by Jorge Reyes
In what seems like a major step in civil rights and civil liberties, President Obama nominated the first transgendered female, Amanda Simpson, as Senior Advisor to the Commerce Department.
Though an important move, the white house has been keeping a tight lip on this one. This silence is most likely in order to avoid media attention or to embolden the vitriol of right-wing religiously-affiliated groups, as we will see.
At the time of her appointment, Simpson made the following statement: "I'm truly honored to have received this appointment and am eager and excited about this opportunity that is before me. As one of the first transgender presidential appointees to the federal government, I hope that I will soon be one of hundreds, and that this appointment opens future opportunities for many others."
She is a former pilot, has been active in the aerospace and defense industry, has worked for GLTB issues for many years, and ran (unsuccessfully) for the Arizona House of Representative. A YMCA woman of the year in 2004, Simpson was instrumental convincing her employer Raytheon, a military contractor, to add gender in its equal employment opportunity bylaws. Is this a token, as Simpson herself said in a newspaper article. Hardly.
Right-wing groups are already trying to make an issue of this much-deserved appointment, which is exactly the reason why the Obama administration wants to make this a "stealth" appointment.
Americans for Truth's President Peter LaBarbera questioned the appointment calling it a new quota system in the Obama administration. Focus on the Family released a statement saying that "Simpson's nomination was forwarded through to President Obama by a gay activist group, making it appear that this appointment of a male-to-female 'transgender' activist to a high level Commerce Department position to be payback to his far-left base for their political support." Not to be outdone of course, was Matt Barber, associate dean at Jerry Fallwell's Liberty University, who said that the appointment "boggles the mind" refusing to see this as a civil or human rights issue like racial discrimination, which of course they don't question anymore.
I do see that this is a major breakthrough in civil rights, as momentous as the civil rights laws that began to be enacted in the 1960's.
From everything I have read about her job experience, education and commitment to public service, nothing about Simpson's candidacy seems to point to anything other than she deserves this appointment. This is another case of an extremely well-qualified American being called to serve her country. It would be a shame if we still thought in shades and hues of the past when only a few acceptable people were qualified to serve, only white "heterosexual" men, while other people and groups were outright excluded.
Are we still living in a country that likes to call itself equal, but separate? This is what these right-wing groups (using carefully-crafted words to ostracize some and find others acceptable) are doing. The ostracizing, of course, is now done very subtly, without any of the fighting words used just a few decades ago against African-Americans, women, and, yes, even gays.
Unfortunately many don't see gay rights on the same plain field as racial equality. Mainly this is because homosexuality is still viewed as a personal choice, which defies the imagination, thus in effect making discrimination more difficult to address.
Simpson was a man. She's now legally a female. The question most of us should ask in order to find out if Simpson should be confirmed is this: is she qualified for this job? If the answer is yes, then 'nuff said. If the answer is no, then we shouldn't even be discussing this and should move on to other issues. And my gawd, there are so many other pressing issues to discuss!