Looking Back: How The G&L Views The T
March 31, 2010
The Blind Push For ENDA And Your Advocacy Dollars
April 19, 2010

ENDA And Barney Frank’s Trans Penis Panic

In a recent interview with Karen Ocamb, Barney Frank said:

“I’m hoping to get a vote on it in committee [House Committee on Education and Labor, chaired by California Democrat George Miller]. I’m doing a lot of work on it quietly, to get the issues involving transgender access to rooms where people have their clothes off. That’s a fact that you have to deal with, particularly for people who have not had an operation.”

Frank has had a reputation for having a preoccupation with preoperative trans-women’s penises. Since writing “A Frank Bitch Slap“, I’ve feared about Frank’s public outbursts concerning the transgender penis. Miranda Stevens-Miller said of Barney Frank:

A little while later, I found Barney without a group of people around him, so I once again engaged him in conversation. “So,” I said, “does your support of transgender inclusion in the VAWA mean that you might be changing your mind about inclusion of gender-variant people in ENDA?” An innocent enough question, but you would have thought that I was threatening him with a loaded weapon. He got red in the face and started shouting, “Never.” His problem was that until we could answer the question of “people with penises in [women’s] showers,” there is no way that he would support it. The conversation got rather heated to say the least. And with Barney speaking very loudly and repeatedly about “penises in showers,” we attracted a lot of attention in the restaurant.


In fact, it was déjà vu, recalling a similar conversation we had almost two years ago when Barney was in town for a meeting of the Stonewall Democrats. At that time, it was “men in women’s bathrooms.” I pointed out to him that while he was discussing urinary rights, I was talking about human rights and employment discrimination. His only come-back was, “What’s the matter? You too good to talk about bathrooms?”

When he hired Deigo Sanchez as his chief of staff, many thought his days of transphobic outbursts were behind him. But it seems like Frank still has this obsession. Again, from his interview with Ocamb:

“But the House has already passed the bill without it, which helped us because it helps us focus. Call people and say we want you to support the bill and don’t water down the transgender provision – because that’s the point of political trouble. And they should start calling now. I believe we’ll get a vote sometime this month.”


“Essentially, there are full protections for people who are transgender with a couple of provisos: One – the employer can ask for a gender consistent dress code. No mustaches and dresses. Two – people with one set of genitals do not have a legal right to get naked in front of the other set, is the basic way to put it. Some accommodation has to be made there.

If you insist on the right for unrestricted access to bathrooms – we lose. And we’re making some accommodations here. And we worked it out with the transgender community. We had people very upset when we raised it – it because clear we couldn’t pass the bill without it.”

But those accommodations have already been dealt with.  In April of 2007 (H.R. 2015) and in the most current version of ENDA  (3017), the shower/changing facilities issue was addressed:

CERTAIN SHARED FACILITIES- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to establish an unlawful employment practice based on actual or perceived gender identity due to the denial of access to shared shower or dressing facilities in which being seen unclothed is unavoidable, provided that the employer provides reasonable access to adequate facilities that are not inconsistent with the employee’s gender identity as established with the employer at the time of employment or upon notification to the employer that the employee has undergone or is undergoing gender transition, whichever is later.

ADDITIONAL FACILITIES NOT REQUIRED- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to require the construction of new or additional facilities.

At the time,  Dr. Jill Weiss addressed the issue concerning the ENDA language by saying:

As I read it, it means that shower or locker rooms without private stalls are exempt, so long as employees get a shower or locker room ‘not inconsistent with’ their self-identified gender. Thus, a transgender person, regardless of surgical status, can be singled out for placement in a single-person shower room, though everyone else uses a multi-person gendered shower room. However, this would only happen, according to the text, if the rooms involved ‘unavoidable nudity.’ Many shower and locker rooms these days have some stalls for private use.

