Defending Dean on Attacks Claiming He Sold Out Transgenders

The DNC Kicking Ass blog has had a wonderful post about a groundbreaking study in New Jersey about gender identity and the struggle that transgendered people go through every day. There, somebody named Rebecca Juro has been of the opinion that Dean has sold out his inclusive vision - especially when it comes to standing up for transgender Americans - in order to accomodate the Washington inside establishment of the Democratic party in his role as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. I profoundly disagree with her charges, and have been responding. I believe I have remained objective, and yes, I have challenged Rebecca in strong words, which I think is perfectly fine. You can read all the comments and everything at that blog entry. I started my first comment addressing Rebecca by quoting her:

Becky said: "The best example of this political cowardice is Howard Dean himself. While running for President, Dean told a packed house at NYC's Gay and Lesbian Center that as President he would not support an ENDA that did not include protections for Transgender-Americans. Now, as DNC Chair, Dean can't even bring himself to even say the "T-word", not even in a statement on behalf of the Party in celebration of Pride Month."

True, Howard Dean did not mention the word "transgender" in there. But he also didn't mention "bisexual", and only mentioned "gay" and "lesbian" once each. The rest of the document referred to "LGBT" which we all fall under. I don't see anything wrong with that. But before you say, Dean can't bring himself to say the "T-word", I respectfully suggest you check out his statement on the National Coming Out Day.

I'm with you about Kerry, Clinton, and Kennedy's opportunism (add in the DLC crowd here), but to lay blanket attacks on Democratic leaders including Howard Dean is utterly unfair. Yes, the Democratic party is not yet entirely where we want it to be in terms of supporting LGBT rights. But this is the party that has again and again stood up for the rights of minorities. In doing so, it has shown that it can be made to stand for the rights of the oppressed. But that has to happen through grassroots Democratic activism, not through the abandoning the party.

As I already said, I'm a gay man, not transgender. I fully and unequivocally support equal treatment under the law and in society for all persons, including transgendered people. But we in the LGBT community have to get organized, lead the party in its path to supporting full equality, and realize that this is the party of our friends, not of our enemies. They may not all be publicly supporting transgender rights this very moment, but Democrats are people predisposed to social justice, equal rights and fair treatment. That's why this is the party which you and I can transform, and this is the party that will lead in the battle for justice.

Posted by dean_kicks_butt on December 24, 2005 at 05:29 AM

The link to Dean's statement on the National Coming Out Day didn't work, so I posted it following:

The link didn't work. here's Dean's statement on the National Coming Out Day:

Posted by dean_kicks_butt on December 24, 2005 at 05:30 AM

Rebecca responded by restating herself, claiming the right to critic (which I wasn't depriving her of), and leveling what I believe to be unfounded charges. Again you can read her comments and all others on the blog. I responded rather bluntly:


I am going to be blunt. Nobody is asking you not to criticize Howard Dean when he, to quote you, "fails to exemplify the ideals he ran on while campaigning for President because we were believers." I am contending that this charge is simply untrue. Howard Dean brought me to the political movement, and he showed me that I, along with other people, can change the course of history. "The power to change this country rests in your hands, not mine," was and is still what I have seen him believing at his core. I think it's simply inaccurate at the very least to say that Howard Dean is not exemplifying the ideals he ran on when he was campaigning for president.

Furthermore, in your last post, you simply level charges against Gov. Dean, without presenting a shred of evidence to back yourself up. At least before you made a substantial, verifiable claim, that Dean cannot bring himself to say the word "transgender"; a charge that proved to be also false, as I pointed out above. Let's also not forget that this very entry we are commenting on, which deals specifically with gender identity, was posted on the DNC website, and Howard Dean is still the chairman. Had his sense of justice was diminished at all, this thread would not be here.

I simply cannot fathom how you see Dean turning his back on his principles, or how you say that Dean has become more like the "party leadership", by which I assume you mean the Washington establishment of the party. In fact there is evidence to show that the party leadership is turning Dean's way. Consider what has happened since he became chairman. The party leadership has grown more coherent and more unified in their opposition to Bush's endless war in Iraq. Harry Reid shut down the senate so use of pre-war intelligence can be investigated. CAFTA failed to gather even a majority of the House members voting in favor of it (217-215 it passed, and majority of 435 total members is 218). Bush's social security destruction plan is on a traini to nowhere. Democratic leaders in the Senate blocked the renewal of the PATRIOT Act without civil liberties safeguards. That, to me, means - pardon the pun- that Democratic leaders are growing balls. Democrats even blocked Ted Steven's evil attempt to open ANWR for oil drilling. In the House, the Republican plan to gut the ethics rules fell apart. There are billboards going around in Ohio's 2nd district taking on Jean Shmidt for calling John Murtha a coward. In November, Democrats won big time in California, Virginia and New Jersey (ok, so Corzine isn't that good on GLBT issues, but you have to look at the win on the Democratic side). Dick Chenney had to cut his trip abroad short so their cut on the services for the poor could clear the Senate - Democrats were unanimous in their opposition. What all of this explain is this: in a long time for the first time, Democrats are hitting back. And to think that Howard Dean did not have a hand in these things would be naive.

