Trans activist resigns from HRC over employment bill

PinkNews logo surrounded by illustrated images including a rainbow, unicorn, PN sign and pride flag.

Donna Rose, a well-respected advocate for the rights of trans people, has resigned from the board of America’s leading gay rights organisation, the Human Rights Commission.

She was the only trans person on the board of HRC.

The organisation has been widely criticised over its response to proposals to remove protections for trans people from a new workplace protection bill currently before the US Congress.

Gay, lesbian and bisexual people are expected to receive protection under the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

However, it became apparent last week that the legislation would fail to get enough support if it extended employment rights to trans people.

Ms Rose said that the uneasy relationship between HRC and the transgender community meant that she had become “a focal point for much of that frustration and I accepted that responsibility with the hope that I could help to change it.

“In some very real ways I think I have been able to do that, or at least to help make that happen, and am tremendously proud of all we have achieved.”

She accused HRC of betraying previous commitments to support only fully inclusive legislation.

“The current situation regarding ENDA is nothing short of a politically misguided tragedy,” she wrote.

“A tool that could and should be a unifying beacon … has been split.

“Transgender brothers and sisters again find themselves separated, isolated, and disempowered.

“People in positions of power have decided that their personal legacy and the promise of political expediency are more important than protecting our entire beautiful community.

“The time is here to make a strong statement to demonstrate to them that they are wrong.

“Transgender is not simply the ‘T’ in GLBT. It is people who, for one reason or another, may not express their gender in ways that conform to traditional gender norms or expectations.

“That covers everyone from transsexuals, to queer youth, to feminine acting men, to masculine appearing women.

“It is a broad label that cannot be confined to a specific silo of people. It is anyone who chooses to live authentically. To think that the work that we are doing on behalf of the entire GLBT community simply benefits or protects part of us is to choose a simplistic view of a complex community.

“In a very real way, the T is anyone who expresses themselves differently. To some it is about gender. To me, it is about freedom.”

Ms Rose is also a board member of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

She has called on other HRC board members to resign in protest and for sponsors, donors and volunteers to make their views known on the decision to support legislation which now excludes trans rights.

“This is a test of principle and integrity and although it pains me greatly to see what has happened it is clear to me that there can only be one path,” she wrote.

“Character is not for compromise. I cannot align myself with an organisation that I can’t trust to stand-up for all of us.

“More than that, I cannot give half-hearted support to an organisation that has now chosen to forsake the tenets that have guided my efforts from day one.”

HRC issued a statement yesterday saying it will not support the newly introduced sexual orientation only bill.

“The board’s position articulates a process for continued dialogue with House leaders about strategies that have been put forth to, in the end, achieve passage of a fully inclusive ENDA,” read the statement,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.

“We are now faced with definitive Congressional action to move forward a version of the bill stripping gender identity.

“Though we support a fully inclusive ENDA, we acknowledge the legislative strategy put forth by Congressman Frank and the Democratic leadership to obtain a clear path towards an inclusive bill in the future.

“We look forward to working with them to accomplish the goal all of us share – ending workplace discrimination against the entire GLBT community.”