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Posted by: | Posted on: October 31, 2019

MTPC Welcomes New Operations Coordinator – Athena Vaughn

Boston, MA October 31, 2019

MTPC announced today that Athena Vaughn will be joining the team as the Operations Coordinator.

Athena Vaughn (she/her/hers), also known as Athena West is a Legend in the Ballroom community and has been doing LGBTQ work for over 15 years. During the last 7-8 years, she has been working with transgender communities at Fenway Health, as a Consultant for the Life Skills program. Life Skills is designed to help transgender women ages 13 – 29 manage everyday challenges like hormones, health risks, health insurance and housing.  Athena is also the Senior Transgender Health Navigator for Fenway Health/AIDS Action Committee, and has overseen the Transcend Program. 

It is essential that transgender and gender non conforming people have easy access to the services. “I don’t mind doing the leg work to ensure the safety and well being of my clients, finding them shelter that are inclusive and do not discriminate as well as health care, health insurance and a host of other resources that they may need”, says Athena. “I love working with my community because they need someone to show them unconditional love and support, to not make promises, but to do what you say you are going to do; someone to walk with them and fight with them.” 

Athena begins her journey at MTPC on Monday, November 4th. “We are thrilled to have Athena come on board” says Executive Director, Tre’Andre Valentine. “She brings such a wealth of knowledge and experience; her passion for working with community beyond is inspiring. I’m truly looking forward to working together.”

Posted by: | Posted on: March 31, 2017

Trans Day of Visibility

A quick Trans Day of Visibility message from MTPC executive director Mason Dunn. For all those who can be visible – thank you. For those who can’t be visible – we love you and support you. For those who have no choice but visibility – we stand with you. #EveryoneWelcome #TransRightsNOW!

Posted by: | Posted on: March 14, 2017

Share a Pie for us


I make really great pie.

The secret is in the crust. I found a recipe that uses shortening to make it flakey and vodka (Russians!) to make it smooth. As much as I love to cook, baking is not a task that comes easily to me. But I do especially love eating pies, and Thanksgiving just doesn’t feel right until I tuck into a slice of pumpkin pie with a healthy dollop of whip cream.

I recently learned that when Franklin McCain sat down at that Woolworth counter in February 1960, he asked for a slice of apple pie. Four black students seeking integration in public accommodations chose eating as an act of protest, and by doing so they shifted the narrative of civil rights. This is such a rich image in my mind; apple pie is often touted as the symbol of Americana. And in that moment, four black men having a slice of pie in a public place became a statement about who does or doesn’t belong in that image of Americana.

Only a few years later, in 1965, the LGBTQ community in Philadelphia held a sit in at Dewey’s Lunch Counter. This action, sparked by the owner’s new policy to deny service to those in “gender non-conformist clothing,” brought out approximately 150 trans and gender nonconforming people, led predominately by people of color. Together, they sat and ordered pie, risking discrimination, hostility, and abuse for their right to share a meal. And this, (followed later by Compton’s Cafeteria riot), occurred years before the well known Stonewall Riot.

Fast forward to July 2016, to the day the Transgender Public Accommodations bill was being debated in the Mass State House. Representative John Fernandes in his speech supporting the bill made the connection again to the civil rights movement. “You can’t tell people it’s OK to work at the diner, but it’s not to sit at the lunch counter. We learned that a long time ago.” He was the first of many legislators who would go on to vote in favor of the bill becoming law.

But then I left the chamber, and walked into the public foyer. There I watched as dozens of citizens verbally sparred about human decency, often grossly assuming that transgender people were the herald of sexual violence; I myself engaged in one such debate. And even though I was horrified by what our opponents were saying (and indeed shouting), I realize only now, that I was doing the same thing to them that they were doing to me. I was making assumptions about who they were, their upbringing, their ideologies and their morals. I cast them as the villain in my own hero story.

But just like a good piece of pie, the truth is so much more layered and rich. On paper, I have many ingredients that define me and make me into the queer trans man of color who I am. And rather than make assumptions about the wrapper, I always ask that people speak to me so that they can learn more about who I am and what I hope for. But I also need to be willing to swing that door in the other direction as well. The person who I engaged from the opposition was Asian, and because of her age and our shared race, she reminded me of my own mother.

In the past several weeks we at MTPC have seen some very scary harbingers of what’s to come. The law that we all worked so very hard to pass is already vulnerable to a ballot recall, and in 2018, everyday citizens will be given the choice to repeal it. In light of this, I am asking for your help to shift the narrative of civil rights. If I had the chance to sit with that woman and engaged with her as a unique human being, in short treated her the way I treat my mother, would she still have the heart to reject our pleas? If we could sit down and share a slice of pie together, would she still be a stranger to me? Because as I’ve said in the past, only a stranger would deny us our rights.
So bake a pie and share it with your next door neighbor. Listen to them when they talk about their hopes and dreams. Chat about what makes us all human in this crazy and illogical world. Find out the secret to their pie crust. And enjoy a slice of pie for me. Happy Pie Day.

