Marc Solomon’s argument against a United ENDA is right on one point: legislative politics is often about achieving compromise. It’s understandable that this would be the case since multiple facets of an issue are involved. It’s hard to accommodate each group whose opposition might be based on any number of financial, ethical, policy, or hundreds of other considerations. Plus, getting Congress to pass anything remotely protecting queer rights is incredibly difficult. Still, I steadfastly agree that a United ENDA is the only acceptable choice.
After decades of working to define ourselves, our community adopted the inclusive initials: LGBT. Whether or not a majority of queers took a vote on this, it is how we have come to define ourselves in the world. I believe that, for the majority of us, it represents more than just a symbolic collection of letters that we display in rainbow colors on Pride weekend. Nor is it merely a quick way for the press to identify us without having to go speak or spell out each of these identities. ‘LGBT’ defines the inclusivity of our community. It tells the world that we’re a diverse, complex and unique community that can’t easily be placed in a stereotypical box. But how much pride can we honestly feel if we don’t embrace a significant segment of our community? And how do we leave transgenders out of a job discrimination bill that would have the greatest impact on them? How do we legitimately call ourselves a community if we allow our collective interests to be expediently compromised away so that some of us can get our piece of the pie? We’re not talking about degrees of compromise. We’re not talking about decreasing the amount of money or percentages of affordable housing or differences in the number of votes or public notices that must be obtained. We’re talking about consciously omitting whole segments of our community. For me, agreeing to leave the transgender community out of ENDA would amount to selling our collective queer soul.
No one disputes that politics is a blood sport. Sacrifices do need to be made. I’m enough of a realist to know you have to act strategically, and rarely do you get everything you fight for. But our political “successes” cannot simultaneously support us and divide us lest unless we’re willing to be accountable for creating a divided community. Our successes should be defined by the ways in which we stand tall, honorably and ethically, as a single community, whether we win or lose any given battle. If we don’t, we are all vulnerable to divide and conquer tactics. We stand to lose sight of what holds us together as a community.
Segmenting out those groups that are less palatable to mainstream America dishonors us all as a community. It tells the world that we’re open to appeasing their homophobia. That Congress was willing to accept the faggots and bulldykes if we agreed to dump the freaks isn’t my idea of a success story.
We will win freedom from discrimination in the workplace when our entire community is represented, not simply those Congress chooses to tolerate. Until then, it’s neither ego, hypocrisy nor political naivete that makes so many members of the LGBT community want a United ENDA, it’s pride. And none of us are disposable.
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