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Trans in the New York 2010 elections

Transgender is a dirty word in New York this election season. You won’t hear about us in the debates or see us on the news. Many candidates want to be seen as being pro-“LGBT issues”, but few seem willing to talk about anything other than “gay” marriage and DADT. So, for that particular letter at the end of the acronym, how can you be expected to support a group of people you won’t even talk about? I have spent the last several hours on NY candidate websites finding out who’s talking about trans people and how much they’re willing to say. This information is mostly gleaned from “issues” sections of websites, the ideas that the candidates want to be associated with most. Occasionally I made use of a “search” function when available. This obviously doesn’t include candidates that did not bother to have websites, and I did not feel masochistic enough to dig through hundreds of news articles to get further information. What is presented is what any researcher could find in a few minutes, what most people would associate with particular candidates.

So let’s see what we have.

For the gubernatorial candidates, we have a grand total of two who mention transgendered people at all anywhere on their website. One is Jimmy McMillan of the “Rent is Way too High” party. He dedicates a whole page to the subject, where he asserts the rights of trans people to be treated equally and makes a point of differentiating us from homosexuals (he also, for some reason, differentiates between “gay” and “homosexual”). Unfortunately he makes no mention whatsoever of any actual issues affecting trans people or what he might do about any of it (but he does know how to pronounce transgender…seriously, why is there IPA on a political website?). The other candidate is Howie Hawkins, of the Green party. I actually contacted Hawkins earlier in the year, asking specifically about his position on trans issues. He emailed me back, happily explaining about his pro-trans platform and all the things he was doing personally to forward trans rights. On his website? The only mention of trans people at all is on the NY Pride Agenda Candidate Questionnaire. The only LGBT issue he puts in his “issues” section is the omnipresent “same sex” marriage. So, he’s very eager to tell queers all about how he supports us, but doesn’t seem to make the leap to telling anybody else.

Next we have incumbent state comptroller Tom DiNapoli. DiNapoli does not have a campaign website, but a quick search for “transgender” on the main comptroller site brings up the LGBT section of his “Your Money New York” website. Here we find the following statement: “Since becoming Comptroller, State Comptroller DiNapoli has prohibited discrimination based on gender identity and expression by vendors who contract with the Office of the State Comptroller…” This is nice, but something that will completely vanish once DiNapoli is replaced or retires (it’s the same sort of thing with executive orders, they can easily be reversed by later officeholders, which is why I wasn’t impressed with Obama’s executive order protecting trans federal workers or a similar one for NY state workers; not going to last). In addition to this, some of the links from the page have decent resources for trans people in NY. Then again, this is all stuff you find when looking for it, I can’t tell if he’s actually talking about any of this openly.

Then there’s the Democratic candidate for Attorney General Eric Schneider. He actually doesn’t mention trans people on his website, but the specific way in which he doesn’t do this is worthy of some comment. He writes: “…Eric is fighting to pass the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which ensures that all New Yorkers are free from discrimination.” That’s right, Schneider is flaunting his support for a piece of legislation WITHOUT MENTIONING THE PEOPLE IT’S SUPPOSED TO HELP AT ALL. Needless to say, this pisses me off. GENDA is not for “all New Yorkers”, GENDA is legislation to protect trans people. There are two possible explanations, either Schneider doesn’t give a shit about trans people and is just supporting GENDA for the Liberal Points™, or he does care but is too much of a coward to actually come out and say the word “transgender”. I reiterate what I said in the first paragraph: how can you be expected to support a group of people you won’t even talk about?

That’s it for statewide candidates. Four. Out of 36 running for five positions. Seriously, none of the senate candidates is talking about this. I don’t think anybody after Schumer’s seat (even Schumer himself) mention LGBT issues at all. I went to the trouble of looking at all the house candidates for New York, and another three of them have some mention of trans people (out of I don’t know how many, not going to count them). None of them are from my district, by the way.

