As you know, I haven't been blogging much and people "in the know" have probably also noticed that I've been staying away from the ENDA fight - as big as pissing match as it's become (if you have to ask, Google the words "transgender" and "ENDA" and hit the 'News' button or - better yet! - simply click here).
Well, staying away no longer! Since this whole shindig began I was a bit frustrated that the Latino LGBT leadership in the US didn't have a voice in this but, then again, I figured it was up to the younger generations to stand up if they wanted a say. Ultimately - as Al Pacino said in The Godfather, Part 3 - "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!"
Last week, in the wake of the fight that erupted after the Washington Blade revealed that Congressman Barney Frank (a personal hero) had introduced a transgender-less ENDA bill (arguing that there weren't enough votes for a trans-inclusive bill and that it was better to go with an allegedly winnable trans-less bill), my good friend Gloria Nieto from California (Miss Wild Thing, if you're nasty) reached out to me and asked if we should do something. I said yes but quickly became embroiled in work deadlines.
But yesterday came word that the bill would be marked up for a House vote today and - heck! - why not act?
So taking inspiration from another personal hero (Steven Goldstein from Garden State Equality in New Jersey and a letter he sent sent to NJ legislators) I quickly drafted a letter to California Congresswoman Linda T. Sanchez, at Gloria's suggestion, and within a couple of hours gathered an impressive list of co-signers. Here is the letter we sent last night:
AN URGENT LETTER TO CONGRESSWOMAN LINDA T. SANCHEZSo that was the letter. And, today, a committee vote did indeed come and I am happy to say that, while the trans-less bill was sent out of committee for a full House vote, Congresswoman Sanchez was one of four Democrat Congresspersons to state that they were against stripping trans protections from ENDA (a Latina woman at that!). Incidentally, Brooklyn representative Yvette Clarke, an African-American woman, was also one of those four.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Dear Congresswoman Sanchez:
The U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, on which you serve, is scheduled to vote within the next two days on H.R. 3685, the version of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) that excludes gender identity protection.
As leaders of the Latino lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community throughout the United States we respectfully ask you to vote against approval and – instead - insist on a committee vote in favor of H.R. 2015, the version of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act ( of this version of ENDAENDA) that includes gender identity protections which would make employment discrimination against transgender people illegal.
You might be aware that these bills have drawn a tremendous response from various local and national LGBT organizations and leaders - as well as non-gay allies – who overwhelmingly recognize that stripping away gender identity language from ENDA would leave the transgender community without protections against discrimination.
And, as often is the case in the Latino community, the heated dialogue that has ensued might be considered by some as something that might pertain to the LGBT community but might not be of concern to Latinos living in the United States.
Those of us who have signed this letter, believe nothing could be further from the truth.
Over the last few decades, the LGBT movement in the United States certainly has made tremendous strides towards being recognized as equal citizens and yet, what is little known is that the Latino LGBT community and our Latino straight allies have been an integral part of this civil rights movement.
During the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, seen now as the launch of the modern gay rights movement, Sylvia Rivera emerged as one of the key figures standing up to discrimination during those fateful nights, along with other Latina women who happened to be transgender.
And, while it is unarguable that the general environment for gays and lesbians has greatly improved since the Stonewall Riots, thanks in no small part to Sylvia and other Latino transgender heroes, the same cannot be said for transgender people who are probably almost as vulnerable today as they were then.
Some in the gay community have argued that the ‘T’ as in “transgender” is not part of the gay community but, if you really think about it, when people discriminate against a person based on their perceptions of who we are as gays and lesbians, their discrimination is often based on their perception of gender roles and not only sexual orientation.
This is particularly true of the Latino community which often confuses the issues of gender with sexual orientation as if they were interchangeable. Spanish language newspapers and television news often refer to transgender individuals as gays and gay Latinos are often asked what their gender role is in bed – whether a gay man is a “woman” in bed or a lesbian woman is “a man” – which speaks to how these issues are sometimes seen in the general Latino community.
Furthermore, for those of us who are transgender, have transgender friends and/or work with transgender communities, we are direct witnesses to how vulnerable the community is to being discriminated particularly in gaining employment.
For these and many other reasons, we know that it would be unconscionable to pass an ENDA bill that leaves the transgender community – and the Latino transgender community in particular – behind.
On behalf of the Latino LGBT leaders listed below in alphabetical order, we look forward to hearing from you. If you need additional information or would like to ask questions about this statement, please contact me at *****.
Sincerely, Gloria Nieto
* Noel Alicea, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, New York, NY
* Marta Donayre, Love Sees No Borders, Sunnyvale, CA
* Andrés Duque, Mano a Mano, New York, NY
* Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano, ALLGO statewide people of color organization, Austin, TX
* Nila Marrone, LATINO PFLAG - NYC, PFLAG for Families of Color and Allies in NYC (PFLAG is an acronym for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
* Lisbeth Melendez, political consultant, Washington, DC
* Gloria Nieto, former member of the Democratic National Committee, San Francisco, CA
* Pedro Julio Serrano, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Washington, DC
* Herb Sosa, Unity Coalition/Coalicion Unida, Miami, FL
* NOTE: Affiliations appear for identification purposes only, signatures do not imply that those affiliations endorse this letter unless otherwise indicated.
Sanchez released the following press release this afternoon:
FROM THE OFFICE OF LINDA T. SÁNCHEZStill, the transgender-less bill now moves ahead to a House vote. Representative Tammy Baldwin says that she will introduce and amendment that would restore the gender identity provision that was removed a couple of weeks ago but it's unclear if this will be successful.
Representing California’s 39th District
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 18, 2007
LINDA SÁNCHEZ votes against narrow version of EMPLOYMENT NON-DISCRIMINATION ACT
Congresswoman calls for inclusion of gender identity protections
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Linda Sánchez (D-Lakewood) issued the following statement when casting her vote today in the House Committee on Education and Labor against H.R. 3685, a narrow version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that excludes protections based on gender identity. Congresswoman Sánchez is an original cosponsor of H.R. 2015, the original version of ENDA that was introduced earlier this year and prohibits workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Congresswoman Sánchez joined three other Democrats in opposing H.R.3685 for similar reasons. The bill won approval by the Committee and is expected on the House floor next week. Congresswoman Sánchez is actively working to rally support for an anticipated amendment by Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) to add gender identity protections into the legislation.
“I am pleased that last month, the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions held a hearing on H.R. 2015, the original version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that was introduced earlier this year. I am a proud original cosponsor of that bill, which would prohibit workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“I am disappointed that we're not marking up that bill today. Instead, we have a narrower, less inclusive version of the bill, which does not include gender identity.
“In the opening statement I submitted at last month's hearing, I said I was proud that as a member of this Committee, I was able to help make our employment laws consistent with our values.
“Unfortunately, this bill does not go far enough to enshrine American values into law because it fails to include protections to those who arguably need it most: transgender people, as well as those who don't conform to gender stereotypes. These are the most vulnerable people we sought to protect in H.R. 2015, the fully inclusive ENDA.
“I believe I am correct to say that it is an American value that it is unacceptable to deny someone a job, a raise, or a promotion for arbitrary factors beyond their job performance. And that is a value that holds true regardless of the worker’s real or perceived gender identity."