A few months ago, I wrote that there were three major bills that would create fairness and equality for all Americans, including those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. Since then, one of them has passed both the House and the Senate, another has been watered down, and the third has yet to see any action.

First, I want to thank all of the 237 Congress members and 60 Senators (of course, Foot-Tappin’ Larry Craig wasn’t one of them) who voted for the bill. It cleared both houses with healthy majorities, and is now on the way to President Bush’s desk. Alas, Bush has threatened to veto the bill. As expected, neither Bob Corker nor Lamar Alexander voted for the bill.

This bill, if signed, will provide Federal assistance to local and state jurisdictions who are unable or unwilling to investigate and prosecute hate crimes (think Mississippi Burning) and reaffirms sexual orientation as a protected class, while adding gender identity to the list.

The hate crimes bill wasn’t an easy victory for Democrats and GLBT activists, but it was a good one. The fact that both the House and Senate passed it so strongly with several republicans supporting the bill tells us that we are moving into an era where fairness and hope are indeed a part of the American dream.

The bill that has yet to see any action is the proposed bill to bring an end to the abysmal failure that we call “Don’t-Ask, Don’t-Tell, Don’t-Pursue” law that allows gays to serve in the military as long as they don’t come out. I expect to see action on this after the 2008 election. Of course, there are plenty who oppose this bill, including Concerned “Woman” for America Matt Barber, who claimed that “the military is no place for radical social experimentation.” It’s strange that Dwight Eisenhower disagreed by ordering racial integration in the military long before the Civil Rights movement began. That was pretty radical, wasn’t it?

However, myths, disinformation, fear, and misunderstandings have plagued all three of these bills. Thankfully, the first two have a strong possibility of becoming law in the next couple of years. The third, well, that’s another story.

The Equal Employment Non-Discrimination Act has been a long time coming, and would have provided protections for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Thankfully, much of Corporate America has already established their own nondiscrimination clauses which protect their GLBT employees. Most smaller businesses, however, have not.

ENDA, as the bill is known, has been hit with some bizarre claims and some startling criticisms. Most of it focuses on the phrase “gender identity.” I’m used to people attacking gays and lesbians, but this outright assault for people who have a legitimate psychological disorder (the only disorder which actually has a clinical cure, by the way) is just as staggering as it is infuriating.

Some of the most virulent language came from the aforementioned Matt Barber, policy director for Concerned Women for America. Barber wrote his definition of gender identity:

Sean was a burly truck driver. Growing up, he always felt something was wrong. He preferred Barbie to G.I. Joe and didn’t like football or the other things boys were supposed to like. Rather, he got twitterpated by the way pantyhose felt against his skin and eventually made the self-determination that he was, in fact, a woman trapped in a man’s body.

There were others who felt the same way, and a movement was formed. They called themselves “transgender.” They made up fancy, official sounding terms like “gender identity” and “gender reassignment surgery” and demanded they be granted special rights and government-mandated benefits.

Now, I don’t know what “twitterpated” means. But Barber’s obvious lack of understanding of gender identity disorder is as staggering as it is revealing. First of all, a person who is transgender doesn’t get their willies from dressing as the opposite sex. These are people who literally believe that they were born with the wrong set of genitalia. What’s more, they have clinical diagnoses that lead to their eventual transition to their identified gender.

I have good friends who are transgender, and they are some of the most well-rounded, down-to-earth people I’ve ever met. Barber’s characterization of them as panty-wearing freaks is the sort I expect from locker room thugs, not anyone who “directs policy” for a leading Christian women’s group.

Barber continued:

Well, now Sean … and other like-minded “gay” and she-male activists may very well get their wish — and parents may well be forced to explain to Junior why Ms. Johnson at parochial school has a five o’clock shadow, calves like Schwarzenegger, an Adam’s apple the size of a golf ball and is stuffed into a miniskirt like a ten pound turkey in a five pound bag.

The only reason I bring up Barber’s clearly distorted view of transgender people is that his and others like him have encouraged Barney Frank to remove transgender protections from ENDA. The bill, which would have been critical for all of us who are gay or transgender, is now a watered-down version which even reduces protections for gays. Frank claimed it was so that the bill would pass.

He also wrote:

There are people who believe – in the transgender community and elsewhere – that it would be wrong to enact a law that banned discrimination based on sexual orientation unless it fully included people who are transgender. I think this argument is deeply flawed.

I’m sorry, Mr. Frank. But I’m one of those people who believe that this law is needed. The only thing that’s flawed is the idea that we can exclude protections for those who suffer in silence just so that you can get yor political victory. It’s time for us to get a backbone and fight for fairness for everyone. Clearly, that means that we need to spend more time to educate people on the issues related to transgender Americans.

Here’s a thought, why not send the bill and let it pass or fail on its own merit? It’s currently on hold while Democrat leaders decide what to do with it, and whether or not to restore it to its original language. If it passes, then we’ll have another great bill for the President to sign. If it fails, then we can work on it again later. We can’t compromise for the sake of our transgender neighbors. Let’s support everyone. After all, fairness isn’t fair if it leaves someone out in the cold.

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