Bernie Sanders made headlines and found himself under fire for criticizing the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign as being part of the establishment he is fighting against. This came shortly after the Human Rights Campaign announced their endorsement for Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee for President. The fallout on every side of this issue has been considerable to say the least. Both candidates felt backlash for their stance or wording, and the Human Rights Campaign was caught in the crossfire of admiration and disapproval across social media platforms.
The infighting among the Democratic candidates and the LGBT community is evidence of a continuing struggle to integrate many of those left out of the national campaign for civil rights. What has been a successful fight for equality for a portion of the aforementioned group is an unfinished fight for basic rights for many other marginalized persons. The overall campaign for LGBT rights has been strong but has left behind a substantial part of the community.
The response to the endorsement of Clinton over Sanders has been loud, with disappointment around of both of the candidates on their remarks and history as well as the organization’s choice. Segments of the community have come to question the reliability of Hillary Clinton over her past stances and her lifetime record on LGBT issues compared to Bernie Sanders.
What is most disappointing and disturbing is the Human Rights Campaign’s most recent assertion that it has fought for LGBT people “for over 30 years.”
Certainly the advocacy group has fought for and alongside a number of LGBT activists and has provided a tremendous among of support. Unfortunately, the Human Rights Campaign has had a history of excluding transgender activists and pro-transgender language on anti discrimination bills like ENDA in 2007. Even a recent internal report from June of 2015 found a sexist and homogeneous workplace at the organization, leaving a number of employees feeling excluded. Vulnerable segments of the transgender community, and even other sections of the LGBT community, are slipping through the cracks and have not received adequate attention and support.
There is a perception that these ongoing policies and a lack of meaningful inclusion paints the Human Rights Campaign as part of the establishment, and these perceptions are correct. The focus on mainstream and politically sound LGBT issues has divided and sidelined an abundant amount of individuals, majority of whom are part of the transgender community.
Chad Griffin, HRC President, acknowledged and apologized for this divide and the way the Human Right Campaign has been complaisant in neglecting the trans community during the Southern Comfort Conference in 2014. In his speech, he asked friends, supporters, and community members to hold him and the HRC accountable.
This is what many across the LGBT community is doing now; holding both the Human Rights Campaign and Hillary Clinton accountable for pursuing the implementation of greater civil rights and protections for individuals facing extraordinary risks. Those who are finally being included in the discussion still feel a sense of uncertainty and anxiety over this message.
What’s also causing anxiety among segments of the transgender community is the lack of a serious agenda to address pervasive discrimination, violence, and lack of access to health care, as well as many other issues. There is a lack of serious discussions by major politicians and in the mainstream on the mistreatment of trans women of color, LGBT refugees, and those kept in deplorable environments at immigration detainment centers. It’s a disappointment that much needed advancements to trans rights have yet to be made. This includes building on top of current anti discrimination measures and facilitating grassroots efforts to secure safety, dignity, and freedom to transgender individuals.
This by no means is an act of shaming either candidate or the Human Rights Campaign. Rather, it’s a criticism of their history and claim to champion LGBT people in order to hopefully reform their views and policies. I personally do not doubt both Clinton and Sanders’ support of the LGBT community, but instead question their dedication to embrace and fight for every aspect of the community, especially trans rights that are long overdue. It’s a message for both Clinton and Sanders supporters, and everyone in between, to recognize the rift within this group and to openly discuss how it can be rectified. It’s an urgent call for inclusion. It’s holding everyone accountable for their actions and words.
Photo Credit: Instinct Magazine