ESPA: Its Not Just Transphobic Anymore

Would you like fries with that?


How about some anti-semitism?

With neither Ross Levi nor the Empire State Pride Agenda board that fired him last week having much, if anything, to say publicly about the events leading to the former executive director’s March 5 dismissal….

Andrew Stern, a critic who is the chief operating officer at NARAL Pro-Choice New York, has stepped forward to say he withdrew from consideration for the post Levi assumed in May 2010 after being told by ESPA’s search firm that some board members were concerned about how well his “shticky Jewish humor” would serve the organization.

[N]o element is more disturbing that the story NARAL’s Stern tells about his experiences seeking the top job at ESPA in 2010. He first became concerned with the process, he said, when he read in the New York Post that a gay leader at the pro-choice group was among the top contenders for the position. The Post didn’t quite have the story right –– reporting that Kelli Conlin, the out lesbian who then led the group, was that candidate. Stern said it was apparent to his bosses at NARAL that he, in fact, was the gay person seeking the job, and he told the search firm he was unhappy with the breach of his confidentiality.

According to Stern, he soon after heard from an individual close to the board that search committee members expressed the view that he might be “too ethnic” to serve a statewide group effectively. When he raised that with the search firm, he said, he was told several board members thought his “shticky Jewish humor” might not go over with every audience. Offended that an ethnic slur was part of the discussion about his candidacy, Stern withdrew from contention.

Hassner and another board member, he said, left him a voicemail message to emphasize that the comments did not reflect “the values” of the ESPA board, but Stern said he did not return the call.

He acknowledged that in coming forward with the allegations, he runs the risk of looking bitter for not having gotten the job, and explained that that consideration and his unwillingness to sully either Ellner or Levi led him to remain silent in 2010. After learning of Levi’s dismissal, however, he decided that “the board’s behavior is both so despicable and emblematic of an endemic problem that I genuinely felt I had no choice but to come forward.”

One board member, speaking off the record, noting that Van Capelle, Levi, and Ellner are Jewish, cast doubt on Stern’s story, asking why he did not speak out at the time and wondering if his account weren’t simply sour grapes.

So what if they’re Jews?

Remember what the complaint actually was: He was “told by ESPA’s search firm that some board members were concerned about how well his ‘shticky Jewish humor’ would serve the organization.”

It sounds as if the translation of this is: ‘You’re too Jewish’ – which is no  less bigoted or discriminatory than an entity who says it doesn’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation allowing a hiring committee consisting of Hillary Rosen clones to collectively say, as part of a hiring search, “They’re both equally qualified, but we want Will.  Jack is too much of a fag.”

Implicit, of course, is the “Oh…that woman who was better qualified than either of them?  Our investigators learned that she’s a transsexual.  Don’t even bother calling her back.  We don’t have to anyway.   Remember?  SONDA?  Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!”

13 Responses to ESPA: Its Not Just Transphobic Anymore

  1. […] at ENDABlog] Related content: Can New York Gays Put Trans Needs Ahead of Gay Wants? Better Related Posts […]

  2. "Vic" says:

    Could an employer legally opt to hire a Will over a Jack because Will has a professional demeanor and Jack is prone to act campy and childish? Yes. Is it a good thing that the law permits this? Yes. If an ESPA candidate likes to do Jackie Mason schtick or has any other personal quirk that won’t play well with a diverse membership and donor base, then it is entirely right for ESPA to pass him over. You don’t like this not because you care about Jewish people or anyone else, but because you want to force IBM to hire bearded men in dresses as receptionists.

    You really should watch what you say about ESPA. There is something called libel, and when you take an unproven second or third-hand allegation and try to smear the whole organization as anti-semitic, you are playing with fire. We know that GID victims are mentally ill, but are they also prone to pyromania?

    • Katrina Rose says:

      You don’t like this not because you care about Jewish people….

      How do you know I’m not of Jewish background? One can be a Jew and an athiest/agnostic. Just ask Harlan Ellison.

      There is something called libel…

      There’s also a SCOTUS decision called New York Times v. Sullivan.

      Your apparent ignorance of or unwillingness to give a damn about it isn’t doing much toward convincing people that you’re not either (or both) of the Exterminationism Twins.

      • bugbrennan says:

        Otto Cordray. That sounds not Jewish.

      • friday jones says:

        Neither is Sammy Davis Jr., you creepy-crawly little Bug, you. Neither is Moe or Jerome Howard. Lots of Jewish people have names that don’t sound Jewish. Could this be some more of that New England anti-semitism rearing its ugly ugly head? For shame, Buggy One! For shame!

    • valeriekeefe says:

      And this is what we get in a world where professional is conflated with heteronormative and cisnormative, willful little bigots like the desperate spinner I saw in the documentary Gay Republicans trying to ingratiate themselves by making excuses for bigotry, by trying to earn plaudits as ‘one of the good ones.’

      Go find your master’s lap, Puppy.

      I’m going to be here fighting for a far wider circle of people and rights, including the campy Texan that you never had any interest in giving half-a-bowel-movement’s worth of concern for.

  3. valeriekeefe says:

    As Vic demonstrates, this is what Mattachine tactics yield: Not acceptance but scraping.

  4. friday jones says:

    Oy vey, Vic is so meshuggah that he gives me a pain in the kepis. What a schmuck, with a punum like a tuchus.

  5. Diva O' Depravity says:

    Vic, are you gay?

  6. Katrina Rose says:

    What do you call a sock with three puppets?

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