ENDA does not require employers to segregate transgender employees. Rather, it specifically notes that when the locker/shower room has private spaces, ENDA applies to permit the transgender person to use the room appropriate to their gender identity. But when there is no private space in the locker/shower room, then ENDA leaves it up to the employer to segregate or not to segregate – it is up to them to do the right thing, and I hope they would.”

What the bill hasn’t addressed was bathrooms…until now.  Frank’s admitted that they’re changing the language to include restrictions on bathroom usage. The narrative  that ENDA can’t pass without bathroom restrictions is something that Frank has beat the drum for again, and again, and again.

When I lobbied Senator Lugar’s office in 2007, his staff were concerned about the effect ENDA would have on businesses, not about transgender people in bathrooms. I’ve never heard of any transgender person who’s lobbied the Hill say that they’ve experienced Congressional “penis panic” either.

The question has to be asked, would Frank support the same restrictions on gay and lesbian members of the armed forces that he’s asking of transgender workers? One only need look to the newspaper to see gay men acting out in restrooms. The reality of gay men engaging in illegal sexual activities in restrooms is a common occurrence, yet Frank hasn’t publicly expressed the need to restrict gay servicemen in restrooms and showers. The issue of sex crimes committed by transgender women in women’s bathrooms is a COMPLETE FICTION, yet Frank continues to push this transgender penis panic into the media. The same kind of fear that Frank is peddling was tried both in Maryland and Gainesville, and the voters rebuffed both efforts.

The words of Miranda Stevens-Miller in 2000 still ring true today:

His adolescent preoccupation with genitals is one of the major stumbling blocks in getting federal legislation introduced to protect the gender variant people of America. With his fantasy of penises in showers, he is almost single-handedly holding back the tide of the national gender rights movement.”

Mara Keisling has been quoted that the new language “might be harmless or it might be horrible.” It looks like it’s trending towards horrible.


  1. […] The question has to be asked, would Frank support the same restrictions on gay and lesbian members of the armed forces that he’s asking of transgender workers? One only need look to the newspaper to see gay men acting out in restrooms. The reality of gay men engaging in illegal sexual activities in restrooms is a common occurrence, yet Frank hasn’t publicly expressed the need to restrict gay servicemen in restrooms and showers. The issue of sex crimes committed by transgender women in women’s bathrooms is a COMPLETE FICTION, yet Frank continues to push this transgender penis panic into the media. The same kind of fear that Frank is peddling was tried both in Maryland and Gainesville, and the voters rebuffed both efforts.” (source) […]

  2. […] foi flagrado gritando “Nunca!” na entrevista, em um restaurante lotado e começou a resmungar sobre […]

  3. […] same-sex couples to adopt, and 20-34% in strong opposition to same-sex marriage. Barney Frank also galvanized conservative opposition to ENDA by validating transphobia about trans women and gender non-conforming […]

