Although the Human Rights Campaign, the largest civil rights organization in the United States, claims to “advocate for LGBTQ equality and educate the people about LGBTQ issues,” many people in the queer and trans community take issue with it.
Currently under fire by the LGBTQIA+ community is the HRC’s guide of corporations that are rated on their human rights record. This is called the Equality Index. Kate Raphael, a longtime organizer with Lesbians And Gays Against Intervention, a queer radical collective in the Bay Area, is just one of the individuals frustrated with this guide. She has stated that the guide is not a human rights record because the only things analyzed are those such as gay people in management, or domestic partner benefits. From this, it can be deduced that the guide is perhaps not all-inclusive and comprehensive enough to benefit everyone who identifies as LGBTQIA+.
Even in light of its recent campaigns, the HRC has been notoriously exclusive towards the transgender community. In 2007, they supported a bill that would outlaw companies’ discriminatory behavior towards gay, lesbian and bisexual employees. However, this bill left out transgender people. Notably, many other LGBTQIA+ organizations were against the bill because of its transgender exclusion.
The HRC also spends far too much time lobbying for marriage equality and military service for gay people, without giving much attention to other issues like healthcare and housing. The focuses of the HRC are an indication of their privilege as middle and upper-class white people. Because of this privilege, their concentrations are on problems that middle and upper-class white LGBTQIA+ people face. They lack a comprehension of intersectionality: the awareness that different identities intersect in complicated ways and cause each person’s experience of oppression to be unique.
Beyond this, the HRC has little diversity in its employees. It has previously been referred to as a “White Men’s Club,” and staff who work at the HRC have described the environment as “judgmental, exclusionary, sexist and homogenous.” Women who work at the HRC have reported feeling “excluded every day.” An internal report generated by the HRC in 2015 exposed some upsetting realities for minority employees of the organization as well. Besides the little diversity that exists, transgender employees report feeling tokenized, women experience sexist treatment and favoritism occurs, especially among the white men employed.
Bernie Sanders has also critiqued the HRC as being “part of the establishment.” By this, he was addressing the fact that the HRC is mainly run by and for white cisgender men who “just so happen to be gay.” Hillary Clinton and the HRC were shocked by this so-called “attack”:
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) January 20, 2016
— HumanRightsCampaign (@HRC) January 20, 2016
However, Sanders stood his ground as a socialist anti-establishment candidate and clearly recognizes the HRC’s flaws.
As a campaign that claims to support human rights and advocate for LGBTQ equality, the HRC could do a lot better. Evidently, there are a lot of holes that need to be patched up. The HRC should be taking responsibility for the mistakes they have made in the past and using them to move forward and create a better organization. They should initiate an increase in the diversity of their staff and begin to cater more towards transgender people, the lower class and people of color, and improve workplace conditions for their minority employees. This may include the simple act of telling the men not to be sexist and adding more gender neutral restrooms for the transgender and nonbinary employees.
I’d like to address an argument that I regularly receive whenever I am critical of a movement or organization that is claiming to work for progress in social equality. While these movements and organizations may have positive attributes, it is always important to look at them with a critical eye. By analyzing the flaws in such an organization or movement, I am not dismissing it as horrible or something that you shouldn’t participate in. I am thinking critically about its flaws and how it could be improved moving forward. The HRC has advocated plenty for the rights of gay and lesbian people and helped with the push towards marriage equality, but that doesn’t excuse its other behaviors or mean that we should praise it blindly. My article on the women’s march is another example of this sort of critical analysis.
The only time this doesn’t apply is when I’m talking about Donald Trump.