Ladies, gentlemen, those otherwise identified: the most obstinate, most forceful antagonist of trans rights among purported LGBT-rights supporters in the United States Congress will not be returning to serve another term. I wish I could be remotely as effusive as the president, who said, "He has stood up for the rights of LGBT Americans and fought to end discrimination against them."
He hasn't. He's stood up for the rights of some Americans who fall into that acronym. Cis gay and lesbian Americans had his tireless advocacy in guaranteeing them the right to serve in uniform, while trans servicemen and women are still subject to medical discharge for the inexorable sin of seeking treatment.
In 2007 he fought for an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that specifically excluded trans people, when he knew the bill was going to be vetoed by President Bush at any rate. After the massive blowback from the LGBT community (as opposed to those whose interests don't actually cover that whole gamut) ensued, he proposed, in the 111th congress, an Employment Non-Discrimination Act that proposed that some trans people, those a little more cisnormative, be more equal than others. As reported by Karen Ocamb:
"There's no chance of doing it without it," he said of the transgender protections.
Frank said he's told wavering Democrats that "the principle is the same. It's discrimination."
He said concessions were made in the drafting of the language to address moderates' concerns. For instance, Frank said, transgender people with "one set of genitals" would not be able to go to a bathroom for people with another set of genitals.
And, Frank said, they also would have to have a "consistent gender presentation" in order to be able to sue for discrimination.
"They can't sit there with a full beard and a dress," Frank said.
So, having floated this bill, which was going to, essentially, make basic human rights and public accommodations for trans people dependent on surgery, and having again received a backlash from the broader LGBT community, the bill died in committee, its key mover having lost interest. The representative's actions couldn't be any more bald-faced if he had tried.
So, considering his record, it's safe to say that Barney Frank repeatedly scuttled the trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and supported compromises that would have entirely excluded trans people, or nominally included trans people while specifically allowing bathroom discrimination against trans people. Without bathroom access, employment protections are a farce. We've been there before.
Jesse Helms insisted on compromises that have excluded trans people with disabilities from the Americans with Disability Act and defamed trans people in the text of the law. All these exceptions and exclusions and compromises only support discrimination, while many trans people face unemployment, homelessness, police harassment, and violence. What if the Civil Rights Act had specifically permitted segregation, and specified, in detail, how government and business could legally discriminate on the basis of race? That's what Frank's bathroom compromises amounted to. And he should not be considered a hero to the LGBT community as a result.
He ought to have known better, and the president ought to have, as well.
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