Posted by: | Posted on: January 11, 2017

Community Call to Protect Our Youth: The State House Has a Government Obligation to Ban So-Called “Conversion Therapy”

Ryley Copans

They/Them/Theirs

I called a new therapist recently. The law school only gives you so many visits to their counseling center. I look at a “therapist” that showed up on a referral list of people who take Mass Health. He has used the tag “transgender” on his profile. Okay, but I need more information. He does not answer my call. He does call me back maybe thirty minutes later.

For some context: I am non-binary. Transgender is an umbrella term, but I do not know if people who are not transgender will know this. I’m not completely sure what this person’s “transgender” tag means: Does he mean binary trans? He probably does, but I give him the benefit of the doubt. I inquire as to his experience with non-binary identified people and gender neutral they/them/theirs pronouns. He has no idea what I am talking about. He asks why I want to get into therapy. I speak about my general anxiety and my depression, and then I try to explain about my dysphoria.

 

“Have you ever committed any crimes?”

“Exc- what?”

“Have you ever committed any crimes?” He repeats himself in an indecipherable tone.

“W-what are you talking about? I don’t see what this has to do with-”

He proceeds to tell me that this is a part of dysphoria while in the same breath telling me how he does not believe that gender dysphoria is a disorder.

“Well, I have never heard this, and I have read a lot about this,” I explain, “and yeah, I think diagnosis about gender identity disorder is bullshit.”

“Good.”

 

I end this call shocked to my core. This is not conversion therapy. This is nothing close to what some queer and/or transgender and/or gender non-conforming people have gone through; there are no electric shocks and no one has yelled at me about how I am a girl and I need to wear make-up and dresses, “sit like a lady,” and no one has brought up Bible verses like songs that you hate yet cannot stop listening to until you catch yourself singing while working your job at Target that you only took to pay for college. I cannot help but think what he could have said in a meeting or what he may have said to people like me. What does he say to queer people? What would he say if he knew I was queer in sexual orientation in addition to being queer in gender identity, identifying as non-binary/trans, and using gender-neutral pronouns? I cannot help but think about what he actually believes and what he could have done, or worse, may do.

 

In 2015, I was an intern at the Massachusetts State House in Representative Khan’s Office. During my time there, I became involved in the bill to ban so-called “conversion therapy” from being used on minors. So-called “conversion therapy” is a psuedo-science practice that operates under the misguided belief that sexual orientation and gender identity can be changed. It is often religiously affiliated, but not always. One of the most common forms of conversion therapy is electroshock therapy, but it may also be “talk therapy,” though it always involves some degree of emotional abuse, if not physical and/or sexual abuse. This “practice” has been condemned by the American Psychiatric Association as ineffective and harmful. I personally use the phrase so-called “conversion therapy” in an effort to highlight that it is not condoned and it is not a legitimate “practice.”

While at the State House, this bill was in its second attempt. Representative Khan was the new sponsor, and as an intern, my job was to organize all of the old research from the first attempt, and conduct new research. This year, the bill is now its third attempt, and it is being proposed in both the House and the Senate. We are hoping that with the passing of the Trans Bill, a precedent can be set.

It is not that the bill has been rejected in its first two attempts, but it has never made it through the entire legislative process and has never actually been voted on. This is where the community comes in! Our representatives are our voice in the State House, and when we want and need something, it is their job to work on our behalf and get this done for us. Bureaucracy is definitely messy, and people are of course quite busy, but if we call them or write them, they will listen; remember, this is also their job, which means that listening to you is what keeps them office.

Massachusetts has an outstanding reputation as an exemplary state, for which both other states and the federal government have modeled their policies. So far, only about seven other states and four cities have banned so-called “conversion therapy.” It is our ethical obligation to join them in protecting our youth. We must make this state safe for queer, transgender, and gender non-conforming young people. Calls to suicide hotlines have spiked in recent months, and we cannot ignore the parallel of the suicide rate of people subjected to so-called “conversion therapy.” Massachusetts must show queer, transgender, and gender non-conforming young people that they support them, and as a government, will work to protect them from harmful “practices.” It is my further hope that taking this direct action against so-called conversion will set its own precedent to train mental health, physical health, and health insurance providers in queer, transgender, and gender non-conforming competency that allows members of the community to be served respectfully, effectively, and adequately from an educated and compassionate perspective. As citizens of a state known for standing up, we must ensure that our government continues to do this.

