In Our Own Words: MTPC’s Remarks at HRC Boston Gala

On October 8, 2016, MTPC was the recipient of the Equality Award at the annual HRC Boston Gala. The following were our remarks, delivered by MTPC chair, Maxwell Ng:

So first of all let me thank you for inviting us here tonight. My name is Maxwell Ng, and I am the Chair of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition. In that role I get to work with Mason Dunn, the executive director, and while we are very similar on paper: we’re both professionals, we’re both transmen, we were both in the Girl Scouts. We are not the same person. I am the angry, radical, person of color, and he is not.

MTPC advocates and educates on behalf of transgender, gender non-conforming and non binary peoples, and I am here because for the past two years, we have led the charge on Beacon Hill to fight for transgender protections in public accommodations. Yes, that includes bathrooms and locker rooms, which our opposition likes to remind us. But it also includes grocery stores, parks, hospitals, the MBTA. It has been 12 years since the Goodridge decision gave us marriage equality in Massachusetts. But it has only been 7 days since I have had the right to freely enter a movie theater, or restaurant knowing that I cannot be refused service because of my gender identity.

Before Stonewall, cops harassed LGBT people by strip searching us under the pretense of making sure we were wearing at least 3 pieces of gender appropriate clothing. These searches were about our gender expression as well as being a sexual minority. It’s been 40 years since those first drag queens threw their heels at the cops, and the revolution has taken us from riots in the streets of New York and San Francisco, to suits and ties on Capitol Hill and the Supreme Court. But today, I still get called “faggot” when I’m walking down the street. I still fear for the safety of myself and my friends when they face down discrimination, harassment, even violence. So many of those evils faced at Stonewall, are still lurking today: racism and homophobia, but also misogyny and sexism. We fight these forces together, as gender warriors. We must never lose sight of that.

Just because we have the laws protecting us doesn’t mean that our oppressors understand us. Over the past two years, I have seen up close and personal what it means to be part of the political system. It is a big clunky system which systemically oppresses marginalized people, even as we advocate for our rights. People of color. LGBT Voices. People who are undocumented and those who are disabled. For these past two years, we have literally pleaded for BASIC public protections. We have provided heartwarming testimony, and mind numbing statistics. And they respond by calling us sexual predators. They say that we put the safety of the majority at risk, when all we want is to protect our dignity.

But thankfully, we are seeing that societal change that all of us crave. One of my Steering Committee members is a straight cis-gender mom of a trans youth. Her daughter came out at the age of 3. GLSEN is forming GSAs in middle schools, and today there are almost 300 High School GSAs in Massachusetts alone. Millennials strongly support trans rights by a rate of 2 to 1. This is the generation of people that grew up with the fruits of the Stonewall Generation. And their ability to adapt or risk obsolescence gives us hope still.

I’m going to get real with all y’all now. And show my soft underbelly for a bit. MTPC has been criticized as being an organization of white people. Sound familiar? I knew this when I stepped into the role of chair, and I will absolutely tell you that I have felt extreme pressure as *the* person of color in leadership to “fix it.” Yes, I have made my own personal goals to recruit more people of color into leadership, but rather than offering tokens, the criticism has also made me look at every single decision that MTPC makes. I have analyzed my organization down to its DNA. I dream about it now. Are we doing anything that further propagates oppression? Is everything we do transparent to our community, and are we substantially accountable to them? Are we using coded language (some people call them dog whistles), or other gatekeeping tools? Are we supporting the stories and messages of the most marginalized in our community, even if that person doesn’t come with a sweet candy wrapper? We must hold ourselves accountable to all the pockets of our community or else, we again risk obsolescence.

I’m sure many of you in the room know that the trans community has very vocally expressed distrust with HRC. It’s a family feud with blood shed on both sides, and frankly, it’s possible that some of those wounds will never fully heal. But we learn from our scars and move forward with partnerships that can accomplish real change. In the past few years, HRC has been generous with their time and resources. Helping the campaign with phone banking and letter writing. And that commitment has sown real progress. I can honestly tell you that we would not have been able to pass the bill without the work of the field organizers that HRC helped employ. So shoutout to Katie Guare and Pi Fong. Their work on this campaign was a major factor in our victory.

It’s really easy to stay siloed in our work and in our identities, but we all know that the opposition does not see us with this nuance. Just like the other HRC says, we are “stronger together” and only with that message in our hearts can we move forward and create that beautiful queer utopia that we all dream about.

Photo credit: Bình Lê of QAPA


#TransBillMA: VICTORY!

We just had news that Governor Charlie Baker has signed the public accommodations nondiscrimination bill, making it law. Here is the statement from the Freedom Massachusetts Coalition:

BOSTON — Governor Charlie Baker today signed the transgender public accommodations bill (S2407) into law, capping off a more than 10 year fight for explicit protections under Massachusetts law for transgender people in public places, including parks, restaurants, hospitals, and public restrooms.

