August 19, 2020 at 5:58 pm EDT | by Rachael Rose Luckey
OPINION: Looking at Kamala Harris’ record on trans and progressive issues — the facts matter
Upfront, I am a progressive. I am a transsexual and a visible trans activist.
I got into politics as the first transgender officer of the Stonewall Democratic Club and currently an elected official for the City of Los Angeles looking towards higher office.
At all times, I have voiced progressive values. This said because I would like you to understand where I am coming from and that I am not some shill for neo-libs.
I wanted Bernie or Warren. I did not get either. I, along with every other progressive, got Biden/Harris. Two people I am confident that were way down on most all progressives’ list of primary candidates.
But this is where we are at in this moment in time.
As a progressive, I hold sacred the fundamental values of inclusion, integrity, compassion, and truth. As part of that value system, and in particular when it comes to politics, it is fundamental to have open honest discussions/debates around issues and candidates without tearing people down. Instead, identify perceived strengths and weakness in others (we all have them), and then lift up the strengths and assist in resolving the weaknesses.
To me, the transgender movement is about acceptance and love. It is about second chances. It is about personal growth. It is about our journeys, not our destinations. This is what I have learned from the community and I thank you!
The truth matters. Not just the cherry-picked parts that attempt to make someone look bad because they were not one’s first choice, but the whole truth. A lie by omission is still a lie. This is what many folks in the transgender community seem to be trying to do at the moment. They say look at Sen. Harris’ record on trans issues and then they neglect to tell the whole story.
From a progressive standpoint, it should first be acknowledged Sen. Harris’ track record as a prosecutor is a bitter pill. Jamal Trulove’s wrongful conviction seems to be one of the most egregious examples of her “tough on crime” policies doing damage to folks in the black community in particular. These are certainly red flags for progressives in thinking about her as a VP pick.
Jamal Trulove attends The Last Black Man In San Francisco premiere during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, in January 2019.
At the same time, if we are to have a discussion about her record, then in the spirit of telling the whole story, and not just the parts that make her look bad, her Senate record should also be considered as well, which in my view has been fairly progressive in general.
Based on that, has she seen the errors of her ways? No doubt the debate on this will continue.
As a transgender person who is a LA City elected official and community leader, I feel the need to set the record straight in the court of public opinion as to her record with respect to transgender issues. My progressive values demand I do. It is injurious to the trans movement if we do not ourselves live up to the ideals of the movement. So for today, I would like to focus on her record on trans rights, and LGBTQ issues in general.
From what I am seeing, there are 2 main instances where she is being perceived to have purposefully done injury to the trans community. One is a brief she wrote as CA Attorney General on behalf of the CA Department of Corrections (DOC) and the other was her votes as US Senator on two anti-human trafficking bills.
Michelle Lael-Norsworhy and Shiloh Quine were transgender inmates who sought gender reassignment surgery. (Norsworthy photo courtesy Transgender Law Center; Quine photo courtesy SFINX Publishing: Women of San Quentin)
Brief Defending A CA Department Of Corrections Policy Disallowing Medical Transition Services To Transgender Inmates
It is true she wrote the brief. This is what some trans people are using to discredit her. But this is not the entire story. The people using this to discredit her are lying by omission. Let’s be clear. She did not deny trans inmates services, DOC did, a judge did.
The DOC was her client while she was CA Attorney General. She did not write the policy. It was her job, it was her sworn duty, to represent her client to the best of her ability in court. As AG, her personal feelings had no bearing on her obligations.
What folks are omitting is the part where she went back to DOC and convinced them to change their policy so that trans people can now get the medical transition services they need. She didn’t have to do that. Technically her job as AG was done the moment she submitted the brief. But clearly after having to write it, this did not sit well with her. It looks like she saw the harm such a policy was inflicting, and on her own, she fixed it.
It is true she was in support of these 2 bills and voted in favor. But again, this is not the whole story. For those who may not know, these 2 bills, which did become law, sought to make it more difficult for pimps and sex traffickers to further exploit willing and unwilling sex workers by holding online platforms accountable if such persons were using them. Unfortunately, there were unintended consequences for trans survival sex workers.
As many of us in the trans community are aware, survival sex work for some of us is just that, a means of survival. Due to an unemployment rate for trans people of 3 times the national average because of discrimination in the workplace, some people have little choice. What these 2 laws did was to take away platforms that were used to vet clients making it safer for those workers. With the threat of prosecution, online platforms such as Craigslist took no chances and illuminated their personal pages.
The one thing I hope we can all agree on is human trafficking is horrid. It is estimated there are 50,000 people trafficked each year in the US and 20 – 40 million globally. I am not saying these bills were even close to the right approach to the problem but did she vote for these bills as a way of harming the transgender community? It does not appear so.
Her Record On LGBTQ Rights In General
• A co-sponsor of the Equality Act (S.788).
• Helped make California the first state to outlaw the gay/trans panic defense.
• As State AG, she refused to defend Prop 8 on the grounds it was unconstitutional.
• Declined to certify a measure that obtained enough signatures to get on the state ballot to institute the death penalty for homosexual acts.
• Introduced legislation in the Senate that would require the Census Bureau to include questions on the Census after Trump denied its inclusion on the form
• As a presidential candidate, she pledged to have a west wing office for a chief advocate for LGBT affairs. As VP, I have little doubt that won’t be made to happen.
At the end of the day, one can certainly find fault with just about anyone. Some may find fault with me for even writing this op-ed and that is ok.
But don’t you think in this age of memes and 240 character quips that pass for civil discourse, and unless there is something I am missing here, isn’t it nice for a change to actually get the whole picture?
The truth is the Trump Fascist Regime must be removed on November 3rd. On November 4th, progressives will continue to do what we do best.
Keep pushing forward for workers, healthcare for all, housing as a human right, racial justice, protection of LGBTQ+ rights, reimagining of criminal justice and the for-profit prison systems, community policing, etc.
And if Biden/Harris do not listen, we will most certainly continue taking to the streets!
— Rachael Rose Luckey is a progressive political activist living in Los Angeles. As President of the Rampart Village Neighborhood Council, she is one of only a couple of dozen openly Transgender elected Government Officials in the nation. f: @RachaelRose4LA | Email List: tinyurl.com/RachaelRoseEmailSignUp
(The views expressed are solely her own and do not represent the views of any political party, organization, government entity or candidate/elected official.)