Joint Statement of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and Massachusetts Trans Political Coalition (MTPC) on the Treatment of Individuals Arrested for Protesting ‘Straight Pride’ Parade in Boston

 

We are profoundly disturbed by the events surrounding the ‘Straight Pride’ parade in Boston on August 31, including the cascading missteps surrounding the counter-protest and its aftermath, at the hands of the police and the justice system. They are reminders of how far we have to go before our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and especially transgender communities can trust that our voices will be heard, and our identities respected, in the public square, without fear of mistreatment or discrimination.   

The individuals who gathered to protest the ‘Straight Pride’ parade did so to voice disagreement with the event’s extremist messages, including the message that LGBTQ people are not “normal.” Such dehumanizing statements, made by parade organizers who have ties to White Supremacist and other alt right ideologies, threaten not only the dignity but also the safety of LGB and especially transgender lives. 

Our aspirations for equal justice in our nation require protection of avenues of dissent. And yet, the heavy-handed police tactics at the rally, resulting in the arrests of protesters, threatens to squelch the voices of marginalized people, particularly the transgender community who already experience harassment and discrimination at the hands of the police. 

What happened subsequently in the courtroom did little to restore our community’s trust in the justice system. While prosecutors, under the leadership of Suffolk County District Attorney Rachel Rollins, tried to do the right thing by declining to prosecute the minor charges levied against the protesters, Suffolk Municipal Court Judge Sinnott refused to defer to prosecutorial discretion and instead insisted that many of these charges go forward. Judicial resources are not well spent on prosecuting people who showed up at a rally to engage civic values of discourse. 

To make matters worse, Judge Sinnott later mistreated one defendant, Kai De Jesus, a transgender woman of color, with humiliating and dehumanizing statements about her gender and name, including equating her name with a criminal alias. Whether intentional or not, comments like those made by Judge Sinnott send the message to transgender people that they may not receive a fair hearing in court – the opposite of the expectation we should be ensuring all residents of the Commonwealth can confidently hold with regards to our justice system.

But we have the power to change that. In 2018 the trial court created a mandated training, required of every trial court employee, including judges, setting out expectations for fair, respectful and inclusive treatment of transgender people in our courts. Last week demonstrated how critical such trainings are to continue on an ongoing basis for all court staff, including the judges who are entrusted with delivering unbiased justice. 

Last year the Massachusetts community voted overwhelmingly to uphold protections for transgender individuals in public spaces, including on the streets and in the courts. It is up to all of us to live up to our collective aspirations of upholding fairness, dignity, and respect for LGB and transgender people, and for all people in the Commonwealth. 

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Through strategic litigation, public policy advocacy, and education, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders works in New England and nationally to create a just society free of discrimination based on gender identity and expression, HIV status, and sexual orientation. GLAD participated in the development of the 2018 trial court training on inclusive and respectful treatment of transgender people in the court system.

The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) is dedicated to ending oppression and discrimination on the basis on gender identity and gender expression. Rooted in social justice, we educate the public; advocate with state, local and federal government; engage in activism; and encourage the empowerment of community members through collective action. MTPC offers regular trainings throughout the state on trans and non-binary identities and on developing accessibility and inclusion for trans and non-binary communities.

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Gender Marker “X” Hearing on Sept. 10th

A bill pending in the State Legislature (H.3664/S.2203) would allow residents to choose a non-binary ‘X’ gender marker on driver’s licenses, birth certificates or other state-issued ID. A hearing on the bill is scheduled for Tuesday Sept. 10th at 10:30am in Gardner Auditorium at the Statehouse.

Many thanks to all the volunteers and advocates who pressed for this hearing! There is a short turn around for the hearing, so Here’s what you can do now:

  • Submit testimony: Write a short statement about why you support Massachusetts residents having the option to designate ‘X’ on their IDs rather than ‘Male’ or ‘Female’. Send that to Tre’Andre Valentine at TreAndreValentine@masstpc.org or by snail mail to: MTPC, PO Box 960784, Boston, MA 02196. MTPC will submit a packet of testimonials to the joint committee at the hearing. Please make sure your testimony is in by Monday Sept. 9th by 9pm.
  • Attend the hearing simply to be counted among those who care about this issue. We need people to show up.
  • Present oral testimony: Sign up to testify for up to 3 minutes by contacting Rep. Domb’s office at: Mindy.Domb@mahouse.gov or (617) 722-2400 or simply show up to the hearing, sign-in and register the day of
  • Contact members of the  Joint Committee for State Administration and Regulatory Oversight encouraging them to report the bill favorably out of committee. Joint committees have both senators and representatives, but the priority now is to contact the Representatives on the committee.
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MTPC Welcomes New Executive Director Tre’Andre Valentine

Tre’Andre Valentine to Lead the
Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition

Boston, MA July 17, 2019

The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) announced today that Tre’Andre Valentine will take the helm as its new Executive Director.

