Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Barney Frank: Stop the Scapegoating!

Last night, Congressman Barney Frank made a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives. It seems he got my previous letter . In an eloquent flurry, he blamed the 300 plus LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) groups who have signed on to leave ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) inclusive of Transgender people.

Seems we’ve touched a nerve.

“What I am sure about this place is this: if we listen to the most dedicated, most zealous believers in purity and kill this bill that would be such a great advance in civil rights, we will be a long time in getting back to anything. People who think that if they are successful in killing this one and in attacking people and demonizing people who want to deliver, as part of a movement, this big advance that they will then be able to get more than that live in Oz, in not only a fantasy world but a nonexistent fantasy world and a dream. It simply will not happen.” Barney Frank, last night on Capitol Hill.

Congressman Frank? I am not a zealot or a fanatic. I’m a suburban lesbian housewife. I have three kids. I drive a Volvo station wagon with about 100,000 miles on it from my treks to and from grocery stores, soccer games and my kid’s schools. I don’t demonize people but I do have high standards of those who are suppose to be my representatives in the political process.

I have six loads of dirty laundry waiting for me in the basement. I definitely don’t live in Oz.

You, however, are right about one thing. The more time you spend on Capitol Hill, the further out of touch with the community you have become. That’s not an attack, Congressman, but an observation. Would it be a great advance for civil rights if only gay men were covered? Or just lesbians? Why not cut out Bisexuals because half the time they are invisible, so why bother with language that might make people nervous?

Congressman Frank, I don’t want to be accused of “killing” or “attacking” anyone, especially not you. You have represented me well for the last 22 years (I am aware you’ve served for 27, I did not live in your district then), and I am proud to pull the lever every election for you. It is hard, however, to remain civil in a discussion about leaving people behind. Who gets to choose?

“Now, the notion that you do not pass an anti discrimination bill protecting large numbers of people until you can protect everybody, in my judgment, is flawed, morally and politically. It is flawed morally because I am here to help people in need. That's why I serve in this job. “ Barney Frank.

It seems you get to choose who gets left behind. Someone commented recently that in Congress, you have to make “Sophie’s Choice” every day. Whether it’s immigrant children for the CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) plan or Transgender people for ENDA. I hear your outrage at being challenged on this particular choice. But the reality for me is, I won’t make that choice. That you will is a political decision, no question but I’m going to push hard on the morality of it.

In the movie, Sophie’s Choice, the main character has to choose between one of her children, forced by a Nazi guard. She must choose or they both will die. Is that the choice we are facing today, Congressman? Are we facing a signed bill, passed by the Senate with President Bush’s signature or nothing at all? Is that the truth?

I don’t think so. In fact, you said last night that we are going to lose.

“Now, I said we're going to lose. I hope I'm wrong. After we did our count and found that we didn't have the votes, all of a sudden, the cavalry mounted up. But they're coming from a long distance. I have been pleading with people in the gay and lesbian and bisexual and transgender communities to lobby for us.” Barney Frank.

I’m here. I’m ready. Others are here and ready too. But I cannot lobby for a bill that doesn’t include everyone. I won’t. You can call me whatever names you want to call me. You can challenge the morality of my position and tell me I live in a fantasy land. The infighting is a publicity nightmare for our community and I wish it would stop as much as you do.

But not at the cost of others. Especially when there isn’t a real choice being made- millions of people aren’t being denied protections, rather thousands being blamed for being too difficult to discuss.

Can we stop the scapegoating and work together? Please? Tell me what to do. Tell me the people I need to talk to. Tell me if we need a fifty state delegation of Transgender folks to come talk to representatives. Tell me positives steps I can make. I want to work with you.

I don’t want to choose between you and the Transgender community. That really would be a “Sophie’s Choice.”


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