In an email forwarded to me today by a transgender activist contact, Tony Perkins – head of that infamous opponent of gay rights and equality the Family Research Council, callously violated the bounds of common decency and proposed a direct assault on the human rights and dignity of the gay and trans community in America. Yes, I live in South Africa and it doesn’t directly affect me – but the things said by him are an affront to gay and trans people everywhere. It was one of those emails that had travelled from person to person within a very short time, mainly because its content is so outrageously homophobic and transphobic that it angers every fair-minded person who reads it.
For those who don’t yet know the Family Research Council, it was founded by James Dobson (of Focus on the Family infamy) and unfortunately, is not yet listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center – but in my humble opinion, because of its relentless and often tasteless attacks on the pink community, and its liberal application of the propaganda supplied by its stable-mate, the Family Research Insititute (which IS), it should be. The FRC is known for its “Christian boycotts” of chain stores such as McDonalds or American Airlines for daring to hire gay people and treat them like human beings – and thus “furthering the homosexual agenda“.
This group is based in the US, but has ties with other mainly anti-gay groups around the world – most relevant to me is the Family Policy Institute based in Cape Town, whose founder, Erroll Naidoo is being mentored and supported by the FRC, and travels to the USA to meet with them virtually on an annual basis. Needless to say, this man is a real pain to activists for the pink community in South Africa, because of his continuous attacks on gay rights, marriage equality and pride festivals. “Pastor Errol Naidoo, spokesman for the His People Church in Cape Town, is surely the nation’ biggest gay-basher. And the pastor does not mind to find that he is so labelled. “I hate gays. It runs against God’ wishes,” he said to *this newspaper*” Considering the ruckus about evangelical radicals in the US being involved in Uganda, I must say this is the sort of thing that concerns me for South Africa’s future – just so you all know.
Perkins’s letter is insultingly titled “Stop Obama’s Crossdresser Protection Bill” and it is an appeal to conservative Americans to oppose the ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) which is intended to bring equal employment opportunities to people normally discriminated against in the job-market on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Pretty much the same paranoid hysterical tone in the letter is echoed on the FRC website. The text of the letter is included below:
“From: Tony Perkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Stop Obama’s Crossdresser Protection Bill
Sign our petition to tell our elected leaders we oppose the so-called “Employment Non-Discrimination Act” (ENDA)
Stop Obama’s Crossdresser Protection Bill January 06, 2010 Dear Friend, On New Year’s Eve, when most Americans were waiting for the ball to drop in Times Square, the Obama Administration dropped another bombshell in its agenda to radicalize America by appointing its first openly “transgender” person to a high federal post. “Transgender” is an umbrella term for anyone who “expresses” a “gender identity” contrary to their biological sex at birth-in other words, men who claim to be (and dress as) women, and vice versa.
Mitchell Simpson, a man who had sex-change surgery and now calls himself a woman (named “Amanda“), was appointed as Senior Technical Advisor to the Commerce Department. Simpson announced that “as one of the first transgender presidential appointees to the federal government, I hope that I will soon be one of hundreds.”
The day after Simpson began work, The New York Times reported that the main website advertising jobs with the federal government now says there will be no “discrimination” based on “gender identity”-even though Congress has never passed a law saying that.
This new policy applies only to the federal government. But there is a bill being considered in Congress, the so-called “Employment Non-Discrimination Act” (ENDA), which would require every employer in America to open every position to homosexuals (by making “sexual orientation” a protected category) and “transgenders” (by protecting “gender identity”).
All American employers including Christian owned businesses and potentially Christian ministries would be affected. “Gender identity disorder” is a recognized mental illness that should be treated-not affirmed and protected. And the right of employers to set “dress and grooming standards” for their employees should include the most basic standard of all-that people dress in a way appropriate for their biological sex.
Don’t let Congress and President Obama force American employers to hire homosexuals, transsexuals, and cross-dressers. Sign our petition to tell our elected leaders we oppose the so-called “Employment Non-Discrimination Act” (ENDA)
Sincerely, Tony Perkins
President P.S. Please forward this email to at least one friend.“
First thing that jumps out at me, is the use of the term “cross dresser“. I’m not sure if he is using the term to describe transgender people, a group which includes transsexuals – or if he is just plain ignorant about the difference between crossdressers and transsexuals. It has been my experience that whenever people attacking gay or trans rights refer to us by the correct terms, they do so to connect us to the negative stereotypes they like to portray us as. Is this what Mr Perkins is trying to achieve here? At any rate, his article is almost wholly dedicated to demonizing and demeaning transsexuals – chiefly Amanda Simpson – whose gender he not only refuse to recognize, but in evidence, insults. In fact, he calls her a MAN, despite the obvious, thus in my view, portraying her as a gay man with a cross dressing habit.
It seems that some people judge the capability and suitablity of a person to do a particular job, their worthiness to deserve respect, dignity and to be granted employment and the ability to carry responsibility – by whether or not they are straight or cis-gender.
This letter is in fact a barrage of insults from the salutation right down to the last word. It truly amazes me how little factual and scientific research the Family “Research” Council actually does before send out these emails.
Let’s take it from the top:
“Transgender” is an umbrella term for anyone who “expresses” a “gender identity” contrary to their biological sex at birth – in other words, men who claim to be (and dress as) women, and vice versa.“
Actually, transgender is an umbrella term – but judging by his letter, Mr Perkins loses the plot after that.