Kasey Suffredini and Mason Dunn, Co-Chairs of Freedom Massachusetts, the bipartisan campaign that led the efforts to make this legislation the law of the Commonwealth, today released the following statements:

“Let there be no doubt that today history was made in Massachusetts. The enactment of this law comes after ten long years of transgender people summoning the courage to step out the shadows to publicly advocate for their civil rights,” said Kasey Suffredini, Co-Chair of Freedom Massachusetts. “While we did so proudly, it should not be forgotten that many did so at great personal risk of losing a job, a friend, or ties with family. This is a victory for those brave people and indeed a victory for Massachusetts.”

“Our work has helped people understand what it means to be transgender and that basic protections of law should be afforded to all people,” said Mason Dunn, Co-Chair of Freedom Massachusetts. “Today, Massachusetts sends a powerful message to the nation that politics need not play a role in the pursuit of equality for all Americans. We have shown beyond a doubt that LGTBQ rights are human rights and that transgender equality and justice for all is of concern for everyone, no matter political affiliation.”

The legislation passed the house and the senate with an emergency preamble provision that instructs the law to be enacted on October 1, 2016.



One Step Closer for #TransBillMA

We are one step closer to passing our nondiscrimination legislation today! The bill has been reported out of the conference committee – where the two different versions of the bill from the House and Senate were sent for reconciliation.  MTPCLogoCropped

Changes to the bill include a new effective date: the nondiscrimination protections will go into effect October 1st. This is a quicker implementation than many bills, which typically go into effect 90 days after passage. The bill also clarifies language to ensure that transgender people are not improperly referred to law enforcement for accessing public accommodations consistent with their gender identity.

The bill will now go back to the House and Senate for procedural votes, and then on to the governor for signing!

This is great movement, and we are so close to passing this important piece of legislation this summer! Stay tuned here and on social media for more updates.

Also, for more information and a legal Q&A from GLAD, visit their website: click here.


MTPC/HLA Trans Healthcare Survey

The Mass Trans Political Coalition and Health Law Advocates are working together to determine the needs and shortcomings of health care coverage for trans people in Massachusetts. This information will be kept confidential to our organizations, and will be used to determine advocacy needs in health care systems. If you have any questions, comments or concerns about this survey, please contact Alexis with MTPC:

Thank you for your participation!

Link to the MTPC/HLA Trans Healthcare Survey here.


#TransBillMA: What’s Next?

Just one week ago today, we watched in awe as the Massachusetts House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the trans nondiscrimination legislation: 116 in favor, 36 opposed – a super majority! This followed after winning a super majority of votes in the Senate just a few weeks before, and after the Governor came out in support of the legislation the night before. The momentum for trans rights in undeniable.

press conference

MTPC ED Mason Dunn after the House vote. Photo courtesy of Freedom Massachusetts.

Only minutes after the vote, the emails, phone calls, and text messages started to pour in, asking the same question: what’s next? First, it’s important to know this – we’re not finished yet. There is still work that need to be done to make sure this legislation becomes law. Here are some quick, and hopefully helpful answers to your questions:

What is the next step?

There are two versions of the bill in play at the moment: the Senate bill, which added provisions about the effective date, and the House bill, which contains added language about the implementation of guidelines, as well as a differing effective date.

The next big step will be to resolve and reconcile the differences between these two bills. This will likely happen through a conference committee. A conference committee is a temporary group made up of six legislators, three Representatives and three Senators (chosen by the leadership of both chambers), who iron out the differences between the two bills, and negotiate a final version together.

So, the next step is for the leadership to assign legislators to a conference committee, and then schedule a meeting of that committee. We hope to see that happen in the next few weeks.

When will a final version of the bill pass?

This of course depends on when the conference committee is named and meets, but we anticipate that will be another week to negotiate and draft a final bill. That final version will need to pass through both the House and Senate.

This final version must pass before the end of the legislative session, on July 31st, 2016. So in order for this to pass, it must happen in the next two months.

When will the Governor sign the final bill?

After the final version of the bill passes through the House and Senate, the Governor has ten days to either sign, veto, or allow the bill to become law without his signature. We anticipate the Governor will sign the bill, based on his statements of support before the House vote.

What should we do now?

First, it’s important to thank the 33 Senators and 116 Representatives who voted in favor of the bill. We wouldn’t be here without them, so please take an opportunity to email, write, or call the legislators who have supported this bill. Additionally, please send a special thank you to our lead sponsors, Senator Sonia Chang Diaz, and Representatives Byron Rushing and Denise Provost. We also want to thank the Senate President, Stan Rosenberg, Speaker of the House, Robert DeLeo, and the Judiciary Chairmen, Senator William Brownsberger and Representative John Fernandes.
It’s important to keep talking to our friends, community members, allies, and businesses about the importance of this legislation. We haven’t finished yet, and we need to continue to raise awareness for trans rights across Massachusetts.

Lastly, please remember that this legislation, even when it passes, is not the end of the work. There is so much that remains to be done for the implementation of the law, to ensure that public spaces are safe, and free from discrimination. We also have other important areas of advocacy ahead, including health care advocacy, economic justice, and so much more.

We’ve come so far with this legislation, and it couldn’t have happened without you. So thank you for your support, and hard work throughout this campaign. Let’s keep it up, until we see lived equality for all people in the Commonwealth!