Bill Maher Is Right: Trans Rights Require A Clinton Victory

Since I have a day off I'm going to take the time to respond in a longer form to an article which appeared today in the Advocate written by its trans rights correspondent, Mari Brighe, entitled, "Bill Maher is Wrong: Trans Rights Can't Wait." Maher's point was this, said in his closing segment of "New Rules," and it wasn't about the trans community:

Every issue, every fight, every cause has to take a backseat to defeating [Donald] Trump.

I agree with Maher, and disagree with Brighe, as I've written over the past two weeks -- this is a potential extinction-level event for our constitutional republic, and all particularistic issues must be considered secondary over the next three months. I believe we have no choice, and that applies to those of us within the trans community as well.

That does not mean that all other advocacy must stop, particularly the multiple legal cases moving forward with the support of the Department of Justice, the ACLU, Lambda Legal and TLDEF. It doesn't mean that people should quit their jobs or take a leave of absence to focus on defeating Trump, though I know some who are. It simply means that our advocacy efforts must be recalibrated to the mission that, if not achieved, will in and of itself be the worst possible setback to our movement, as well as the progressive community in general. It should be clear to my regular readers that I'm not a social revolutionary, so I don't adhere to the old Marxist dictum of "heightening the contradictions" (by making the lives of many more as miserable as can be managed with a Trump victory) to bring about the revolution. A Trump ascendancy will put all our gains in question (he'll be meeting with a number of the worst transphobes today in Orlando), and the lives of many at risk.

I will say that Bill Maher can be quite crude at times, particularly on trans issues. I think it's because he has a crush on Caitlyn Jenner, as he always comes back at her and often in the cruelest way. On trans rights, in general, however, he has become increasingly supportive. He did a great interview with Janet Mock last year, trying to educate his audience about the trans community.

His point in the ending monologue is that we non-Trumpists should not be distracted from the bigger picture by the right-wing's efforts to target the trans community on the bathroom issue. Democrats shouldn't swallow the bait, progressives and liberals shouldn't, and neither should the LGBT community. Let the lawyers sort it out, and Hollywood will continue to make progress on the culture front.

When a presidential candidate threatens the life of his opponent, or seriously considers using nuclear weapons and dismantling NATO, and is in hock to Russian oligarchs, we have to tackle the bigger problem. The "the decades-long systematic oppression and violence faced by transgender people" is not the principal issue on the table during this campaign, nor will it be resolved during the next three months. Electing Hillary will keep the momentum moving forward so that it can ultimately be resolved.

"Respectability politics" isn't in play here, and HRC's actions during the ENDA debacle nine years ago are irrelevant. The prevalence of trans actors today is not of primary concern, nor is the agenda of Hollywood producers who are turning out much more trans-supportive material today. Who cares why they're doing it, as long as they do it? Yes, it probably has something to do with the fact that trans issues are hot and there's money to be made. It worked for the gay community, and it's working for us. Right now there are more important issues at hand, as I've mentioned above.

Has our increased visibility led to the backlash? To some degree, I'm sure, but that's part of the dialectic -- we can't get previously uninvolved Americans concerned with our rights without being out and engendering the backlash along with the increased positive exposure.

Insinuating that Clinton will use the trans community as a sacrificial lamb is insulting, to her and her campaign. Repeatedly promoting ourselves as victims will do us no good, even under a Clinton Administration. Under a Trump administration we'd all become real victims.

Yes, Bill, please check your style manual and stop saying "transgendered." It makes you sound uneducated, though, to be fair, you're not alone in your business. Too few of us activists take the time to correct our allies when they mangle the language.

Finally, I'll say that we're not being thrown under the bus anymore. As I've pointed out on a number of occasion, when it comes to LGBT civil rights, we're driving the bus. We now need to drive that bus to swing states to work to elect Hillary, a Democratic Senate, and, hard as it may be to conceive, a Democratic House. It's not just about us. We need to hang together, so we don't hang separately in the Trump police state.