Wikipedia defines transgender as: “Transgender (pronounced /tr?¶nzÀàd í…õnd…ôr/) is a general term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies to diverge from the normative gender roles. Transgender is the state of one’s “gender identity” (self-identification as woman, man, or neither) not matching one’s “assigned sex” (identification by others as male or female based on physical/genetic sex). “Transgender” does not imply any specific form of sexual orientation; transgender people may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, or asexual; some may consider conventional sexual orientation labels inadequate or inapplicable to them.“
“Men who dress as women“, as misrepresented by Perkins here, does fall under the transgender umbrella term – but cross dressers do not desire to change their sex and are typically heterosexual and married – and will usually keep their alter-ego a closely guarded secret.
The next item that really got my goat was this little gem: “”Gender identity disorder” is a recognized mental illness that should be treated-not affirmed and protected.”
This single sentence alone out of the whole hateful, bile-smeared insulting and demeaning letter demonstrates exactly WHY transgender has to be removed from the DSM and every psychiatric manual – and reclassified appropriately as a MEDICAL issue, and NOT a psychological one.
In the first place, so many recent independent scientific and medical studies have shown clear evidence that sexual orientation and gender identity are physical by nature. Transsexuals not only manifest the physical, personality and brain-sex traits of their identified gender – but a genetic link, at least in the case of transsexuality has been found. In either case, while people still argue about whether homosexuality is genetic or biological, experts agree, both are 100 percent natural.
Sorry, Mr Perkins – but the psychological powers-that-be already recognize that transsexuals are not “mentally ill“ – there is a growing movement around the world to declassify transgender from the DSM, like homosexuality was in 1973 – in fact France was the first country to do so in May 2009. The psychological issues around transgender stem from issues such as self-realization, non-acceptance, intolerance and discrimination – but he doesn’t believe in that, now does he?
The use of the word “protection” by Mr Perkins indicates that he seems to loathe the idea that gay and transgender people would be protected from his hatred and discrimination by ENDA. The question people need to ask themselves here is whether or not gay and trans people genuinely have a need for protection against discrimination. Are trans people fired because they come out as transgender? Are people fired for being gay? Do some employers discriminate unfairly against GLBTIQ employees and treat them in a way so as to rob them of their dignity and offend them? If your answer is “yes“, then there is your answer.
Another thing in Perkins’s letter that grated my carrot was the “quotation marks” meaning “I’m using the term” – but “I’m making a mockery of it” because it “represents something I hate“? The article is replete with terms in “quotation marks” around legitimate terms, such as transgender, gender identity, sexual orientation and even discrimination so as to try to invalidate them in the mind of the reader.
His inclusion of the word “discrimination” in this category signifies that Mr Perkins does not even see people being fired – or not hired – because they are gay or transgender, as discrimination. In fact, by this very letter – his appeal, he is in fact ENCOURAGING discrimination because he agrees with it. Nice.
This statement: “Don’t let Congress and President Obama force American employers to hire homosexuals, transsexuals, and cross-dressers.” is a deliberate lie intended to mislead the public, just as many voters were lied to about Propsition 8 being about forcing straight people to have gay marriages. Unbelievably, many ignorant voters actually fell for it, and there are no doubts in my mind that people will fall for this one also. ENDA is not about FORCING employers to hire anyone – it is about preventing them from unfairly discriminating against people just because THEY don’t like them.
As usual, this comes down to religion – Perkins claims this is about “freedom of religion” _ what does the operation of a business have to do with religion? What does the religion or personal life, or the sexual orientation or gender identity of an employee have to do with their ability to do a job?
Frankly, if Mr Perkins believes that his faith calls him to discriminate and ruin the lives of other people for no justifiable reason, then I have to wonder if he has the right religion, because where other Christians see love, he seems to be reading between the lines and coming up with hatred and intolerance. His line of thought apparent in this letter relates clearly to current events in Uganda, where people lose their jobs and can’t find employment simply because of who they are.
I suppose Mr Perkins would continue to rant about people “dressing appropriately for their gender” (which is exactly what transsexuals like Ms Simpson DO, Mr Perkins) – but I suppose he is only concerned, like most employers are – about the public image of their companies. Odd that it is perfectly fine to not discriminate against say, disabled people for instance – because that would just be unfair, not to mention nasty and un-Christian.
Perhaps Mr Perkins thinks that if Americans do not support his appeal, employment agencies would be flooded by “hundreds of crossdressers innappropriately dressed for their biological sex“, and “the family” and civilization would collapse. His letter – and the article on the FRC website is clearly aimed at creating a panic by portraying transsexuals as a threat lurking in the shadows and waiting to pounce on Christian-owned businesses the moment ENDA passes. And why shouldn’t it?
Mr Perkins, I may not live in America – but I am a transsexual woman. Where I live it is illegal to discriminate against people on the basis of gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity or language. It has been so since 1996. I have to say that in my city, out of a population of 1.3 million people, I only know of two other transsexuals living here – and one of them owns her own profitable hair salon and employs several straight people who do not even know her history. The only drag queens I ever see here, go to clubs on weekends – and even they are a rarity I can count on the fingers of one hand. So much for that theory, Mr Perkins.
Naturally, as evidenced by the tone of his diatribe, Mr Perkins doesn’t think much of gay or transsexual people, not even achievers such as Amanda Simpson – who used to be a test-pilot, a job requiring considerable ability and courage to perform competently. Could you do that job, Mr Perkins? Does dressing as a man make you a man? Does calling yourself one make it true if your actions don’t back you up? Your appeal is an attack on a small and vulnerable minority group prone to falling victim to violent crime discrimination, and your letter is insensitive, abrasive, insulting and causes offense to anyone who values the principles of democracy, freedom and equal opportunity. And lastly, you don’t seem to think that anyone in America should be gainfully employed – unless they are straight, cis-gender – and Christian. That reminds me so much of the country I grew up in – under Apartheid. Making your country more like that by depriving people of decent living and equality to me seems less like the American Dream and more like the American Nightmare.
Goodnight, Mr Perkins.