Originally appeared in Transgender
Tapestry #113, Winter 2007.
by Denise Leclair
There has been a running joke in the comic strip Peanuts
for the last 55 years. Every year, Lucy offers to hold a football
so Charlie Brown can kick it. Every year, Charlie Brown runs to
kick the football. And every year, Lucy yanks it away at the last
Poor old Charlie Brown goes flying, tumbling through the dirt.
Betrayed. And every year, Charlie Brown goes back and does it
again. Why does he always fall for it? He knows Lucy is not really
his friend, and deep down he knows she is going to trick him again.
But he looks up to Lucy. She is older and wiser, always reassuring.
And he wants to believe. So he is doomed to repeat the cycle foreverespecially
since the strip has been syndicated.
This fall Representative Barney Frank, with the tacit approval
of the Human Rights Campaign, yanked the proverbial political
football away from us a split second before the kickoff. And boy
did we take a fall.
It seems Transgender people also have a hard time discerning
who our friends really are. This scuffle over excluding transgender
people from civil rights legislation seemed to catch many people
by surprise. It should not have.
As with any community involved in a civil rights struggle,
the roots of our present issues go deep into our past. There have
undoubtedly been transgender, gay, and lesbian people in every
society since time began, but the halting legislation now known
as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act has its roots planted
firmly in the sixties.
So we have interrupted our regularly scheduled programming
to bring you some important newsflashes. Actually, they are more
like glimpses in the rear view mirror, so we can remember where
the hell we came from.
The sixties, as everyone knows, were a time of significant
social upheaval. McCarthys anti-communist hysteria was still
winding down. Almost every group was exploring civil rights issues.
Women were gaining greater control over their destinies and bodies.
Blacks were fighting against segregation and discrimination. The
Vietnam War and the draft just added fuel to an already raging
Trans, gay, and lesbian people were also starting to find their
voices. In 1960 Virginia Prince began publishing Transvestia,
a magazine that explored transvestism, and started forming a network
of other transvestites to share information. Later, in 1965, Virginia
would be arrested and convicted for distributing her magazine
through the US Mail. (I am personally thankful I dont have
to do battle with the Post Office to distribute Tapestry.)
In 1961 Dr. Frank Kameny and Jack Nichols founded the Mattachine
Society of Washington D.C. in order to pursue gay rights.
Frank had been fired from the U.S. Army Map Service in 1957 for
being a homosexual, and was then permanently barred from federal
employment. He sued and lost, and then he appealed it all the
way up to the Supreme Court, which denied his petition. Since
there were no gay rights organizations in Washington to help him,
he decided to grow his own, affiliated in spirit at least with
the original Mattachine Society on the west coast.
Later in the decade Queens, as they called themselves, started
rebellions (read: riots) at Comptons Cafeteria in San Francisco
in 1966, and then at Stonewall in New York City in 1969, protesting
The first Federal legislation banning discrimination based
on sexual orientation was introduced in the House of Representatives
on the 5th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion in 1974! There
was only one little problem: they left out the Queens. Too
extreme, they said. Sylvia Rivera, our patron saint, never
forgot this betrayal. Until her death in 2002, she repeatedly
warned us that organizations like HRC stood in the way of transgenderrights.
Thirty-three years after that first legislation was introduced
little has changed. Oh yeah, where is that football?
A more complete timeline of this sordid history appears on
page 50 , beginning a sort of ENDA-pedia. We have some eye-opening
articles on the subject, as well as the text of the new genderless
Riki Wilchins graces our pages again, contributing to our discussion
for the first time in many years. She is a controversial figure
in our community, but has been fighting this battle for many years.
Shes got the battle scars to prove it, as well as valuable
perspective (and a new baby!).
Perhaps more controversially, Monica Roberts poses the question,
Why Does the Transgender
Community Hate HRC? Her answers may offend some, but she
is not alone in her beliefs.
OK class; lets hit those books! Pay attention; there
will be a quiz after. And be careful with that football. Someone
could get hurt.