Please follow the link below if you do not know who your representatives and senator are. Write or call them and ask them to co-sign “An act relative to banning abusive practices to change sexual orientation and gender identity in minors.” A model email, and a model phone call statement are provided at the end of this piece for your convenience.  Please pass this on. Please protect our youth.

https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator

Call Script

Contacting your State Representative and Senator is easy and effective, but you need to act quickly – the deadline to cosponsor legislation is fast approaching. Not sure who your elected officials are? Click here to find out, and then use the guide below to make your two calls.

  1.      Call and ask to speak with your Representative/Senator. It is also okay to speak with an aide. Tell them your name and that you live in the district. They may ask for your address.
  2.      Let them know that you are calling to strongly urge them to cosponsor: I am calling to ask you to help protect minors by co-sponsoring An Act Relative to Abusive Practices to Change Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Minors. Let them know that it is being filed by Rep. Khan (if the person you are speaking are your Representative) or Sen. Montigny (if the person you are speaking with is your Senator).
  3.      Let them know the bill would protect children and adolescents by prohibiting licensed mental health professionals from engaging in harmful, deceptive, and discredited practices aimed at changing a minor’s gender or sexual identity.
  4.      If you are comfortable, tell them briefly, and in your own words, why this legislation is important to you.
  5.      Ask if they will commit to cosponsoring the bill.
  6.      Thank them for their time.

Thank you for taking the time to make your calls today. Please contact the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition at 617-778-0519 or Mason.Dunn@masstpc.org let us know how it went. The more we know about who has committed to sign on, the better we can target our efforts.  

 

Model Email

Contacting your State Representative and Senator is easy and effective, but you need to act quickly – the deadline to cosponsor legislation is fast approaching. Not sure who your elected officials are? Click here to find out, and then use the guide below to send your two emails.

Dear Representative/Senator [Your Representative/Senator’s name]

I am a constituent of the [ The District you live in- this information will show up when you use the above searches to determine your representative and senator and find their contact information]. I am writing to ask you to help protect minors by co-sponsoring An Act Relative to Abusive Practices to Change Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Minors. This bill is being filed by Rep. Khan (if you are emailing your Representative) or Sen. Montigny (if you are emailing your Senator).

This bill would protect children and adolescents by prohibiting licensed mental health professionals from engaging in harmful, deceptive, and discredited practices aimed at changing a minor’s gender or sexual identity.

[If you are comfortable, tell them briefly, and in your own words, why this legislation is important to you].

As your constituent, I would appreciate your support and commitment to cosponsoring this increasingly important bill.

Thank you for your time,

Sincerely,

 

[Your Name]

 

Thank you for taking the time to make your calls today. Please contact the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition at 617-778-0519 or Mason.Dunn@masstpc.org let us know how it went. The more we know about who has committed to sign on, the better we can target our efforts.  

Posted by: | Posted on: June 16, 2016

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 MTPC: info@masstpc.org.

Thank you for your participation!

Link to the MTPC/HLA Trans Healthcare Survey here.

Posted by: | Posted on: June 1, 2016

#TransBillMA passed in the House AND Senate!

Below are MTPC’s public remarks on the passing of the Equal Access Bill in the Massachusetts House of Representatives by a wide (veto-proof!) margin on June 1, 2016. The bill has already passed in the Senate. 

My name is Mason Dunn. I am a transgender man, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, and co-chair of Freedom Massachusetts.

Today’s victory is a long-awaited and important affirmation from our lawmakers that transgender people are valued and welcome in our Commonwealth. Not only that, but today’s vote is an inspirational way to start June, National LGBTQ Pride Month. Happy Pride!

The protections that have passed today have been pending on Beacon Hill for nearly ten years. During that time, hundreds of transgender people have bravely come forward to tell their stories and personal experiences with discrimination. I am humbled by the time and effort the transgender community and our allies have put in to get us here today. You have shown up, time and time again, to tell your stories and to be an integral part of this process. Lawmakers heard us, and they see transgender people for who we truly are — human beings, worthy of respect and deserving of basic human rights.

We are so grateful to our tireless advocates in the House: Speaker DeLeo; Chairman Fernandes; and Representative Rushing and Representative Provost, the bill’s lead sponsors. They have shown persistent and determined leadership, without which we would not be here today. We are thankful to them for their unwavering commitment to moving this bill forward and working diligently over the past months to be sure legislators did the right thing.

Today is a triumph for Massachusetts’s reputation as a leader on equality and as a beacon of freedom for everyone. We look forward to seeing this bill arrive at Governor Baker’s desk, and we eagerly await his signature. It’s time for equality for everyone in Massachusetts.