Anyway, here's my Kamala Harris story.
Back in 2009-2010 I spent a LOT of time volunteering for Repeal Prop 8. I worked in SF and one day the email list mentioned a gay marriage rally was happening in front of city hall in response to…something. That was a short walk, so I went
At the end of the rally, Kamala Harris came out and talked. She wasn’t an announced or planned speaker. What I understood at the time was she'd literally walked up as the rally was happening and asked if she could join. I think she'd literally seen it out the window.
And she gave, as far as I could tell without any preparation, an incredible little speech? She only had a couple of minutes but she spoke from the heart about how important gay rights was, and how as a black woman she tied the gay rights struggle to the civil rights movement.
That really stayed with me? There were like, sixty or a hundred people standing out there that day. Nobody was gonna be filming it, pre smartphones/youtube, no press was there. There was no benefit to her doing this. It was the kind of thing you only do if you really mean it.
That was my first impression of Kamala Harris (because obviously I didn't know who the SF DA was). Language almost no straight person was using around LGBT issues at the time, spoken as if she lived and breathed it, given just to give a random collection of gay activists heart.
And thiiiis is why it’s interesting, today, to be having a conversation about her transphobic official acts as CA Attorney general, and her apparent inability to explain them (a thread of mine about that below:) https://t.co/1Snrga4jWz
Because I absolutely cannot reconcile the woman I saw up on the mic that day with these mealy responses, at least, not without making some unfortunate conclusions. https://t.co/qOtxu26YPe
I absolutely don’t believe she means what she’s saying in that quote—that she disagreed with her office's actions. If you believe LGBT people are as equal as anyone and our rights have the moral weight of black civil rights in the 60s, you don't secretly "work behind the scenes".
In fact, in 2010 I and the rest of the Repeal Prop 8 folks phonebanked for Harris to become AG on the basis of the idea if Meg Whitman became governor and ordered Harris to defend the ban on gay marriage, Harris would refuse. She said she would, I remember https://t.co/HcXTuXlApS
On *other* LGBT issues, Harris was actually willing proudly to say if the state’s position interfered with personal rights she could and would stand for them and refuse the state's interests because the constitution is a higher law superseding her other responsibilities as AG.
So I don't believe, if she believed trans people had a right to this medical care, she would have quietly "worked behind the scenes" and… agitated in meetings with the CDCR? And not criticize the state in public and when it didn’t work shrug and say, oh well, that’s all I can do
This means she either didn’t know it was happening (implausible; it was a recurring legal issue over years, was in the news etc) or didn’t believe access to GRS is a right for trans people (plausible; after all, she wasn’t willing to say she believes in it when asked today).
What I’m left with is that she doesn’t like admitting it now, but Harris didn’t, doesn't, believe GRS for prisoners is a right.
So how do I reconcile that with the barnstormer I stood and listened to drawing a direct line from MLK to queer liberation in front of SF city hall?
One possibility is Harris believes in gay rights, but not trans rights. That would explain it, but I don't actually think that's it. Harris was pretty strong on trans rights as a Senator. She pushed pretty hard on a bill banning trans panic defenses. https://t.co/KNeLmVm8Gt
I think what’s happening here says something uglier about both Harris and Democrats in general.
Harris got a reputation for being bad on trans rights because of her actions against prisoners and her actions against sex workers.
Harris believes in her heart, I really think she does, in LGBT equality and the essential humanity of gay and trans people. But if someone winds up in jail, or deigns to sex work, she doesn’t see that humanity anymore. That is what her actions tell me. And I don't like it.
As a trans woman, I believe someone doesn't believe in trans liberation unless they believe in liberation for the most oppressed and marginalized members of the community. And that is, point blank, sex workers and trans people in jail.
But Harris—and I imagine if you scratched a lot of Democrats you’d see the same response—appears to believe we have rights until we "go wrong". And if we do, that firey passion for equality goes away and shit like this can fly across her desk without her really paying attention. pic.twitter.com/RDvYUVQQQV
I don't think you get to do that. If WPATH medical care is a right and not just a nice thing some people get, then it means it's a *right*, it means someone in jail for doing something awful deserves it as much as I, a privileged tech worker down the street from SF city hall, do.
I think most trans people feel something like this way. We all know sex workers. We all know we'd be mistreated in jail. We're not going to let those parts of the community be dehumanized. And I think this is why Harris has this absolutely shit reputation in the trans community.
I think among cis people Harris has a reputation as highly pro gay, pro trans? I don't think this will last, I think trans activism is breaking through. It isn't enough to just sign on with HRC's newest bill and call yourself pro trans anymore. You have to actually listen to us.