Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Education of a Different Kind

I have written about my presentations at UNCC. Those are admittedly done before a somewhat willing and impressionable audience. It is a form of outreach that is both rewarding and honorable. What do you do though when there is no classroom? When you need to educate already intelligent and successful adults? How do you get the word out about a truly pressing issue?

This past Saturday, I assisted in handing out leaflets outside the HRC Gala at the Charlotte Convention Center. Called an educational initiative and organized by Angela Brightfeather from Raleigh, NC, and Monica Helms from Atlanta, Ga, it was designed to enlighten members of the GLBT community about employment issues and the ENDA bill. It seemed appropriate that this came on my tenth anniversary at Kappa Beta. I along with several of my KB sisters stepped out in a larger way. I couldn't have been more proud of Pam, Tammy, and Trish for their efforts. Also thanks goes to a young gentleman named Scott who attended the gala and then joined us afterwards.

You may recall that I attended the HRC Gala a year ago along with thirteen of my TG sisters. We had such high hopes that night. We had even planned to increase the TG attendance at the gala until the fiasco last October. The funny thing is I am still filled with hope, but we will have to proceed with a different gameplan. I sensed that most attendees from this year's and last year's gala are supportive of the TG community. The problem as always is politics, and the best way to affect change is to talk. We talk to them. They talk to the leaders of HRC. As some point, the message gets filtered by the time it reaches the top. That's one reason why the effort must be constant.

I have said many times that I am an activist of a different kind by simply being out and about. I leave the lobbying to the professionals. However that does not mean I can't be a foot soldier from time to time. Bodies are always needed, and I was happy to be one Saturday night.

What follows is Angela's Brightfeather's press release:

From: It's Time-North Carolina
Please pass along to all lists.

February 18, 2008

Report on the Educational Initiative in Charlotte, NC

On Saturday, February 16th, Transgender activists in North Carolina gathered in Charlotte, NC at the convention center in the downtown area and at the Westin Inn across the street, to conduct an Educational Initiative against the Human Rights Campaign during their largest fund raising event in North and South Carolina called the Gala Dinner. The action was taken to protest the role of HRC and their participation in the removal of Transgender protections from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, commonly referred to as ENDA.

After four years of being included in the ENDA legislation, Transgender language was stripped from the latest version that was voted on and which passed the U.S. Congress in October of '07. This was due to the political maneuvering efforts of Congressman Barney Frank (D. MA), who for years has insisted that gender inclusive legislation was bound to fail. The complicity and approval of HRC who had promised to support only gender inclusive legislation and then flip flopped on that position due to suggestions from Congressman Frank that HRC's future participation and influence in GLBT legislation might be lessened if they were not agreeable to his strategy of "incrementalism" regarding Transgender protections has angered Transgender activists.

Before the Gala Dinner held in the evening, HRC conducted a leadership workshop for students at UNC-Charlotte Student Pride that ran from the morning into the afternoon. Transgender activists from Raleigh and Charlotte, NC and Atlanta, GA were invited to address the students for an hour during the workshop, discussing the impact of HRC's actions since March of 2007, when Transgender lobbying efforts in Washington, DC first found out from congressional offices, that support for a inclusive ENDA was being eroded. They presented a timeline of actions that led to the removal of gender inclusive legislation by Congressman Frank and the reasons why HRC felt compelled to join Frank in the act of marginalizing the Trans community from the legislation, by using misleading polls and by threatening Congressional leaders with bad "report cards" from HRC in the face of a critical upcoming election year in 2008.

Later in the evening after the Gala dinner, activists distributed over 900 leaflets to attendees leaving the dinner. Many of the attendees took the time to stop and talk with activists to tell them that they strongly objected to HRC's position on ENDA and understand the seriousness of it to the Transgender community. Many of the attendees already knew that Trans-activists would be present during the dinner due to a well published story in Q-Notes, the leading GLBT publication read by many in the Carolinas. Many of the attendees thanked the activists for being there.

After the guests left the convention center and returned to the host hotel across the street, many sought out the Transgender Hospitality Suite in the hotel, where it was standing room only while enjoying after dinner coffee and conversation about their concerns regarding HRC's position on ENDA and their agreeing to eliminate the gender portions of the legislation. Reverend Jimmy Creech, a well known and respected GLBT leader in the Carolinas and known nationally for his support of GLBT issues and the recipient of Leadership Awards from HRC, discussed some of the significant effects of HRC's actions against the transgender community and it's exclusion in ENDA and the role that Congressman Frank played in that process, with Angela Brightfeather, the State Director of It's Time-North Carolina who was the organizer and sponsor of the educational initiative.

Reverend Creech sincerely questioned exactly what it is that the transgender community needed people like himself to do to assist them. Angela Brightfeather noted that they need to study the fliers that were handed out at the dinner and confront the HRC Board of Directors that they know and who they have contact with about that information and make them aware that they risk their future support if they do not support an inclusive ENDA in 2009 when it will probably be introduced in the U.S. Senate by it's leading sponsor Senator Ted Kennedy. It was noted that their very questioning of the "theory of incrementalism" as mandated by Congressman Frank and HRC will mean that HRC is out of step with their own membership; a bad situation for HRC who depends on their members for donations and operating expenses.

It was also noted that no HRC employees, staff or Joe Solomonese, who was in attendance at the Gala was seen or visited the Transgender Hospitality Suite to talk with people there.

It's Time-North Carolina wishes to thank those who worked on behalf of the Transgender Community in the Carolinas, many of them coming from local support groups in the Charlotte area and notes that the funny little secret about educational initiatives that have been held is that they instead of dividing the GLBT community, do exactly to opposite and draw on the common concerns and feelings that GLBT people have for one another, along with being fun and enjoyable.

Angela Brightfeather, State Director
It's Time North Carolina

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