While many LGBT rights activists were celebrating the recent U.S. Supreme Court hearings on California's Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, transman Bryan Ellicott came away with a very different experience from the rally and march outside of the court.
Ellicott, in an op-ed piece posted yesterday at The New Civil Rights Movement, tells the story of harassment by Human Rights Campaign members and other attendees of the rally and accuses the HRC of purposefully discouraging trans participation during the rally.
While standing with GetEQUAL activists, I became a target by HRC staff member Karin Quimby, who told me to remove the Trans Pride flag I was holding near the rally stage.
Interestingly, she did not initially know that the flag I was holding was a Trans Pride flag.
Ms. Quimby asked me, aggressively, “What flag is this?” When I told her it was the Trans Pride Flag she said, “This [rally] is about marriage equality, this is not about the trans community.”
Moments later she came back to where I was standing and continued, “You know what, you guys need to focus on what you need to do. We [HRC] are the organization that makes things happen.”
Two more times I was approached by HRC staff members who asked me to remove the flag.
I was shocked by these actions and comments and asked those around me if they could believe what had just been said to me. The reason for us being at the Supreme Court was to show our unity toward the ultimate goal of marriage equality for all people and certainly not to exclude trans people.
Organizers behind the rally issued an apology over the flag issue and for asking a speakers to not mention his undocumented immigration status. HRC issued its own statement April 1.
“HRC regrets the incidents and offers our apologies to those who were hurt by our actions. We failed to live up to the high standard to which we hold ourselves accountable and we will strive to do better in the future. Through both our legislative and programmatic work, HRC remains committed to making transgender equality a reality,” said Fred Sainz, HRC vice president for communications and marketing.
The incident, Ellicott writes, gives HRC the opportunity to recommit itself to trans issues and offers these four bullet points of how it can do just that:
An HRC pledge to support trans related issues comprehensively throughout its organizational goals and objectives, including a commitment to hire trans staff members for a more diverse workforce at the country’s largest LGBT advocacy organization.
Commit to supporting anti-trans discrimination at the federal level and support passage of a gender identity inclusive ENDA bill in Congress;
HRC must support local efforts across the country to defeat anti-trans legislation including the Arizona Anti-Trans Bathroom bill and support efforts of the LGBTQ community of New York to pass the New York State Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act (GENDA);
Invite the Trans community to be official participants in future rallies and be included in the planning of future organized rallies and related activities.
This is not the first time the Human Rights Campaign has come under fire over trans issues. Several HRC gala events have been protested by trans-activists in recent years over the HRC’s push for a non-trans inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act in 2007, although HRC has supported an inclusive ENDA since then.