In his remarks Friday at Southern Comfort, one of the largest annual transgender community conferences, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin apologized for what he described as when the national LGBT rights organization has failed to represent and serve transgender people over the years.
"HRC has done wrong by the transgender community in the past, and I am here to formally apologize," Griffin said, according a transcript of his remarks posted online. "I am sorry for the times when we stood apart when we should have been standing together."
It's no secret among many in the transgender community that there's a lack of trust when it comes to HRC.
In his speech, Griffin described attending an HRC event held at Ohio State University — during which he suddenly realized his event was taking place at the same time as the local community's largest transgender community gathering, the 6th Annual TransOhio Symposium, on the floor directly above him. Griffin said the fact that he and HRC had no idea the local transgender community was holding its gathering at the same place and the same time as his event illustrated a major disconnect — one he said he wishes to resolve.
"... [I]nstead of all of us working together, taking stock of all of our progress and the challenges ahead, and finding comfort in each other's company, 'they' were upstairs, and 'we' were downstairs," he said. "There that divide was, for all to see. Plain as day."
With that, Griffin said he hopes HRC and the transgender community can begin a "new chapter together" and promised to work diligently and more closely together, but noted HRC "may make mistakes" along the way.
"What happens to trans people is absolutely central to the LGBT struggle," he said. "And as the nation's largest LGBT civil rights organization, HRC has a responsibility to do that struggle justice, or else we are failing at our fundamental mission."
HRC, he said, is expanding its focus on transgender issues and the work it does to serve transgender people throughout the country, such as supporting local transgender organizations, condemning violence against transgender women of color, and continuing its work with corporations, healthcare organizations, and schools to treat all LGBT people fairly.
"But we've got to do even more," he said.
As part of that, Griffin said HRC will lead the campaign for a "fully-inclusive, comprehensive" LGBT rights bill in the next session of Congress — a bill he said would include "non-discrimination protections that don't stop at employment, but that finally touch every aspect of our lives—from housing, to public accommodations, to credit, to federal funding, to the education we all need to succeed and thrive."
He also said HRC will continue to push for a fully-inclusive version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
"My friends, please continue to hold HRC accountable," Griffin said. "Hold me accountable. Please be in conversation with us as we do more than we've ever done before. We have come too far together not to share our progress. We have come too far not to share the fight against the obstacles ahead."