Tre’Andre, who uses he/they pronouns, brings nearly a decade of non-profit experience and grassroots organizing energy to MTPC. In their previous role at The Network La Red, Tre’Andre was responsible for managing community engagement, outreach programs, educational programming, as well as grassroots fundraising. Tre’Andre also served on MTPC’s steering committee from 2006-2016. In addition to their extensive experience in the non-profit sector, they also bring their own lived experience as an indigenous transgender person of color.

“After an extensive, two month long search process, we are so thrilled to have Tre’Andre on board,” said Michelle Tat, Co-chair of MTPC’s Steering Committee. Co-chair Kaden Mohamed added, “In Tre’Andre we found a leader with drive, excitement, and passion whose values, skills, expertise, and lived experiences will guide MTPC into its future.”

“I am humbled and honored to have the privilege of leading MTPC as we continue to forge forward,” said Tre’Andre. “Massachusetts has a strong foundation for transgender rights thanks to the leadership of my predecessors Gunner Scott, Mason Dunn, as well as the steering committee and all of MTPC’s supporters and allies. “I look forward to being a part of the effort of making a difference in the daily lived experiences of transgender, non-binary, and genderqueer individuals of Massachusetts.” 

MTPC is coming off its historic 2018 victory in the Yes on 3 Campaign, defending transgender rights at the ballot box in Massachusetts. “We now have the opportunity to help our state become a place not only with legal protections, but where trans and non-binary people experience lived equality in their daily lives,” said Tre’Andre.

Founded in 2001, MTPC is a trans led and trans focused organization that has been working for almost two decades to improve the lives of Massachusetts transgender youth, adults, and their families. The Steering Committee and Tre’Andre are excited to step into this next phase of the organization’s work and to continue building and engaging community along the way.

The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition is dedicated to ending oppression and discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. Rooted in social justice, we educate the public, advocate with state, local and federal government, engage in activism and encourage empowerment of community members through collective action.

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MTPC’s statement concerning the Supreme Court’s decision to lift the injunction on military service ban

Today’s news that the Supreme Court will lift an existing injunction and allow the military to actively pursue discriminatory policies against thousands of trans and nonbinary people serving, or seeking to serve, is a cruel slap in the face to our communities. Trans and nonbinary service members simply want to do the jobs they have been trained and tasked to do, and this decision from the Supreme Court will likely hold them back from doing just that. Those seeking to enlist and serve want only to be afforded the same opportunities, and held to the same standards as their cisgender peers. Trans and nonbinary veterans deserve the same honor and respect as others who have served.

 

This administration’s ban on trans people serving in the military is groundless: there is no evidence that trans people disrupt military effectiveness or threaten unit cohesion. Removing trans and nonbinary service members, however, will mean losing thousands of qualified and trained service members, and have a long term negative effect – for those serving, and for the armed forces as a whole. Regardless of our skepticism or opinions about the military, or critiques of the military-industrial complex, no one should be denied a job, or public service, based on their gender identity or expression. No one should be held back in their career or goals because of discriminatory, biased, and baseless policies.     

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Welcome to MTPC: Kelsey!

Hi everyone, my name is Kelsey Grunstra, I use she/her pronouns, and I’m MTPC’s new Operations Coordinator! Before I get into too much detail about me, let me tell you what I’ll be doing with MTPC. My mission is the same as Mason’s and MTPC’s as a whole, to end oppression and discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression, but my day-to-day work will mostly look like answering your emails and phone calls, running our newsletter and social media accounts, working on events and trainings, and generally helping out Mason so he can keep doing the great work he’s up to! I’m so excited to join MTPC and get to work for and with all of you, our beautiful community.

