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.
Like it was for many of you, yesterday was disappointing for me. I had hoped that lawmakers would move on the public accommodations nondiscrimination legislation, and when they didn’t, I was sad and frustrated. We all know how important this bill is to our community. And not only did our legislation get held up this week – other important bills are still waiting to be heard, including legislation on racial profiling, women’s rights, and criminal justice reform.
But today, I woke up with renewed hope. We are still in this, and we are here to win. Although lawmakers did not take up our bill, there is amazing momentum in the State House. And I believe this momentum will propel us into 2016.
Let me be clear – this campaign is not over. We’re at a halftime; a chance to regroup, strengthen our campaign. But we need your help. Throughout December, we ask that you keep calling your legislators, and work to get meetings in their districts. Keep up the pressure, so that when they come back from recess, legislators know that the time is now. We need your help, and together we can continue this fight!
It was a weekend of celebration and excitement in the LGBTQ movement as Pride Month came to a close. Marriage equality has been achieved at the national level, and we congratulate the activists, advocates, supporters, and volunteers who made this win a reality.
But now it’s July, and it’s time to continue the work. We are one step closer to lived equality for all LGBTQ people, and we cannot stop now. Join us in the continued journey, and together we can make history for human rights.
As you may have seen, MTPC has joined forces with many LGBTQ and human rights organizations to form Freedom Massachusetts. This campaign is working to secure nondiscrimination protections for gender identity and gender expression in all Massachusetts public spaces. Please take a moment to join the campaign and sign the pledge.
Want to volunteer for the campaign? Email Katie: Katie@FreedomMassachusetts.org. We need your help with phone banks, data input, organizing, and so much more. This is an opportunity to be on the ground floor of a very exciting campaign.
There is so much work left to do, but with this momentum, we are unstoppable. Join the movement, and together we can continue to change the world.
We have seen some amazing progress over the summer for MTPC and trans rights in Massachusetts, and we’re preparing for a busy fall. In case you missed the news of the summer, here is a recap of what we’ve been up to and the progress we’ve made for trans rights across the state:
State Bill and Local Ordinances
While the Equal Access Bill to add public accommodations protections to the state nondiscrimination law was not passed this year, we haven’t been quiet on policy matters. MTPC and our coalition partners have been working statewide to pass local nondiscrimination ordinances that are inclusive of public accommodations. So far we have doubled the number of trans-inclusive local nondiscrimination ordinances, with more to come.
Salem, Brookline, Somerville, Worcester, and Newton all passed nondiscrimination ordinances this past summer. They join Boston, Cambridge, Northampton, and Amherst in leading fairness in our state. More cities and towns are expected to follow in the coming months, so stay tuned to hear more. If you live in a city or town that does not have a local ordinance, or if you’re not sure and want to learn more, please contact Mason to learn how you can help the movement in your city or town.
MTPC and our coalition partners are also making plans to continue the fight for public accommodations protections on the state level during the next legislative session. We plan to host a statewide Lobby Day in 2015, along with other events and opportunities for you to get involved. Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook to stay up-to-date on our events and activities.
This June, MTPC unveiled a new campaign to showcase our greatest asset: YOU! Hundreds of you took photos with us, showing how MTPC is all about the many faces, experiences, and perspectives embodied by our community.
Want to show your MTPC Pride beyond social media? Check out our new button packs. For $3 you get two buttons: one for you, and one for a friend or family member! To get your buttons and find out more, email email@example.com.
Thanks to the input from all those who participated in the Project VOICE survey. MTPC, in partnership with Fenway Health, was able to collect vital information about the health and wellness of the Massachusetts trans community. The survey results show an alarming relationship between discrimination and overall health of community members. To read the report and learn more about Project VOICE, click here.
CAT MAGIC Returns
MTPC hosted our second CAT MAGIC event in July. The celebration was an amazing opportunity to bring community members together for feline-themed fun and fancy. This time, thanks to the talented Shannon Iggy,we were able to capture some of the fun on film. Check out the photos here, and be sure to tag yourself and friends!
CAT MAGIC started as a community night, focused on celebration of the trans community and our allies … and, naturally, cats. It continues to grow as an opportunity to feature trans artists and performers, celebrate being trans, and come together as a community. Plans are in the works for the next CAT MAGIC event, so stay tuned!
Health Insurance Progress
This year has seen unprecedented progress for trans people’s access to appropriate health care. On June 20, Governor Deval Patrick announced reforms to health coverage policies to ensure that transgender Massachusetts residents have full access to treatments they need. On the same day, the state Division of Insurance issued a bulletin that bars private health insurers from excluding medically necessary care for gender dysphoria from private health insurance plans.
There remain several questions about how this will be enacted, and when. MTPC, along with our coalition partners, are working with the Division of Insurance and private insurers to ensure that these new policies are enacted. We’ve also released this FAQ about the insurance bulletins.
We’re seeing progress on many big issues that affect trans MA residents. But much remains to be done. Be sure to follow MTPC on Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date. If you have questions, or want to get involved, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-778-0519.
[MassEquality Press Release]
BOSTON ─ June 20 ─ Today, Governor Patrick announced several new changes providing non-discrimination protections for those seeking gender therapy services.