  4. Anonymous says:

    6 Ways Femmephobia Is Harming LGBTQIA+ Communities
    Posted on February 26, 2016 by


    Someone once said that most people only have just enough empathy to accept themselves. I’ve found that to often be true, particularly within the LGBTQIA+ community.
    While working on transgender military issues, I cannot tell you the number of time that I’ve heard some lesbian and (mostly) gay people who suffered under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” turn right around and oppose open transgender service.
    I’ve heard them use the same talking points against transgender people that were used against LGBQ+ people just a few years ago.
    They’re gross.
    They’re a distraction.
    The military isn’t a social experiment.
    The talking points and opposition to transgender people are almost never focused on transgender men though. It is nearly universally about transgender women – and the underlying cause is femmephobia.
    This does not only affect transgender women negatively; it can be seen across LGBTQIA+ communities, and all of them are harmed by this expression of misogyny. The transgender community seems to absorb the brunt of the backlash, though.
    Now, femmephobia is the fear or hatred of all people and things which are perceived as femme, feminine, effeminate, and/or twink, regardless of their gender.
    A direct result of femmephobia is the oppression of anyone (men, women, and other genders) whose gender presentation is in any way classified as being on the feminine end of the gender binary, due to their clothing, behavior, or mannerisms.
    One recent article summed up how femmephobia starts early and is deeply ingrained in our culture: “I can’t tell you the number of parents I’ve seen who think they’ve somehow failed at feminism because their daughters like lace and Barbie dolls; it’s much rarer to see the parent of a boy upset because his love of Batman and Star Wars doesn’t sufficiently challenge gender roles.”
    Femmephobia seems like something that would be much more endemic to straight, cisgender, heteronormative culture. The problem, though, is that femmephobia is alive and well within every facet of the LGBTQIA+ community – and it negatively affects each and every one of them.
    Here’s a taste of how.
    1. Gay Men Are Affected By External and Internalized Femmephobia
    It’s been noted for over a decade that gay men’s singles ads frequently say “no fats, no fems.”
    Passing as straight is valued, and being seen as effeminate in any way is viewed as anembarrassing stereotype by a large portion of the gay community. Being anything but 100% stereotypically masculine is viewed by many as weakness, and believed to show a lack of leadership qualities.
    While the LGBTQIA+ community is quick to jump on religions that tell gay men they can only be loved if they stop being gay, it’s no less damaging to be told by your own that no one will ever love you if you aren’t straight-passing.
    Some have attributed this to parts of the movement’s attempt to mainstream queerness by playing an exaggerated form of respectability politics. There’s a fear that if LGBTQIA+ people don’t look and sound like everyone else, that we’ll be rejected for being too “different” to be palatable to the public.
    Another speculation is that some gay men adopt misogynistic attitudes as a defense mechanism to demonstrate that they’re “real men,” too. At some level, femmephobia in the gay community is a self-defense mechanism: those who blend are far less likely to be targets of violence or discrimination.
    Thankfully, some elements of the LGBTQIA+ movement (like the Task Force) have tried to reject this narrative, embracing the motto “Be You.”
    2. Femmephobia Confines Lesbians
    Both gay men and women are encouraged to be more masculine, but for very different reasons.
    In lesbian circles, femme invisibility can be a byproduct of femmephobia. There can be pressure to “butch it up” to establish one’s queer credentials.
    Lesbians who express their gender in a more stereotypically feminine way are often assumed to be less radical, less feminist, more assimilationist, and more invested in pandering to and sustaining the patriarchy.