As for how I got here, It’s been an interesting few years for myself (and, well, all of us I suppose) and things have been changing pretty constantly in my life. Ever since I first came out and began transitioning, I’ve consistently become more and more driven to be directly engaged in work that uplifts and supports the trans community. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’ve had a lot of privilege in my life, and this commitment has really come from my desire to utilize that privilege to build up and advocate for our community. Almost exactly one year ago at the 2017 Harvard LGBTQ Conference, I was just standing around waiting for Mara Keisling’s (the Founder and Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality) keynote to start when none other than Mara herself came over and introduced herself to my friends and I. She just wanted to meet us and have some casual conversation to avoid thinking about the fact that she’d be speaking in just a few minutes. I’ve been inspired by her work, her dedication, and her resilience for many years now but that was really the moment I knew I could go into advocacy work. Seeing one of my role models struggling with the normal things I encounter all the time, ultimately I realized, you don’t have to be anything special or unique to be a dedicated and empowered leader, you just need to be driven, full of passion and empathy, listen to those around you, and lift up the voices and people who can do what you can’t (after of course accepting that you cannot!).

So now fast forward about a year and I’m chatting with one of the MTPC Steering Committee members who knew I was looking for work and they suggested that I take a look at this role. It just so happened to fit in perfectly with my schedule and what I was looking for! So then I met with Mason and some more Steering Committee members and that’s the short and sweet version of what brought me to MTPC and how I became engaged in advocacy work for the trans community.

Outside of this space, I work and live in Somerville with four amazing roommates and my many, many guitars. I’m a musician who often struggles to answer the question “What do you play?” because of the many instruments and styles of music I’m often bouncing between. I hope to someday soon record some music and maybe even get a band together with some of my friends. When I’m not playing music, I can reliably be found tinkering with my instruments or building new ones (to highly varying levels of completion and quality!), reading fiction or comic books, hanging out at the nearest coffee shop, or nerding out over the latest sci-fi TV series. I do however also love spending time outdoors, whether just on a long walk, going on a strenuous hike, or spending a day at the beach.

With all that said, I’m very, very excited to get started and do what I can to help MTPC be effective and grow. I also can’t wait to get to know you, our community, better, and be I hope to see you at some of our future events. Please feel free to get in touch with me and introduce yourself by emailing me at kelsey@masstpc.org!

Yours,
Kelsey Grunstra

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“A Fantastic Woman” Review

This is a guest blog from Pearl, a community member and local film buff. Thanks Pearl!

Chile’s contender [now winner!] for best foreign language film Oscar is cognizant of the difficulty in the death of a lover, dealing with the previous family, and the added difficulties of a transgender life.

“A Fantastic Woman” is a fantastic film by director and co-writer Sebastian Lelio (Gloria, 2013). Better than Hollywood, foreign films treat transgender identities in more sensitive, understanding way and “A Fantastic Woman” does just that.

Set in modern day Santiago, the film is a confident love letter to transgender isolation and empowerment. Moments of dry witty comedic relief eases the constant tension onset by police and a family bound by their own essential dogma, inflamed by the fact that the “other woman” is transgender.

Daniela Vega’s lead portrays singer/waitress Marina’s stoicism as stronger than her resolve. Her control of the material and restraint as an actress are remarkable for her big screen debut. Finally, a transgender actor is in a lead transgender role. The dignity of the role shines for who she is, not who she is pretending to be. But so much of Vega’s power on the screen is not in what she says or does. The real power is in her expressive on-camera looks. We witness the look of perseverance in the face of one transgender prejudice after another. The prejudices are disturbingly accurate and will cause any trans viewer to identify with and cringe at times. 

Iguazu Falls, in all its power opens the film as the credits rolls. The fall’s force is palpable as cuts of different views takes us down into the plume where a soft foggy mist rises from the tremendous force. Metaphorically, this is where we spend the movie. Floating in a light mist, front and center of tumultuous emotions. The majority of the film’s close camera work style keeps us focused on the story line that goes no further than to advance the difficulties of a transgender life. We are witness to a vast contempt kept within close-cropped scenes.

Once Marina’s 57 year-old lover and partner Orlando (Francisco Reyes) dies during the night of her twenty-something birthday celebration, the safe world the two carved out for themselves is under attack. She now must cope with her grief while asserting her rights and forging a new way forward without him. Threats and insults come from the police investigating his death, and Orlando’s family: Sonia (Aline Küppenheim), the jilted ex-wife, the overly male bravado infused son Bruno (Nicolas Saavedra), and other members. The only family member to show any sympathy for Marina is Orlando’s brother Gabo (Luis Gnecco). He stands up for Marina numerous times in the film. Does Gabo possess a better understanding of the love in his brother’s choice? The world needs more people like Gabo. But there isn’t. So when one is transgender, everything you have to deal with is a little harder.

