given by my counsel, Joni Thome, and by folks from OutFront Minnesota, was a remarkable outpouring of not “Hey Juli, I’m really sorry you had to go through this and mostly on your own,” but of people’s own monologues about their life stories and workplaces (many who spoke were gainfully employed and had transitioned on the job, something I never did). We didn’t have a moderator to keep those autobiographic monologues from spiraling into several valuable minutes. We weren’t meeting to hear about life stories. We were meeting to discuss logistical questions of “where do we go from here?” I think people there forgot that what was brand new to them was over four weary years old for me.

    Another detail about that night as-yet not mentioned, but which foreshadowed the 2000s as a trans decade: all the trans women, virtually all of them a generation or more my elder, sat in the front and center section of the seating, while off to my left (and to the audience’s right) was a “peanut gallery” of mostly trans men and genderqueer bois in their early twenties. The peanut gallery was mobilized and energized by that night (and possibly by the pending John Doe v. Mpls case which concerned a trans man, on which its final decision was waiting for Goins v. West Group).

    A guy named Max invited my friend and I to tea after the townhall. It was during that tea when he came up with this idea of a trans cabaret called genderBLUR. He was inspired by my recounting of when I performed in the 1996 company which presented Kate Bornstein’s “Hidden: A Gender” play in Austin, Texas. genderBLUR seemed to really take off in 2002. In 2003, I don’t know what happened, because by then I had moved away.

    By the time I got to speak at the end of the townhall, I contained my simmering anger — the product of bottling up four years of pain (brought on by an abuse of circumstance) only to have the people who I thought were my allies to fail to affirm that pain as being there at all. No one even speculated aloud how I must have been feeling. Because I was there and was giving a human dimension to words on paper, it seemed a really good time (perhaps the only time) when people could engage me on what it was like to be in the eye of a huge storm. No one did. With three minutes at the very end to say something, I managed to find a remark about gay and lesbian people in the Twin Cities finding the TV more useful than talking about what happened. It was a case with negative outcome for them, too, but because a trans person was implicated, perhaps they felt otherwise and stay home instead of rallying to show their presence.

    Right after the townhall, I was surrounded by attendees from the front-and-center seating area. Several people from that group wanted to tell me more about their situations. The things they were sharing with me were far more appropriate for my attorney (or maybe a therapist) to hear, not me. I was no legal expert, but they were asking me for advice (or to just hear them out). I had to remain quiet because I wasn’t given the chance to say much of anything.

    I could cope with that. What I couldn’t cope with was the pattern of these trans women and questioning crossdressers never asking a single question of me along the lines of, “Hey, are you okay? Is there anything you need? You’re looking a bit gaunt. Maybe a hotdish? Uh, thank you for taking one for the team?” I guess all I wanted to hear — all I came to the meeting for — was to see the human dimension and for them to see (and hear) me. I just wanted to be acknowledged as a person. That was really about it.

    After several minutes of that belittling treatment (belittling because like a child, I wasn’t invited to speak), my friend and I ended up talking to a lot of the guys still lingering in the peanut gallery. They at least asked how I was doing, if nothing more. That’s why we got invited to tea. But after that, those guys ran with their dream and never really seemed interested to have me be a part of that building experience.

    I guess that was also frustrating because ever since I came out of the closet as transsexual (by the way, I have never called myself transgender; it was other people who always called me transgender), I always had had trans guys as friends, as well as trans women. Most of the trans women in that night’s audience seemed to have no connection at all to trans guys. Because of that, it was another thing I couldn’t connect with when talking to them: they only seemed to know each other as a kindred group of professional trans women with a lot of shared experiences I lacked (like transitioning mid-career, like being married, like being a parent, and so on).

    But after that night, a kind of sea change happened: the trans guys I knew no longer wanted to reach out to trans women unless they could be used symbolically to effect their own ends. I discovered this once again about a year later when another attorney, a trans guy named Dean Spade, sought me for an interview in a documentary he was making on trans people and restroom use. The interview I voluntarily gave was to be used in a very different context than how he had said it would be used. After viewing the production screening he sent about a year later, I felt like someone — one of my own — had driven a dagger into my heart. I cried for days, which frankly wasn’t that hard: 2003 was the year that all the momentum from the case was drained down and I was feeling really in disarray with my life plans.

    So between the townhall, the exclusion, and the sense that I was used (again) to help another’s project along, I gave up with trans activists and walked away, trying to remember how to pick back the life I had in 1997 when West Group HR singled me out and derailed me for the majority of my twenties.

    I’m sorry that went long. I’m usually fine nowadays and don’t try to think about what happened very often. I am doing better now, but it has come at great cost, isolation, and consequence to my future.

    When I read this mud being dredged up, though, I remember that those layers of mud never had my input, and it makes me hurt and angry again to be reminded that I wasn’t a person before the eyes of my employer, West Group. I wasn’t a person in the eyes of seven justices (who, during that court hearing on May 3rd, 2001, saw a bunch of trans people in the room, but they never once actually saw me or even looked at me, because somehow I was invisible to them). And worst of all, I wasn’t a person in the eyes of other trans people. I was their symbol, their object.

    Whenever I do think about these experiences (and why I try not to), all I feel is the deepest anger I’ve ever known and this (false) sense of closure I thought I had in the last decade being revealed as something else entirely, something much more nefarious. I am chained to that case for the rest of my life all because I had the gall to stay gainfully employed, to do the best job I could, and to do it with a body that was transsexual. Oops, my bad.

    If people remember nothing else about me as a person, they ought to remember this: the entire four-year experience was a constant period of trauma I have since sought treatment for: a trauma identified as the source of the post-trauma stress disorder I struggle with still. The experience made me gun-shy of trans people, gun-shy of throwing myself completely into something I enjoy doing, and gun-shy of trusting new people.
    I don’t have anything else to say. If someone trans runs into me in the future, I hope they got to read this first to understand why I gave them such a wary, mistrusting eye.

  2. […] at ENDABlog] No related content found.Transadvocate contributor: Kat  (163 […]

  3. […] openly advocating for employment discrimination against trans women does not disqualify a non-trans lesbian from perpetual employment within Gay, Inc., but having the temerity to question Gay, Inc.’s […]

  4. […] We’re looking at YOU, employee o’ NGLTF. […]

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