Barney Frank, that’s not what I call an inclusive ENDA

Representative Barney Frank spoke with Roll Call recently about the prospects of passing a transgender inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the House this year. Frank was optimistic, that is if you ignore the word “inclusive”:

…Frank said that he is optimistic about the vote count and that transgender protections will remain in the bill.
“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 the protections will only exist for transgender folks who have had sex reassignment surgery? Many transgender folks opt not to have any type of bottom surgery. Many more simply cannot afford or access the procedures. And then there are all the folks who plan to have the procedure at some point but haven’t been able to yet. Will intersex folks also have to have genitals that fit into Rep. Frank’s acceptable binary boxes?
Many many folks who may or may not identify as transgender but fit under the broadly defined political umbrella do not have “consistent gender presentations.” They may identify as transgender, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, two spirit, drag kings and queens, crossdressers, none, or many of the above. Regardless, all these people experience the brunt of our culture’s gender-based discrimination for breaking the rules of the very narrowly defined compulsory gender binary. Everyone with a non-normative gender identity or presentation should be covered by ENDA. All of them may need and certainly deserve protection. And all should be afforded the basic right to pee.

An ENDA that is explicitly designed to exclude many transgender and gender non-conforming folks is not inclusive. An ENDA that is shaped to only protect those who conform most to non-transgender folks’ understanding of an acceptable transgender person is not inclusive. An ENDA seemingly designed to create division and exclusion within our community is not inclusive.
It’s a shame when gay folks who are otherwise privileged – in Rep. Frank’s case he’s a white, cisgender male, rich politician – end up putting forward political positions and policy that totally screws the most marginalized in our community.
The clear goal for ENDA this year, following the disastrous removal of protections for gender identity last time around, is to put forward and pass an inclusive bill. I committed to supporting an inclusive ENDA at the beginning of this process, and that is precisely what I will support.
You can let Barney Frank know a full beard and a dress gets you hot (or that ENDA should be genuinely inclusive, either way) by contacting him here.
h/t Sadie-Ryanne

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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  • wer

    wow. well i just got off the phone with barney franks’ trans aide. terrifying! i shared my concerns about how this bill excludes gender-fluid, gender-varient and some genderqueer people under the law, and he said that “there are social rules people have to play by” and gender fluid people “can’t just use a men’s bathroom one day and a woman’s bathroom the next day” GARBAGE! i told him it was ridiculous that this bill is being framed around cis folks comfort levels with trans people, he said most people don’t even know what that word means and if it included protections for gender fluid folks it would never pass. also he said that “you don’t see many 80 year old gender fluid folks around and when you get older people pick a gender” !!!!!! AAAAAHHHHH
    also, they are framing the bill on the americans with disabilities act, where employers will have to make reasonable accommodations for trans folk, interesting.

  • Bridgette

    I was especially disturbed by the bathroom language in this. I’m sorry, but that is just asking for a heap of trouble down the road.
    I was sort of lucky. The place I first began my transition had a unisex bathroom. Of course, it was halfway across campus and meant a long walk there and back in order to make sure that the women on campus were not upset by me using the lady’s room. On Saturdays, I was more than welcome to use the Faculty restrooms, though.
    It was still humiliating and degrading. I went along with it because I did not want to lose my job. I later moved back to Vermont where very few remember the little boy I use to be and no one cares if I use the lady’s room anyway.
    I am curious about something because I have found a paucity of reliable information on this, what are the differences between transgender, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, and two spirit?

  • TB

    outrageous. i’m too angry to even write a coherent comment. i hope the community gives barney a thorough filleting and that it’s not too late to do something about this bullshit capitulation of rights to the “moderates.”

  • Audentia

    (From the article)
    “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.”
    WTF? We call them the “ladies’ room” and “men’s room,” not the “vagina room” and “penis room.”
    I am now envisioning a world in which cartoon drawings of anatomy replace the stick figure and stick figure with skirt as door markers. Also, how would these, um, requirement for bathroom usage be verified?

  • Sex Toy James

    So, he made some concessions to the bathroom worriers and failed to account for every gender presentation preference in order to get together a bill that can pass. People are angry because he didn’t stick to a hard uncompromising line, possibly dooming the bill, and thus leaving gay and transgender people unprotected. Somehow I just can’t get on the angry train. This looks to me like a good start. It also looks like it might protect a majority of trans people in work places.
    As for bathroom rights, does anyone enforce bathroom rights? It’s not like women don’t ever sneak into the men’s room when there’s a line at the women’s room. Do people call the cops on that? I can’t see that being that big of an issue.
    If they didn’t have the consistency rules then it could be abused for all kinds of hijinks. Work places aren’t about to give up dictating dress codes. I know what he’s talking about with the dress and full beard. I’ve done that, with a short skirt too, low cut top all showin’ off my chest hair. It’s an assault on the eyes, and not the least bit feminine. So yeah, I can see how they’re all paranoid about letting go of control over dress codes.
    It sounds like this bill protects a lot of people, and might just be a stepping stone to better things.