MassHealth, the state-subsidized health insurance provider, will soon cover gender affirmation surgery and other treatment for gender dysphoria. Additionally, the MA Department of Insurance (DOI) issued regulatory guidance advising health insurers that they may not discriminate on the basis of gender identity in denial of services. The administration also shared that they would be encouraging the Group Insurance Commission to take similar steps in ensuring equal access to gender therapy services.
“This is a monumental step forward for the LGBT community in the Commonwealth. We applaud Governor Patrick’s leadership in ensuring that transgender people receive the medically-necessary services they need to lead healthy, productive lives. We look forward to working with the administration on the implementation of these changes,” said MassEquality Executive Director Kara Coredini.
“Governor Patrick has once again illustrated his forward-looking and compassionate leadership in implementing these policies. As transgender rights become more visible across this country, Massachusetts will continue its tradition of being the beacon of light that so many other states can look to for guidance on equality,” said Mason Dunn, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition.
Following on the heels of the Boston City Council’s recent unanimous decision on June 11 to not contract with any health insurer that does not provide gender therapy services, the Commonwealth’s decision will have an even broader impact, allowing transgender people across the state to access mental health care, hormone therapy, and other transition-related care.
Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, executive director of Health Care For All, states, “This is an immensely important step forward in ensuring that health coverage meets an individual’s full range of health care needs. We commend the Administration for again putting Massachusetts in the vanguard among states as a leader in health equity for everyone, and providing a model other states can use to improve access to care for all residents.”
Massachusetts will be the sixth state to enact non-discrimination policies regarding gender transition-related care. Washington, Oregon, Connecticut, Vermont and California have amended their state policies regarding health insurance provision for gender therapy services.
“As a national organization that advocates for LGBT health equity across the country, we are proud our home state of Massachusetts is leading the way in ensuring everyone has access to the health care services they need. This victory would not have been possible without strong advocacy at the state level and the committed partners working to secure these new benefits for transgender people,” said Susan Sherry, deputy director of Community Catalyst.
BOSTON ─ June 11 ─ Today, the Boston City Council, by a unanimous vote, passed an ordinance ensuring that the City does not contract with any health insurance provider that does not provide comprehensive coverage for gender therapy services, including mental health care, hormone therapy, and other transition-related care for transgender City employees.
“This is a modest proposal that will have a profound impact on the lives of transgender municipal workers,” said Kara Coredini, executive director of MassEquality. “We applaud Councilors Ayanna Pressley and Michelle Wu for introducing the ordinance and the Council members who co-sponsored it and voted to pass it. Their action today is an important next step in Boston’s continuing leadership on transgender equality, and we hope that the state will soon follow Boston’s lead as it has so many times on issues of LGBTQ equality.”
Introduced by City Councilors Ayanna Pressley and Michelle Wu in mid-April, the ordinance received the support of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and the city’s Public Employees Committee, which recently voted to ensure that the city’s insurance plans to accommodate increased access to gender therapy services for Boston employees. Though the ordinance passed unanimously, this is a very small step in ensuring thatalltransgender people in the state are provided comprehensive insurance coverage. Currently, there are 17,000 Boston municipal workers whose insurance coverage will be impacted by this change.
“I am thrilled that the City of Boston is setting the standard for an inclusive workplace with policies to attract the most talented and committed employees,” said Wu. “Inclusive health care coverage is the right thing to do for our employees and their families, and the best economic policy. I am proud that my colleagues on the Council and our Mayor support this important ordinance so strongly, and so grateful to MassEquality and the many partner organizations who testified in support. I am honored to be a part of this step towards ensuring Boston remains the best place to live, work and play.”
The language of the ordinance prevents the City from contracting with health insurers who refuse to provide coverage for transition-related care. One insurer, Neighborhood Health Plan, did not have a rider in its coverage for transition-related care, but will add one to its coverage that allows for gender therapy services. The other plans already covered these services for municipal employees.
“I thank MassEquality for being a leader and a partner in the ongoing fight for justice for our trans neighbors,” Boston City Councilor At-Large Ayanna Pressley said. “Access to quality health care is a civil rights issue. This ordinance will dramatically improve the lives of our City’s trans employees and their families; restoring their dignity and alleviating the cost of medically necessary care.”
According to research done by the Center for American Progress, the cost of providing healthcare coverage for transgender municipal workers is expected to be negligible. Studies have shown that the more than 200 private companies across the country that provide coverage for gender therapy services reported insignificant changes in healthcare costs.
“We are so proud to be part of a city that’s taking significant steps to remove the barriers to health care for all people,” said Susan Sherry, Deputy Director of Community Catalyst, a Boston-based national consumer health advocacy organization. “The Council’s overwhelming support for this policy change that benefits transgender employees sends a strong message to Boston and all Massachusetts residents, and promotes our city as a national leader on health equity issues.”
Washington, Oregon, Connecticut, Vermont and California have also amended their state policies to ensure that health insurers do not discriminate against transgender individuals.
Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, executive director of Health Care For All, states, “This is an important step forward in ensuring that health coverage meets an individual’s full range of health care needs. We commend the City Council for providing a model state policymakers can use to improve access to care for all residents.”