“Hey hey HRC, no more transmisogyny.” This is something my friends, partners, and I chanted at the Philadelphia Pride march as the group of HRC reps went by. This sentiment isn’t something that just my friends and I believe in either. There is a long history between the HRC and the trans* community, one that is not just contained to the issues involving ENDA (which they were the last equality group to support a trans*-inclusive version of). This is something that has been covered by several other people, in great length.
With the recent passage of marriage equality laws in Illinois, New Jersey, and soon to be Hawaii, I want to focus on the HRC’s support for marriage equality, or in some cases, lack of support. Nikki Araguz and her struggle, multiple at this point, are a clear example of this. Her recent post on the HRC facebook highlights the issue:
The laws in Texas are currently one man and one woman, so what is the issue with Araguz’s marriages? Araguz is an openly transgender woman. Her first appearance in the news was when her firefighter husband died during the course of action. Her husband’s family sued her for what he left her, claiming that her transgender status made her marriage invalid. The HRC was silent during this issue despite the fact that at the very time, they were fighting against Prop 8 and for marriage equality around the United States. The same arguments used against gay couples were being used against Araguz to invalidate her marriage. Despite this, the HRC was silent. Sadly, Araguz lost the case against her late husband’s family. She also lost her appeal in 2012. However, she is still fighting.
Two years later, Araguz is in the news again. This time, she was trying to get married to her new fiancé. Yet again she finds herself in a fight with the law to be married. Her old marriage having been nullified (despite originally being allowed) during the court cases with her late husband’s family has brought issues with her seeking a new marriage license. Oh, did I mention her birth certificate reads as FEMALE (as changed by her original state of California)? This means her marriage, on paper, is a straight marriage and allowed under the Texas laws as one man and one woman. The only issue is that Araguz is openly trans*. Despite Araguz’s repeated issues with marriage equality in her home state of Texas, the HRC has remained silent. Despite being turned down by two courts, Araguz was eventually granted a marriage license in another county. Happy ending, right? Not exactly.
Three years of continued battle for marriage equality, to have her marriage recognized by the state and the country. Three years of continued battle that have lead her to have issues with receiving her newest marriage license despite the legal paperwork saying this marriage is between “one man and one woman” as Texas requires. Three years of legal battle that erases Araguz’s identity as a woman. The HRC, arguable the nation’s largest ‘equal’ rights group has remained silent. According to what I can gather from Araguz’s comments, her and her lawyers and legal reps, have contacted the HRC for help with no avail.
So while the HRC celebrates these triumphs in Illinois, New Jersey, and soon to be Hawaii, people like Araguz are ignored and erased. The HRC has flat out told people that “marriage equality is not a trans* issue”. There are people who obviously would beg to differ. Marriage equality is a HUGE issue, for everyone. Even people who have documents that reflect their correct genders and identities are struggling to have their marriages respected and legalized. This is why I have such an issue calling marriage equality anything but marriage equality (and even then, what about polyamorous people like me?). Gay marriage erases the thousands of straight couples who are affected by unequal marriage laws. Same-sex marriage, once again, erases thousands of couples of all orientations. Same-gender marriage laws? Well, once again, the same issue applies! Marriage laws affect more than those very broad categories.
While I appreciate the HRC’s focus on ENDA now, it seems to continue to ignore large portions of issues, and portions of issues they claim to be fighting for. Queer youth homelessness, how unsafe schools are, medical care for trans* people, and the list goes on. ENDA seems like a cop out to show how supportive of the trans* community they are while continually ignoring their struggles and problems. I mean, the HRC originally supported an ENDA that did not include protections for trans* people. Also, how effective will non-discrimination laws be in a society that still thinks it is ok to make trans women the butt of jokes? How effective will ENDA be in a society where there is little to no repercussion for making up lies about trans* people and pushing them to suicide? How effective will ENDA be in a society that still seems to think murdering trans* people is alright, in a world where trans* panic defense still works in courtrooms? I think we can all figure it out, not very.
That is not to say that ENDA nor marriage equality is not important. ENDA provides legal protection (really to those who can afford it) and legal repercussions for actively discriminating against queer people. Marriage equality allows for citizenship, health benefits, and other much needed resources in a community that is more likely to be homeless or without jobs than the non-queer majority. However, these laws can only do so much in a society that devalues queer people and their existences. The HRC continues to be an organization for white, cis, gay men that seems to believe marriage equality and ENDA will be the end all to the struggles on American queer people. They continue to ignore pleas for help from people like Araguz, the very victims of lack of marriage equality laws. Hey hey HRC, why aren’t you listening?