    Sometimes, a femme gender expression is used to question the validity of a lesbian’s expressed sexual orientation or to claim that their orientation is “just a phase.” A more femme gender expression can also be used to call a lesbian’s sexual orientation into question, labeling her as potentially bisexual.
    This is an illogical stigmatization of both lesbian and bisexual women based on gender expression, and playing upon biases against polysexual people.
    These artificial constraints on acceptable gender expression don’t make life any easier for queer women, and they coerce people into living inauthentically – which is what we were fighting against in the first place.
    And at the heart of this issue is unrealized, internalized femmephobia.
    3. Femmephobia Is Part of Bisexual Erasure
    Femmephobia impacts women who are bisexual as well. Many lesbians assume that all femme women are either straight or bi.
    One lesbian friend of mine put it this way: “When she’s wearing wingtips and has short hair, there’s a better than 50-50 chance you can show interest in her without being smacked down.”
    Some bisexual people believe that bi erasure and femmephobia are very closely related. The link is is that all femmes are assumed to be bisexual, and all bisexual people (and particularly women) are assumed to actually be straight.
    Other times, femme lesbians are suspected of being bisexual, and therefore avoided by other lesbians because there is the suspicion they might just go back to dating men (even if they have their “gold star”).
    Bisexuality is the largest part of the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, and a part of the human spectrum of sexuality. This stigmatizes already nearly invisible and marginalized bisexual women in particular.
    One of the biggest issues facing the bisexual community, and bisexual women in particular, is erasure and invisibility.
    Femmephobia appears to be one of the root causes of this issue, yet is not addressed nearly often enough in the discussion of how to combat these systemic harms.
    4. Femmephobia Leads to the Invisibility of Transgender Men
    It’s no secret that transgender women absorb the brunt of hate that comes from femmephobia.
    It’s ironic, however, that this single-minded attention on transgender women leads to transgender men being something of an afterthought in all the debates over LGBTQIA+ equality.
    When was the last time a Republican state representative had a spittle-spraying freak-out over transgender men in men’s bathrooms?
    Ironically, when transgender men transition, their salaries increase by 7%. When transgender women transition, it drops on average by 32%.
    Neurobiologist (and transgender man) Ben Barres has seen this effect first hand. He noted that people regarded his work far more highly if they didn’t know he was transgender. After giving a presentation of his work, he heard on audience member remark, “Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but his work is much better than his sister’s.”
    While this might seem like a good thing for transgender men, it doesn’t work out that way. It provides a perverse incentive to stay in the closet and remain isolated.
    Transgender men often are able to “blend” more than transgender women, and thus have the option of going “stealth” more frequently. I know of some transgender men (some of whom are who are teachers) who have remained deep in the closet because the stigma of being transgender, and the fear of being seen as anything less than a “real” man.
    Maintaining this façade requires strict discipline, like severely limiting the number of people who know. This can often include other members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
    It may not be coincidental, then, that transgender men attempt suicide at a rate higher than transgender women. Social isolation has repeatedly to be shown as a risk factor for suicidality, and femmephobia creates a perverse incentive for transgender men to isolate themselves.
    5. Transgender Women Are the Nexus of Femmephobia – And the Results Are Devastating
    Perhaps no segment of the LGBTQIA+ community suffers from femmephobia more than transgender women. Transgender women are the subject of almost all of the hate and vitriol directed at transgender people.
    Of the 23 transgender people murdered in the US in 2015, all of them were transgender women.
    Queer feminist pioneer Judith Butler observed in a recent interview that:

    Killing is an act of power, a way of re-asserting domination, even a way of saying, ‘I am the one who decides who lives and dies.’ So killing establishes the killer as sovereign in the moment that he kills, and that is the most toxic form that masculinity can take. Trans women have relinquished masculinity, showing that it can be, and that is, very threatening to a man who wants to see his power as an intrinsic feature of who he is.

    Also, the rejection of anything feminine by many gay men may have led to vituperative attacks by gay leaders in the movement made against transgender women.
    Jim Fouratt, an early leader of the Gay Liberation Front and participant in the Stonewall Riots accused “gay academics and pop journalists” of “embracing this new push to make gay men and lesbians straight by leading them to endure painful physical body manipulation and dangerous hormonal injections to take on the topography of the conventional definition of what is male and what is female.”
    Two of the most prominent proponents of an unfalsifiable, pseudo-science theory meant to vilify transgender women are a pair of gay psychologists. Their theory is used by the religious right to argue that transgender people (particularly women) should be legislated out of existence.
    One of them regularly trolls the transgender community, and seems to get on very well withSecond Wave feminists who also often want the transgender community exterminated.
    One can only postulate that something he sees in himself leads him to heap such opprobrium on transgender women, that he will only treat them with dignity if they cop to being disgusting perverts.
    He promotes the narrative that transgender women aren’t women, supports reparative therapy on transgender youth, and promotes stories about transition regrets. And yet, he has the chutzpah to claim he’s on our side, as long as transgender people agree their identities are justa sexualized delusion.
    Similarly, during the debate on whether to include gender identity in the language of the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in 2007, bill sponsor and gay Democratic Representative Barney Frank was asked about whether he would support inclusion.
    He reportedly screamed, “Never!” at the interviewer in a crowded restaurant, and went on a rant about “penises in showers,” despite ENDA specifically excluding bathrooms. In 2007, Executive Director Joe Solmonese broke his promise to only support ENDA if it included gender identity, and followed Rep. Frank’s lead in dropping gender identity from ENDA.
    In 2015, a HRC internal report was leaked which found the organization’s culture was “rooted in a white, masculine orientation which is judgmental of all those who don’t fit that mold.” One staff member interviewed was even more blunt: “I see femophobia – feminine men and women are not considered as important.”
    This institutional lateral violence against transgender women hasn’t just come from gay men. Former Executive Director of HRC Elizabeth Birch once remarked that inclusion of gender identity in ENDA would happen “over my dead body.”
    Finding safety in queer women’s spaces has also been difficult for transgender women, though not nearly as much for trans masculine individuals.
    Transgender men, many of whom initially identified as lesbians, are often still accepted (or revered) in queer women’s spaces. One queer woman recently described the spectacle of a trans man holding court to an adoring crowd at a lesbian bar.
    Transgender women are often not welcome at all in such spaces, regardless of passability or surgical status.
    Transgender women are frequently accused of caricaturizing women if they present as too femme, but have their identities questioned if they present in a less femme way, with considerable overlap between the two.
    As a result, transgender women often have no way of safely expressing their gender without it serving as a basis to reject them either way.
    6. Femmephobia Is Internalized Misogyny
    Femmephobia represents a rejection of the notion that anything about being feminine is beautiful, valuable, or strong. While it has been argued that femininity only exists to please the male gaze, this theory fails in this context when one asks if this also applies to feminine men.
    It doesn’t further the cause of equality. It divides us and sets us against one another and diminishes the value of others in the community.
    In a movement based on the concept of universal human worth, this is unacceptable.
    It’s time for us to make a conscious effort to stop devaluing anything, or anyone, who doesn’t meet some societal stereotype of perfect masculinity.

    Related Articles6 Ways to Not Be a Terrible Trans Ally
    Who Decides What Makes a Woman?
    The Killing Joke
    Anger Management for a Movement
    Pondering Male Privilege Post-Transition

    Originally published at

    Tags: Feminism, femme shaming, femmephobia, Transphobia

  5. […] Yet the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would provide protection for lesbians from being fired just for being lesbian, has still not been passed by Congress despite dumping the transgender community under the bus. […]

  6. […] the rest of their coalition’s rights. Outrageously, most of their socio-political resistance has focused on the inclusion of language allowing males to use female bathrooms on the basis of gender identity. (Also note at that link the hateful language used toward a gay […]

  7. […] position as enforcers is taken when a gay Congressman removes trans protections from a rights bill, on the grounds that trans women must not have a legally acknowledged right to use the appropriate re…. This position is taken when a lesbian “radical feminist” demands that trans women not […]

  8. HR Mitchell says:

    Frank needs to required to provide verifiable statistics/indicents in support of his concerns. However, the factual data does not support him.

  9. […] have very short memories. They forget that Barney Frank, self admittedly, was tampering with “bathroom” language in ENDA to make it “acceptable”. As Maryland, New York, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Hawaii go, […]

  10. Kelly says:

    It's been over a decade since Louisville, Kentucky (my city) passed a gender identity inclusive non-discrimination law that includes access to bathrooms. There have been absolutely zero problems with the law. None. Not a one. Zilch. Zero. It was never even an issue here so what's the problem Barney?

  11. […] so poignantly revisited time and time again through out history, was brought to mind while reading marti’s post from the mothership (or would that be the […]

  12. Joanna Sue says:

    The most ironic thing about all of this is if ENDA does pass in this session of Congress, with all the provisions of restriction in place regarding Transgendered persons, the right wing conservatives will have Barney Frank to thank for the most restricting provisions in the bill. Furthermore if it does not pass they will again have Barney Frank's apparent dragging of his feet that likely would be one of the main reasons for it not passing. In either case the biggest irony of it all is that ENDA might well have his name forever attached to it.

