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Contacting our Representatives: Should We Even Bother?
Representation without communication isn't possible.
Dear readers (all 11 of you, and hi mom!!)
As we’re all busy, I’m saving your time and mine to write here only when I am either (b) stymied at publishing something I want to get seen or (b) am fired up and need to talk about it with more words than Twitter allows. This entry is definitely (b).
Today, I received a long awaited (not really, I had forgotten about it) response from Senator Rev. Warnock, GA-Democrat. I wrote him a short (for me) email about the Equality Act, outlining my concerns about the act as currently formulated and passed in the US House. To my great surprise—I really should stop being surprised—I received yet another stock response that engaged NOT AT ALL with the letter I submitted. This follows the same experience from Senator Ossoff, also Democrat from Georgia. I have several questions, the least important I will get out of the way—if I’m just going to get sent a stock response, why does it take a month?
Below I paste my email as well as the stock response. As you can see, it addresses my concerns NOT AT ALL. I am left with several questions: Does he not understand my concerns? Does he not know how to address them without undermining support for a bill he has already committed to supporting, no matter how flawed? or, equally concerning: Does he just not even read our letters? Whatever the answer is: how can we be effectively represented in a Democracy if those who are elected to represent us do not understand, engage with, and/or hear our concerns about policy?
We are in an era of unprecedented electronic access to our elected representatives. With very little effort, I can plug in my address and write an email to my representatives as their constituent, whose interests they are supposed to care about. Mind you, this does not mean they have to agree, but it means they are supposed to (at least in a functioning democracy) consider and engage with constituent concerns. Instead, Warnock, like Ossoff before him, responded to my letter as if I was a person on the religious right who was objecting to the Equality Act based on concerns about religious freedom. As you can see, however, the term religion or concerns about religious freedoms was not raised in my short email. Whomever he is speaking to with this stock email, it is certainly not me or my concerns.
What are we to do as citizens in a representative democracy whose elected representatives are unwilling to hear or engage with our concerns? The Equality Act would not institute minor changes but sweeping changes, as I have discussed elsewhere. The Equality Act would eliminate sex-based provisions in favor of gender-identity-based provisions, which would allow any male at any time to self-ID into women and girls’ spaces (rape crisis and domestic violence centers, refugees, locker rooms) and activities. To be clear, this bill does not grant right of access to genuine transwomen but to any male willing to say ‘I identify as a woman’. This is an abject failure in policy making and evidences a blatant disregard for the well-being of females and the safety of women and girls (however defined).
Just today, I learned that the male who self-identified into the women’s Wi Spa in LA some weeks ago, which caused protests from women and a counter protest that turned violent from others, was a registered sex offender. Was that person a transwoman? I do not know, and I honestly do not care. Male sex offenders who have victimized women and girls should not be allowed to enter spaces where women and girls are undressed on the basis of self-ID. This is not about transphobia, it is about applying reason and logic and prioritizing safety.
I am well aware that we don’t live in a democracy where all voices count. Some people have had their right to vote removed (or blocked by laws requiring proof of who we say we are under the guise of a voter fraud problem which does not and has never existed on a large scale), and our ability to get our representatives to hear us depends in large part on who were are and how much money we have given to them. I am not in a position to pay for access to my Senator at some $1000 per plate fundraiser or the like. Hence, the email. Yet, it should simply not be the case that concerns—reasonable concerns and issues—are simply ignored because we haven’t paid to be heard or have well-funded lobby groups echoing our concerns (i.e., paying to be heard). Alas, this is the state of US Democracy.
I am technically represented in Congress by Senators Ossoff and Warnock, and Representative Williams, all of whom I have contacted, and the latter I requested a meeting with (which was predictably ignored). I am not expecting them to agree with me or even validate my concerns. I do expect them to hear the concerns of their constituents. In my view, and that of others who are on the left and right, the Equality Act has some glaring, egregious flaws. Apparently, direct engagement with a few concerns is too much to ask.
What might engagement look like? Well, for example, responses to the following: Have you thought about these concerns, and, if so, do they concern you, and, if so, what are you going to do about it? If not, why not? Have you given thought to the alternatives or revisions to the Equality Act that I and others have proposed? If not, why not?
For democracy to work, we have to have representatives that will listen to their constituents. Listening and communication is a prerequisite for democratic representation. I’m under no illusion that our democracy is working for the many. But, I’m just not ready to accept how this outrageously undemocratic situation where we cannot actually get our representatives to hear our concerns and respond to them.
Rant over. Thoughts welcome. (Text of the email ‘exchange’ below).
Dear Senator Rev. Warnock,
I write as a constituent in Atlanta, who … supports full human rights, including LGBT rights.
I am writing to urge you to consider re-examining the Equality Act (S.393), which you co-sponsor. The bills aims are laudable but its form is flawed. There are predictable negative consequences, which should be addressed now rather than cast later as unexpected negative surprises.
In particular, as I have written about in peer reviewed articles, see here: article, the bill would allow ANY male at ANY time to self-ID into women and girls' spaces on a say-so. This bill aims to facilitate LGBT equality by redefining sex, which would have the consequence of allowing any male to use formerly protected women’s spaces, thereby eroding their protected nature. Research on protected spaces reveals that gatekeeping is necessary. If a provision is to be protected, access has to be restricted. If anyone can opt in on a say-so, it is no longer a protected space.
I urge you and colleagues to provide federal non-discrimination protections to LGBT people, without eliminating the distinction between sex and gender and instituting a policy of unchallengeable in-the-moment self-ID.
Please act before it's too late. Women and girls' (however defined) safety and equal opportunity depends on getting this bill right [and right now it isn’t]….
“No matter our differences in opinion” sounds great, but since Senator Rev. Warnock doesn’t seem to hear or understand these differences, it is not at all clear how he intends to “[be] a voice for [me]”. I’m in a same-sex marriage. That is not my concern. I support LGBT human rights, but there is no human right to opposite-sex provisions.
At this point, I honestly think it is a waste of time and energy to contact representatives. What say you?
**As always, forgive the typos. Written in a hurry before making dinner in a frustrated state.**