Of district 4 we have Democratic candidate Carolyn McCarthy. She flaunts her sponsorship and support of various bills, including H.R. 1913 the “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act”. Among other things, “It would also amend the Hate Crime Statistics Act to require the collection of data on violent crimes motivated by bias against the victim’s perceived gender or gender identity…” That’s it. McCarthy is in favor of counting trans people victimized by hate crimes, not that they’re actually defined as hate crimes in NY law at the moment.

Of district 5 we have Democratic candidate Gary Ackerman. He says “I was proud to recently cast my vote in favor of an expansion of federal hate-crimes laws to include gender and sexual orientation.” I’m not actually sure if this one counts. What the hell does he mean by “gender” here? Protections for “gender” usually mean pro-woman not pro-trans. Does he mean to say “gender identity and expression” like it’s worded in all the legal documents, and just not bother to proofread? Or is this another case of vying for Liberal Points™ without actually knowing/caring what you’re talking about? I’m leaning towards the second myself, but I’m pretty cynical at this point.

Finally we have district 12 candidate Nydia Velazquez. I’d say she was a democrat, but it hardly matters because she doesn’t seem have an opponent. As such, she doesn’t have much of an election website either. However, by searching for transgender on her regular website, we get four results that don’t distinguish trans people from the LGBT acronym or talk about trans issues at all. They each mention trans people exactly once, to state the long form of the acronym. That’s it. So here we have the opposite problem of the rest of it, most everyone is avoiding the word, Velazquez is saying the word and thinking that’s all she needs to do. Why is it that people lump trans into anything LGB related and think that means they’re helping the trans community? Ugh, different rant.

So there you have it. The answer to who’s looking out for trans interests in NY this coming election is: practically nobody and they’ll probably stop as soon as the election is over anyway. Unless you have a really awesome state senate or assembly candidate, I didn’t look at those (my districts both have unopposed seven-year-incumbent republicans, so not only am I not voting in those elections but looking through everyone else’s candidates would have been as depressing as it would have been tedious).

Edit: reposted to Spectrum Cafe

  1. September 19, 2010 at 14:46

    ok. good point, Howie needs more on his website on the issues but sometimes when you are with a party that has consistenly spoken on an issues for decades, you overlook the need to keep repeating it.

    Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, expressed his disappointment today over the defeat of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, which would protect against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression in areas like housing and employment. The bill was killed Tuesday morning in the senate judiciary committee. All Republican members as well as Democratic state Senator Ruben Diaz voted against the bill

    “The Greens support full rights for all members of our society, regardless of sexual orientation or gender. Greens like Mayor Jason West of New Paltz have provided critical leadership to issues such as the right to same-sex marriage. As Governor, I intend to follow his example and use my office to push for full rights for all New Yorkers,” said Hawkins.

    • September 19, 2010 at 20:48

      This is good, I wish I had caught this. However, there are still a couple issues with the wording of this article.

      A) In the second paragraph it segues directly into “same-sex” marriage. It bothers me on several levels that we can’t seem to talk about any LGBT issue without dragging in marriage. Marriage is not the end-all and be-all of the movement, not all of us want to get married, and while “same-sex” marriage does give benefits to trans people the ways in which it would do this are not talked about and trans narratives are decidedly lacking in discussions of “same-sex” marriage. It’s not that it’s not an important issues, I’m just sick of hearing it thrown around over all the other issues and I don’t like it coming up in discussions of my own employment and housing non-discrimination legislation.

      B) We’re talking about rights for “all New Yorkers” again. Hawkins mentions “gender”, but lots of trans people have genders that are exactly the same as cis people so “gender” is not the issue here. Gender IDENTITY and EXPRESSION. We’re talking trans. I’m just annoyed by how people seem to be dancing around this word. It’s almost as if you can support our causes, but actually talking about us will hurt you in the election or something (well, talking about us in a positive light, if I remember correctly candidates in some other states have made denying rights to trans people a campaign issue). You can’t talk about how to help us if you’re unwilling to talk about who we are.

      I mean, this is a serious step in the right direction, but I’m expecting more. Maybe I’m just impatient, but I feel that continually criticizing even when people start to get it right is important, because otherwise they just might stop at step one.

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