photo by Kaitlyn Tikkun

photo by Kaitlyn Tikkun

On the evening of Saturday, February 23rd, noise reverberated throughout the enclosed entrance to the midtown Hilton Hotel as approximately 50 motley LGBT demonstrators hoisted three-foot tall, pink-painted cardboard middle fingers, drummed and chanted to protest a fundraiser for the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group.

RHA and the other protesters are angry at HRC for removing transgender people from the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a 2007 bill banning workforce discrimination based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity.

Inside HRC’s “Greater New York Gala,” two women, Francesca and Jess, from the Radical Homosexual Agenda briefly disrupted executive director Joe Solmonese’s speech. Both women threw flyers out to Gala attendees. Security guards stopped one of the women as she approached the stage, but the other was able to unfurl a banner which depicted a pink middle finger and read, “Can’t Spell LGBT With HRC!” Within seconds, additional guards detained her. Mr. Solmonese, attempting to make light of the moment, said, “Well, some people complain all the time.”

Jess stated, “It’s remarkable that HRC celebrates a legacy of protest, yet they are very quick to stamp out dissent when called out for betraying their community.”

In 2007, Mr. Solmonese has said, “We absolutely do not support, and, in fact, oppose legislation that is not absolutely inclusive.” But yet, behind the scenes, Solmonese eliminated trans protections from ENDA to make the bill more salable to straight people.

ENDA passed in the House and failed in the Senate. HRC hails the bill as a “victory” because they got a majority of House members to support “gay rights.” But the real victory is that 360 LGBTQ groups, including all national groups except the Log Cabin Republicans and GLAAD, opposed ENDA, and told HRC they can’t turn some of us into second-class citizens so others can get ahead. The real victory is that, from Stonewall to Seattle, trans people continue to battle on the frontlines for a better world.

“Gays and lesbians star in sit-coms, but I still can’t use a public restroom without risking being beaten up or arrested,” said Riley, a 26-year old trans man and member of RHA who drummed and chanted outside of the Hilton Hotel. “HRC claims to be fighting for human rights. But by excluding me from ENDA, are they suggesting I’m not human?”

“With funding from corporations that use sweatshop labor, exacerbate global warming and repress unions and indigenous activists, HRC has more to answer for than just ENDA,” said Tim, a member of RHA who was outside at the demonstration.

The RHA demonstration was un-permitted. However, the NYPD heard about the event in advance and set up metal gates to separate us from the public.

Additional Media Coverage:

 http://www.nyblade.com/2008/2-26/news/localnews/1208HRCdinner.cfm

 http://www.nyblade.com/

 http://gaycitynews.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=19328072&BRD=2729&PAG=461&dept_id=568864&rfi=6

 http://gaycitynews.com/site/news.cfm?brd=2729&nr=1&nostat=1