  • Comrade Kevin

    Partially I think this a generational issue as well. The mother of one of my dear friends, who is one of the strongest allies imaginable, had the hardest time wrapping her mind around the idea of bisexual as legitimate sexual orientation, not just confusion.
    But certainly one would hope Barney Frank would have educated himself on trans matters by now.

  • mamram

    I am cisfemale, but I’m pretty hairy. Hairy arms, hairy back, and ok, let’s face it, I have a beard. But somehow I doubt that Barney Frank would have a problem with my using a women’s restroom, even if I were wearing a dress. He thinks he can make this about gender fluidity—which would be politically viable because most Americans think that’s yucky— but this is really another set of rules that only apply to transsexual people. It’s still discrimination, Barney.

  • makomk

    Somehow I just can’t get on the angry train. This looks to me like a good start
    And in a few years, it’ll look like a bad end – bills like these never get revisited to include trans people. The same has happened with previous laws. There just isn’t the political will to go back and fix it later – which shouldn’t be surprising, as this requires more effort than just getting it right in the first place and we’re clearly failing at that.

  • makomk

    I just know, based on having seen previous threads on the topic, that a bunch of Feministing regulars are writing in right now in support of these restrictions.

  • corinna

    The people you identify as women sneaking into the men’s bathroom when there’s no line probably aren’t trans or if they are, people don’t notice. When I use the men’s room to avoid a line it’s like “hey, it’s not fair that because I present as a woman and have a vagina, I have to wait SO long and you don’t, so I’m evening out our unequal bathroom experience.” In this scenario, there’s usually a swarm of women around who empathize and any fear of retaliation is minimized by their presence (strength in numbers).
    Transphobic harassment and violence in bathrooms is far more dangerous than the risk I’m taking. (This might be a larger conversation about the threat to the patriarchy posed by varying degrees of gender variance/queerness/transcendence vs. those of us identified to fit into the binary.) Don’t people remember the transman who got hauled out of a Grand Central Station bathroom by the NYPD after some HUGE anti-war or anti-corporate globalization march? People need safety and justice in all spaces, especially bathrooms.
    Re: the workplace dress code and your hairy chest in your low-cut shirt, discrimination based on people’s general style and taste is not codified by law. Personally I think wearing hiking sandals to work is far more offensive than what you wore, but that’s my personal opinion and no one is criminalized for it.
    Lastly, a bit of activist advice if you’ll take it: if you’re not in the targeted/oppressed/marginalized group calling out injustice, it’s best not to tell people they shouldn’t be angry and should be thankful for the scraps of rights they’re getting. Stand in solidarity with folks by not invalidating their real concerns. We’ve got a lot to learn from each other, especially people with different lived experiences than us.

  • Ellie

    I really don’t get how this can be applied… I mean, as a non-op trans girl who used not to care much about the gender of the bathroom I used:
    – the last time I tried to go to a men’s bathroom, I was told “excuse me lady, but women’s bathroom is there”.
    – the time before that, when I went out, a guy saw me and therefore went to the women’s bathroom supposing it was the men’s… so it looks like it wasn’t the good solution for avoiding “men in women’s bathroom” :)
    I mean, even if you look only at the cis people’s confort, it looks like using the bathroom which is supposed to “match” my genitals is not exactly the best way…

  • Zoe Brain

    There’s already been one case where a trans woman was required by an employer to provide photos of her genitalia.
    The Religious Right are going to have a field day with this – “Bill requires all employees genitals to be inspected”. Otherwise how to enforce it, Barney?

  • Sex Toy James

    I didn’t mean to dismiss the problems in the bill, and maybe I’m missing out on the context. I thought that the current case was that you could be fired for being gay or trans without recourse. If a politician pushes to end that situation, but they have to make some compromises to do it, and those compromises are the difference between the bill passing and not passing, I’m not going to get upset at them for accepting those compromises. The difference between “Yes, I’m trans, who here cares which bathroom I use?” and “Yes I’m trans, please don’t fire me.” seem pretty significant to me. If refusing to compromise with moderates means that trans and gay people get no protection, then that doesn’t seem all that productive. So I’m not dismissing their experience, but just being practical and not demonizing the politician who’s insisting that trans people be included in ENDA.
    I understand that others have had very different experiences, but I’m not saying that they should be happy with the rights they have, but that they should embrace the biggest step forward they can get now, and then push for more later.

  • LadyPolitik

    Why don’t we convert all bathrooms to be unisex? Bathrooms are unisex in our homes aren’t they?