Now, yes, these things don't specifically deal with LGBT rights. But as you pointed out, all issues of the day affect us. If the transgender community is relatively poor, then poverty and social safety nets to help the poor should be of profound concern to us. We, like other Americans, care about issues of war and peace, healthcare, education, and the environment. I agree with you that ENDA and other legislation that advance the cause of LGBT equal rights should be advancecd more aggressively. But to say that Dean has turned his back on his principles is simply wrong.

Also in the past year, the California Democratic Party, infused with Dean activists, included in its platform the full inclusion of LGBT Americans including non discrimination based on sexual orientation or *gender identity*, as well as full legal marital status and rights. Howard Dean is not just a person. Howard Dean is a movement. That movement is not only alive and kicking, but is gaining momentum.

Posted by dean_kicks_butt on December 25, 2005 at 08:02 PM

Rebecca again responded by reiterating her charges, calling Dean a liar for using the term "LGBT", and accusing him from running away from this issue, as well as by saying that she can't afford to worry about issues like Iraq. By this point, I had had enough, and laid it out as straightforwardly as I could:

Becky, since you started leveling accusation of lying, let me say this:

(1) You again, provide zero evidence to support your charges. All you are doing now is rant. Nothing to back yo your feelings, as deep as they may be. Once again, if you can find specific, verifiable accusations to make, do so, and present your evidence for it. Then we can maybe get somewhere. Right now, this is becoming a "is too, is not" childish argument.

(2) Howard Dean advocated very vocally for the California Marriage Equality bill by openly calling on Schwarzenegger to sign it. It did directly affect transgender people, as it defined marriage between two persons.

(3) I remind you again that this very post we are commenting on deals specifically with gender identity and discrimination against transgender persons. Here the DNC leadership is obviously openly advocating for the rights of transgender people.

(4) If you do not believe issues other than specifically transgender rights legislation affect you, you are fooling yourself. If poverty doesn't affect you, why were you complaining about transgenders being a poorer community than the rest of Americans? And while you demand that others stand up for transgender rights - as they should - how about you standing up for the rights of others? For example, the right of students to be able to get an education without mortgaging an arm and a leg. The right of a sick child to be able to see the doctor without her parents having to worry how to pay for it. The right of all of us to breathe clean air and drink clean water. The right of our soldiers not be used as cannon fodder for a war of greed and choice, not necessity. The right of workers to earn a living wage and to unionize. The right of voters in Ohio and Florida to be able to vote without fear, intimidation or fraud. If you do not care about other issues, then you NEVER fundamentally understood Howard Dean, who is about community, where we care about each other, and what affects one affects all. If your illusion was that Dean and the DNC would - or even should - fight for LGBT rights at the price of fighting for others in our progressive community, it's better that your illusion was broken. Nonetheless, I do not believe you have to choose, and I don't think Dean does, either.

(5) I'll just restate myself: Howard Dean IS a movement. I'm a part of it. You cannot tell me that this is not a movement.

(6) As a member of the LGBT community, I do not find leaders using the term "LGBT" instead of stating each word offensive, and it's definitely not a lie. If I were like you, I would call your assertion that it is itself a lie. I'll also let you in on a little secret. I'm Indian American - that is I'm of Indian decent (India the country). As such, I fall under the general minority category of "people of color." I do not feel that I am being excluded when a political leader refers to simply "people of color" instead of going through each. I am not offended when a leader refers to "people of color" and then mentions African Americans and Latinos by name. I don't get up in arms going "Oh my God, I can't believe he didn't say "Indian American!!!" " Umbrella terms are used all the time. Don't forget that the term "transgender" itself is an umbrella term for several distinct categories of gender identity and expression.

(7) Again, point to evidence where Howard Dean has been an "excuse-maker" for any Democratic shrills. By that I mean specifically defended their refusal to include transgenders or any other issues. Please give us links (transcript, if you are speaking of an interview, or what not). Otherwise, frankly, you saying so is not going to make it so.

Posted by dean_kicks_butt on December 27, 2005 at 03:13 AM

That was the last one I posted. If there's more discussion on this that's substantial, I will post that here again. But I am not going to be playing "is too, is not". If Becky comes up with something substantial, and I see that we can get anywhere, I will continue it, otherwise, I have no interest in a shouting match.

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