Friday, April 22, 2011

Equality Maryland Fires Director, Yet the Board Members Need to Look at Their Own Transphobic & Classist History, Not Just Blame a Scapegoat!

Morgan Meneses-Sheets is the 'sacrifical lamb' of Equality Maryland's board

Last Sunday, the board of Equality Maryland fired their Executive Director, Morgan Meneses-Sheets. At first, I thought it was a good thing due to the public outcry from the state and national transsexual, transgender and intersex (TTI) communities who opposed Equality Maryland’s decision to fight for a unjust bill, H.B. 235, which implied that TTI people are second class citizens in the area of public accommodations. Her being fired showed that public opinion holds weight in LGBT leadership. I also feel she didn’t truly enroll TS/TG community buy-in regarding the decision to abandon PA protections, and she also cancelled “transgender working groups” when they were needed most, though, she could have just been carrying out the boards wishes.

However, as I pursued the situation more, I am left with a bad taste for the actual board members of Equality Maryland, and in fact, my heart goes out to Morgan. I feel for her because the truth is that the board actually makes all the important decisions concerning directions and strategy, and it was just Morgan’s job to do as she was told. It’s pretty sinister for the board to now use Morgan as the sacrificial lamb when it was truly the board that was to blame for the down fall of Equality Maryland’s reputation

This is not to suggest I agree with some of her actions, but the major issues I have are matters that the board had definitive influence and final say in, Morgan was just the messenger. So why kill the messenger? That’s what the board has decided to do, and they expect us all to buy it. Well, I don’t buy generic brands, including this stunt of the board members. The source should be held accountable.

Let's meet those really responsible:

Equality Maryland, Inc. Board of Directors: Charles Butler, Darrell Carrington, David Lublin, Rosemary Nicolosi, Lisa M. Polyak, Mark Yost, Jr.

Equality Maryland Foundation Board of Directors: Alex Hickox, Rosemary Nicolosi, Patrick L. Wojahn, Charles Butler

It was the Equality Maryland BOARD MEMBERS responsible for:

  • 1) Allowed a “national advocacy coalition” to call shots, upsetting many state residents

  • 2) Left former trans board member Laura Hart in the dark when they removed PA protections from the Gender Anti-discrimination Act, causing her to resign

  • 3) Have no transsexual people on board, or staff

  • 4) Maryland LGB and TS/TG advocates have stated that the board has many elitist, classist and transphobic sentiments and practices

  • 5) Enforced the decision to send the marriage equality bill vote back to committee, angering many Maryland residents who said it was best to put it to a vote, if not at least to get on record where officials stood on the bill

  • 6) Have maliciously thrown their ED under the bus, when she was simply doing what she was told, which is bad for community morale

  • 7) Have failed to admit their wrong doing of 2001, when transsexual & transgender people were removed from the Anti-discrimination act, therefore only protecting LGB people, making TS/TG people 2nd class citizens in the LGB”T” coalition

  • 8) Have rejected the Maryland’s LGBT community's demand for transparency throughout the last 6 months of working for both the TS/TG bill and the marriage equality bill.

  • 9) After reports that the moderator of Equality Maryland’s Facebook page was censoring and deleting dissent, and even banning people, the board still did not change this protocol

  • 10) Being a board member should be more than just champagne toasts, and spring rolls, it should also be about enrolling ALL the people included in their mission statement, unfortunately, the board did not do that with the transsexual and transgender communities.

  • So, if the board is going to fire the Executive Director for simply carrying out their agenda, they need to fire them-damn-selves! And, for them to have absolutely no transsexual people on their board or staff is appalling!

    No taxation without representation!

    Spin, baby, spin….
    that’s all this is. A PR spin job to imply that Morgan is all to blame, but the truth is that the board is guiltier then Morgan, and they should be held accountable.
    Will the next Executive Director have freer rein then Morgan? Of course not! They will still have to beat to the drum of the board, which is apparently being told what to do by some mysterious “national advocacy coalition”.

    Therefore, firing Morgan is just a “pass the blame game” that I refuse to participate in!

    In all my articles I have written about this unjust HB 235 compromise, or the quotes I gave to media outlets, I never once placed the blame, or even mentioned either Morgan Meneses-Sheets or H.B. 235’s sponsor, Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk. This is because most of the transsexual and transgender community is aware enough to know this is about the national gay (not T) establishment and it’s common practices, not one or two people.

    There is a long history of throwing TS/TG people under the bus to secure gay only rights.

    There is a long history of gay organizations advising elected officials and the government on issues that are transsexual and transgender specific, without including TS/TG people in the process, or even gaining their consent.

    There is a long history, starting a few years after the Stonewall Riots, of elitist gays abandoning TS/TG rights because they said their issues were “too radical”, never mind that it was trans women Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P Johnson, Miss Major and others who were in the Stonewall Inn that night and kicked things off!

    Matthew Thorn, Equality Maryland’s development director, has resigned in response to Morgan’s firing. I respect him for refusing not to be a puppet in the board’s sinister PR ploy, and for him calling the board out on their refusal to take responsibility for their part in the downfall of the groups public graces. In his statement he writes:
    "Not only has she [Morgan] committed time and energy away from her wife and her 5-month-old daughter, but she had the tenacity to keep fighting in Annapolis, even when all others had given up. Giving up just isn’t in her vocabulary. This past Sunday, the board of directors of Equality Maryland, in executive session voted to remove her from her position, essentially telling the organization’s staff, volunteers, supporters, funders and general community that the organization will now move in a different direction.

    I fear that the direction that the board seeks to take is one that will not be a beneficial path for the community, for the organization, for the staff and especially the organization’s funders, and that is why, effective today, I am resigning from my position as director of development of Equality Maryland. I wish nothing but the best to the staff and the community and hope that we can overcome these obstacles to continue to fight for our full equality.”

    So, while a few noted transsexual and transgender advocates and bloggers are publicly celebrating the termination of Morgan, I most certainly am not. I am actually saddened that this deceptive decision by the board has happened, because it suggests that the board’s hands are clean, which they are not. I won’t be celebrating until the board says:
    Mistakes were made that we had a part in. We want to enroll all members of the LGBT community in moving forward. We will actually have transsexual people on our board and staff. We will be a real LGBT coalition”.

    Until the board of Equality Maryland does right by TS/TG communities, their name will continue to be tainted. Firing Morgan has only made them look dishonest, uncompassionate and traitorous to someone who was just doing their bidding, and that they are against taking responsibility for their own actions.

    I hope Morgan learns from this experience, and that in her next job she lets the board know that there are consequences to leaving the transsexual and transgender community behind, and only giving them crumbs. It’s a new dawn, and the TS/TG communities are now a major player in the game, and have the ability now to let the public know where they stand. They influenced Maryland elected officials to publicly acknowledge the disconnect between Gay Inc and the TS/TG community.

    I’m happy that Morgan has decided not exit the stage without calling a spade a spade, and letting people know the board ain’t Mother Teresa. In part of her statement she writes:
    It is with heavy heart that I share that today will be my last day as the executive director of Equality Maryland. While it is not my choice to leave, it is my choice to make my voice heard as I exit.

    In particular the past few months have been tough to bear, not because of the hard work which I welcome and felt honored to be part of, but because of the forces within the organization and external politics that created additional and unnecessary obstacles to our forward movement and success. As I move on, I will not focus on the negative or destructive forces that created this untenable situation...”
    I’m glad she acknowledged the “forces within the organization” [the board] which had a part, or in reality, the biggest part in this whole fiasco.

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