Let’s start with a simple question: What is your name? To a cisgender person this is a no-brainer. But our heroine is asked this basic question by an officer upon her police-escorted return to the hospital. This is the start of the dissent of the trans dilemma for Marina.

A split second delay in answering the name question, Marina giving her adopted name brings the questioning gaze of the officer on her who now demands to see ID. On the defensive while surrendering her ID, she explains her female status is not completed. (Those with no clue to the transgender world, this might be lost on them.) Now addressing Marina by her birth name, the officer gives a child-like reprimand for her to use her birth name when being questioned. Gabo’s arrival avoids further confrontation and Marina retreats with Orlando’s car back to the apartment they shared. Once in the safety of her home, solace is found with Diabla, Orlandos’s long-time canine companion now gifted to her. This part of Orlando she holds dear is just another opportunity for the family to take something away from her out of their bitterness.

No place is safe from persecution.

Marina’s world becomes invaded by confrontations: Bruno’s unannounced arrival with his father’s keys in hand demanding she leave the apartment, an investigating sexual assault officer arrives at her work demanding she come to the station for more humiliating questioning, and on the phone with a demanding ex-wife Sonia. The only people, other than her singer teacher and restaurant boss who share tender words for Marina is her sister and husband. They go so far as to provide her shelter.

Tender words are not used in confrontations. Trans, and ignorance of what trans is by the characters allows for cheap shots such as “faggot” and “monster” to be used. Or a further discredit to Marina: “Orlando must have been crazy.”

Throughout the film a disconcerting threat of possible violence accompanies the name-calling. Marina at one point as abducted amidst a verbal assault. This is a breath holding moment as some of the family men force her into the back of a truck after her appearance at the wake. There is no explaining away that grief has fueled their actions. When this happens to a trans person, it is a hate crime. In this film the perps get way with it and Marina is released physically in tact after a stressful, humiliating ride in the city. This is a dark reminder of the threat of violence to trans people that goes on.

We all end up in the cemetery.

Since Marina forewarned shows up at the wake, one can expect an appearance at Orlando’s funeral. And with it comes the final tête-à-tête. Marina and the family car come to a stand off on the cemetery road. Marina, standing mid-road as the family from inside the car launches another verbal salvo. We are about to discover Marina’s breaking point. She has had it with these Philistines. Hiking up her skirt, she climbs aboard the car’s hood to the roof. With pain and angst, jumping up and down on the roof, she lets it all out. She now becomes the threat to her abusers trapped inside Orlando’s car, as if it is a coffin itself. Marina lets loose her tirade. In the end, Diabla is all she wants from the family. For the dog’s return she willingly surrenders her keys to the apartment and the life she had with Orlando. As the car drives off, one would believe the family is victor since they had the funeral sans Marina.

Alone in the cemetery, Marina deals with the angst of missing her last chance to say goodbye to Orlando. Previously at times, her deceased lover revealed himself to Marina as a speechless vision. He now directs her to the crematory moments before his incineration. Orlando’s apparition as the tender lover he was stops and kisses Marina as gently and lovingly as we have witnessed before. Then disappears through locked doors. Pounding for entry the crematory workers allow her access and a moment alone. To see Orlando’s body to say good -bye is all she desired. Fuck you to the family, they will never know.

A personal requiem.

The returned dog is fed. The stage is set. Marina primps herself. Standing proud and tall she joins her singing teacher and a small ensemble on a stage. Previously we learned of Marina’s vocal talents when she visited her teacher. Now is time for a grand performance to rise above all the chaos. (Daniela Vega is an opera singer.) She doesn’t disappoint. Closing the film, as a personal requiem comes Handel’s “Ombra mai fu,” “Never was a shade.” As Marina’s performance ends, tears for her lover finally run down her cheeks. We can share her pain and triumph.

Ombra mai fu

Tender and beautiful fronds of my beloved plane tree,

Let Fate smile upon you .

May thunder, lightning, and storms never bother your dear peace,

Nor may you by blowing winds be profaned.

Never was made

A vegetable (a plant) more dear and loving or gentle.

George Frederic Handel, 1738

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