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