19 August 2010

My question for the final DC mayoral debate

The Washington Post, WAMU and NBC 4 are hosting the final debate for the DC mayor's race at high noon on Wednesday, September 1.  Because I'm a nerd, I managed to get a ticket to the event before they were all gone.  Even better is that members of the public can submit questions in advance by email.

As you know, I do some grassroots organizing work with members of DC's trans community.  As an activist, I've always been into fighting for rights and justice, and I'm usually drawn to struggles that don't always get the attention they should.  I've written several times before that the fights over gay marriage or Don't Ask Don't Tell have never animated me, for a variety of reasons.  There are much more basic rights that are denied every day to LGBT people who are poor, rural, trans, youth, people of color, to name a few.  Those categories don't necessarily apply to me, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't join the fight against such discrimination, and I frankly believe that you should too.

I know I've got a snowball's chance of getting this answered in what's sure to be a madhouse event with a packed agenda, but nonetheless, my question: 
Mayor Fenty:  In 2008, your administration tried to exempt District custodial agencies from complying with the gender identity and expression provisions of the Human Rights Act.  Your administration failed to report hate crimes against transgender people and failed to include the same population in your recent LGBT health report.  Your Office of Human Rights persistently refuses to enforce laws allowing transgender people to safely access public accommodations.  Overly aggressive enforcement of prostitution free zones has led to rampant and blatant profiling of transgender people as sex workers.  And in 2009, a year in which a transgender woman was brutally murdered in broad daylight, your LGBT affairs director refused to attend the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance because he had hockey tickets.  Is there a particular reason your administration is targeting an already extremely disenfranchised part of the population for additional abuse?  For both Mayor Fenty and Chairman Gray, how do you intend to rectify these problems, including addressing persistent unemployment in the transgender community and the growth of hate violence against transgender people of color?
I'm sure you'll be hearing from me again on September 1 to see whether or not it gets answered.  

You should submit a question too!   Blog it, tweet it, facebook it.  Too often people have said that the race between Fenty and Gray is about style, not substance.  But in this, and in other areas, there are real substantive problems that need to be addressed. Let's make sure those problems see the light of day before this race is over. 

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