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Talking Points

Gay rights: Do transsexuals qualify?

Barney Frank may be gay, said Carolyn Lochhead in the San Francisco Chronicle, but these days, he sure isn’t very happy. The MassachusettsDemocrat has spent the last few weeks enduring a withering attack from his usual allies. Activists from nearly 300 gay-rights groups are calling Frank a traitor for excluding the transgendered from his proposed EmploymentNon-Discrimination Act. When Frank sponsored the bill back in April, it banned employers from discriminating against employees basedon their “sexual orientation or gender identity.” But Frank found that while most Republican House members were willing to support workplaceprotection for homosexuals, they balked at transsexuals. So he dropped the words “gender identity” from the bill, arguing that it was smart politics to accept incremental progress. Red-state America, he said, is simply not ready to require every school and business to continue to employ a man who decides he’s actually a woman.

Maybe not, said Christine Daniels in the Los Angeles Times, but isn’t that precisely why we transgender people need protection? As Congress’ most prominent crusader for gay causes, Frank is the last person we thought would try to deny us a civil right “so fundamentally American” that it’sabsurd we don’t have it already. All the transgendered are asking for, said Susan Stryker in Salon.com, is to be hired and fired and promoted basedon “their ability to do the job,” rather than on how well they live up to society’s “heteronormative expectations.” Just like gays and lesbians, transgender people are punished for not fitting society’s traditional definition of a man or a woman, so why not include them in the same bill? PresidentBush is going to veto it anyway. That Barney Frank would abandon a fellow oppressed minority over a merely symbolic vote just shows how selfish and “homocentric” he is.

Spare me the academic gibberish, said Andrew Sullivan in TheAtlantic.com. As a gay conservative, I’ve had my fill of jargon-spewing professorsof Queer Theory who spend their cushy, cloistered lives launching “ad hominem attacks on anyone’s views who veers from far left orthodoxy.”Gays and lesbians have been fighting for a federal nondiscrimination law for 30 years. Now we should spurn the jobs-protection law we can pass because it’s not pure enough for the militants living in ivory towers of political correctness? Civil rights have always been granted to one group at a time, with maddening slowness, said John Aravosis, also in Salon.com. “It stinks,but it’s the way it’s always worked, and it’s the way you win.”

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