  13. […] kind of restroom panic is not new to Barney Frank, as Marti lays out in excruciating and extensive detail. Barney has always been obsessed with trans women’s genitals, constantly bringing up […]

  14. […] I haven’t been through all the statements and all the links but this is one I feel describes it best:http://www.transadvocate.com/enda-and-barney-franks-trans-penis-panic.htm […]

  15. […] been well-documented that, like the Christian right, he’s obsessed with trans women using women’s bathrooms, “penises in showers,” and claims that “If you insist on the right for […]

  16. celesteh says:

    Is it fair game to ask Frank this kind of question, “Are you therefore asserting that Mr Sanchez should use the ladies?” or is it unfair to Sanchez?

  17. Toad the wet sprocket says:

    Surprisingly – he's cool with that! (And you have my deepest sympathy)

    He's only concerned with potential, fictional innappropriate behavior if it can be imagined that it might (if it had ever occurred) possibly involve a trans woman in a rest room. If they have a penis. They must use a men's rest room.

    'Cause if they're acting innappropriately & have a penis – he wants in on it.

    Never mind whether young boys could be raped if this farcical being existed… and were in a men's rest room….and took off their clothing in front of everyone.

  18. libhomo says:

    I remember when Barney Frank cruised me in the shower of the gym years ago.

  19. You're right Toad. I forgot about that. Federal buildings and State Government buildings use federal and State law. Interesting…

  20. Toad the wet sprocket says:

    Yes DC does – but local laws don't cover federal facilities . Or states, for that matter, my friend E.

  21. I understand what you are saying, Last year I took a picture of myself with my hand on the ladies room door. Autumn Sandeen blogged about it.

  22. Toad the wet sprocket says:

    Why go so far away from the Congressman's office? Doesn't he have a way to pilot this proposed policy in house, so to speak?

    Let's see what the effects to both employees & the public are when Mr. Sanchez is required to use the women's room at work? Just make sure you're ready with the bail money & the lawyer for him, Congressman.

    But – at least he would still have a job afterwards. Others – not so likely.

    I wonder how this would effect a trans kid who wanted a job as a Congressional Page? Would the have a place to stay? Facilities to use?

  23. celesteh says:

    I wasn't entirely serious. But when people start freaking out about genitals, they've clearly forgotten about FTMs. And since many of us haven't had bottom surgery, Frank is advocating that people who look like Buck Angel should be in the ladies. If his point is to protect cisgender women from alam in the loo, then his ill-informed and transphobic suggestion would actually be counter-productive.

    I /know/ that the real point is to keep us out of sight by denying access to essential facilities in the public sphere, but if we take him at his word, his point is obviously absurd at first glance.

  24. Washington D.C. has a law that allows Diego to use the correct bathroom.

  25. friday jones says:

    Facilities in which to be used?

  26. I don't think I'd use a porn star as point of reference for an argument about all access to restrooms.
    I am porn positive but I wouldn't bring to Congress as an argument to be able to use the men's room.

  27. celesteh says:

    So Barney Frank thinks that Buck Anel ought to use the ladies room, eh? Maybe he should be asked that question directly, from somebody who had a reference photo.

  28. Kat says:

    <<When he hired Deigo Sanchez as his chief of staff, many thought his days of transphobic outbursts were behind him.>>

    Define “many.”

  29. The potty panic failed in Missoula. Of course, it wasn’t an overwhelming failure, but showed clearly that when accurate information is out there, that meme has no legs. http://dentedbluemercedes.wordpress.com/2010/04/03/the-missoula-ordinance-potty-mouthism-and-the-waking-world/

    Fully-inclusive protections passed in Missoula, Montana, last night.

    Why hamstring ENDA before the discussion even happens? Before all the amendments get tacked onto it to hamstring it further?

  30. Kat says:

    <<Mara Keisling has been quoted that the new language “might be harmless or it might be horrible.” It looks like it’s trending towards horrible.>>

    Note that neither of the choices was “excellent” or even “good.”

    And with The Quisling involved, “horrible” will probably wind up being an understatement.

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