“Citizen Lobbyist” (2005), by Timothy Watts. Is a 58-minute documentary tracing a few days of lobbying by members of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition. It’s all filmed in Washington, with a session in Senator Lugar’s office, on the Metro (in the days before Safe Track, about when “Five Lines” was filmed), and a closing section at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial near the Lincoln Memorial.
I often talk about “citizen journalists”, so it’s natural to ponder the role of the “citizen lobbyist”.
The main point of contention is that the regular “gay establishment”, especially HRC (Human Rights Campaign), doesn’t seem to have the backs of transgender people, at least in 2004. HRC is viewed as willing to throw transgender under the bus to get ENDA and hate crimes bills passed for “normal” gay men and women. The film maintains that over 50% of transgender people are unemployed.
The first lobbying session happens on April 30, 2004, which is ironically the day that I started substitute teaching. These are the time just before gay marriage became legal in Massachusetts after the Goodridge decision . The lobbyist point out that anti-gay violence often increases after gay political victories, and anti-trans violence is out of proportion to other crimes. Anti-gay violence is reported to have increased particularly after the Lawrence v. Texas ruling on the 21.06 Texas sodomy law in June 2003. There is a narrative a murder of a trans person in Washington in 2002 where police didn’t even leave any tape to close off the crime scene. While the woman relates that story, a passage from what sounds like the Symphony #8 by Shostakovich plays in the background.
In the scene in Lugar’s office, a woman-to-man transgender man explains that he is heterosexual now, and he enumerates the possible mathematical combinations of sexual identity components. But a transgender woman frankly supports the “blurring of genders” and “gender queer” in public consciousness (a bordering on identity politics).
The section at the Vietnam memorial gives a number of transgender people talk about their issues wityh “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, still in place at the time, and also some relate their experiences serving in Vietnam, or even as drill sergeants (even at Fort Jackson).
Let me come back to the difference between journalism (which demands objectivity) and lobbying (which demands loyalty to the constituent group and often must honor partisanship). I value my own independent voice online as a “journalist”, and I would have to give that up to work publicly to support another group’s agenda or in various conflict-of-interest situations, which would force me kicking and screaming back to identity politics. I don’t need to pay someone else to speak for me, but if I had to make a “real living” like most people as a huckster, I’d have to.
The film is posted by the Center for LGBT History and Archives.
(Posted Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016 at 11:45 PM EDT)