Update from the Hearing on the Transgender Equal Rights Bill

Wednesday, June 8th, transgender youth, adults, family members, and our allies testified in front of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in support of Transgender Equal Rights. This was the third such hearing on the Transgender Equal Rights bill since it was first introduced in 2007.

MTPC worked with the transgender community and our supporters to gather letters of written testimony to deliver to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. MTPC collected over 150 letters of written testimony which included (not complete list) U.S. Senator John Kerry, U.S. Representative Barney Frank, Sheriff Andrea Cabral, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, the Boston City Councilor Resolution, Boston Councilor Felix G. Arroyo, Boston Councilor John Connolly, Eastern Bank, Crossfit Fenway, MassNOW, Jane Doe Inc, Mass Prevention for the Cruelty to Children, Cambridge Commission on the Status of Women, GLAD, Fenway Health, Office Of Somerville Commissions, The Network/La Red, Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project, Mass Bar Association, AIDS Action, BARCC, Reach, MassEquality, ACLU, NASW, Mass LGBTQ Bar Association, Women’s Bar Association, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, Unitarian Universalists Association, SEIU, UAW 2322, UFCW Local 1445 , UniteHere Local 26, AFSCME Local 1526, Jobs with Justice, Interfaith Coalition for Transgender Equality, Congregation Dorshei, Falmouth Jewish Congregation, Bisexual Resource Center, and letters from transgender youth, adults, and their friends, families, and neighbors.

Attorney General Martha Coakley led off the testimony in support of the bill. Testimony continued through the afternoon and into the evening from forty other transgender people, allies, and supporters such as Chairman of MA Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) Julian T. Tynes, and Superintendent Christopher J. Burke, Cambridge Police Department. In addition to 10 legislative co-sponsors that came down to voice their support.

All of this testimony was valuable for the committee members to hear and to also see the breadth of the various supportive organizations, unions, bar associations, clergy, and businesses that support this bill. But most importantly, for the transgender community to feel so supported and validated by the desire of our allies for transgender youth and adults to have the same rights as everyone else.

As you might imagine, listening to the opposition describe transgender people in a disrespectful, crude, inhumane, and very often, hateful ways can be quite demoralizing. This was ample reference to transgender people being morally wrong and not deserving of basic rights and that such laws is what “the homosexual used to hijacked marriage.” One testifier said he “did not want to be forced to hire boys in dresses, transgenders, gays or those with neck tattoos.” Another woman equated reason for the recent devastating tornadoes in Springfield to the beginning of GLBT Pride week, “the sky opened up on June 1st the beginning of Gay Pride Week in Springfield and this was not a coincidence.”

Yes, the opposition that came out against the Transgender Equal Rights Bill were the same people that have come out against marriage equality, LGBT youth pride, and equal rights for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.

Even after attending two other hearings like this in the past five years, it still does not get any easier to listen to such rhetoric. What does make it bearable is the testimony provided by our supporters and the reassurance through their words that transgender people matter. Most especially for me was witnessing the strength and courage from our transgender youth, adults, and family members telling their stories.

All people, including transgender people, should have the chance to earn a living and provide for themselves and their families. Nobody should have to live in fear that they can be fired for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance and I believe that message got through loud and clear to the committee.

The next step on this journey will be the lobby day on Thursday, June 23rd from 1-3p at the Massachusetts State House (http://www.masstpc.org/?page_id=1303). I hope you can join us on that day as we speak to the rest of the legislature about the importance of this bill passing this year. It is imperative that we use the momentum of the hearing in pushing for the passage of the bill for this year by showing up in strong numbers at the State House.

There is a free online webinar being offered Thursday, June 16th by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, in partnership with MTPC and the National Center for Transgender Equality, presents an online training “How to be an Awesome Citizen Lobbyist.” To sign up RSVP no later than 5:00 pm on June 14th to vmacoy@thetaskforce.org

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact MTPC and I hope that folks will continue support the work of MTPC and our efforts to move this bill this year.

Gunner Scott
Executive Director
Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition