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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.
This post was written by two MTPC interns who attended last week’s Boston Spirit event and wanted to share their experiences.
On Wednesday, March 13th, Boston Spirit Magazine held its ninth annual LBGT executive networking night. Organizer David Zimmerman, in charge of the event, invited Governor Charlie Baker to be honored for his “support of the LGBT community” as well as to serve as keynote speaker for the event. Although Baker may have supported same-sex marriage, his tacit opposition to the transgender public accommodations bill has alienated many local LGBT people. Activists in the trans community, supported by MTPC, attended the event to protest Spirit’s choice and to hear Baker address their concerns about the bill.
Before Baker began speaking, the general attitude of the crowd was cautiously hopeful – the governor has disappointed us before, but surely while being honored at an LGBT event and with the backlash from North Carolina and Mississippi looming, he would at least give us something. Instead, we got nothing more than the same refusal to commit that Baker has offered us for months.
Baker spent most of his speech, which ran to around eighteen minutes before abruptly cutting off, congratulating himself on his achievements in MBTA reform and opioid abuse legislation. Even though he was addressing a crowd of mostly LGBT people at a networking event specifically focused on LGBT-friendly businesses, Baker largely avoided mentioning any LGBT issues until halfway through his speech. Once finally reaching the topic of same-sex marriage, he promptly mispronounced the acronym “LGBT” several times.
For those of us participating in the action, the two authors of this post included, this lack of substance was incredibly frustrating. A little over halfway through Baker’s speech, a member of the audience called out to the governor, imploring him to “look around” and address “the issue” – that issue being the many audience members silently holding signs which bore slogans like “public spaces = our spaces” and “Trans Rights Now” in support of HB 1577. Baker’s response was a condescending, “We’ll get to that.” He then continued his self-congratulatory lecture on recent governmental achievements.
Finally deigning to talk about the public accommodations bill, Baker announced that he would “talk to all the parties involved” if the bill crossed his desk, continuing to equivocate on the importance of transgender rights. By refusing to give us a direct answer about whether or not he would sign a bill protecting trans people from discrimination, Baker showed us that he values some parts of the LGBT community far more than others.
The next few minutes of the speech emphasized his lack of commitment, so trans activists and community members in the crowd called out to the governor, asking him to “sign the bill” and pointing out that he has ignored attempts by trans community members to communicate their pressing concerns to him in the past. In the face of the community’s understandable frustrations, Baker abruptly ended his speech and walked offstage, declining to speak with audience members afterward as he had originally agreed to do.
David Zimmerman took the stage following the governor’s sudden departure amid protesters’ chants. After several failed attempts to calm the crowd, Zimmerman became visibly angry and said that he hoped the trans activists present would “respect the rest” of the LGBT community for whom the night had been organized.
Most of the news coverage of the event and our protest in the following days was positive. Some, like Shirley Leung’s editorial in the Boston Globe, however, implied that trans activists were taking up too much space at the event and that our expressions of justified anger were unreasonably disruptive and disrespectful. Our presence and interactions with the governor were described as “heckling” and even trans-friendly news outlets inaccurately stated that Baker was “booed off the stage” after easily-offended protesters “lost it.” This kind of language perpetuates the harmful narrative that trans folks are just looking for a fight when we ask that people respect our desire to live without discrimination.
When our elected officials refuse to listen to the people they ostensibly represent, community organizing becomes even more important. Even as Baker refuses to lead, we congratulate the trans community members who planned last Wednesday’s protest action and made their voices heard.
The Transportation Security Administration has doubled down on anti-trans discrimination this week, finalizing a rule that codifies their existing policies on body scanners, making it more difficult for trans people to get through security.
Despite years of criticism and challenges from civil rights groups, TSA has decided not to change any aspect of their current system, in which TSA agents select scanners’ anomaly detection parameters with a pink or blue button based on a passenger’s perceived gender. This system puts transgender folks at a higher likelihood of dealing with invasive, humiliating patdowns and searches, since the scanners tend to flag trans people’s anatomy, as well as prosthetics like packers or breast forms. The policy also risks publicly outing transgender passengers by asking them questions about their bodies, which exposes them to further harassment and discrimination.
Adoption of the new rule means that TSA is likely to apply their outdated, discriminatory security measures more rigorously and be even less considerate of the civil rights of transgender passengers. The National Center for Transgender Equality has more information on how to protect yourself:
If you’ve been harassed or had your rights violated, or have any questions about your legal options, contact GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders at 1-800-455-GLAD for help and information, or email MTPC at email@example.com about your situation. You can also file discrimination complaints with TSA and the DHS on their respective websites.
By Oliver, Public Education Intern
On Tuesday, October 6th, the public hearing on An Act Relative to Gender Identity and Nondiscrimination (SB 735 and HB 1577) took place at the State House. The bill would legally protect transgender people from discrimination in public spaces; hotels, restaurants, public transportation, hospitals, etc. These protections already exist in employment, housing, education, and credit and lending, so this bill is the last thing standing between us and full protection under Massachusetts law.
The hearing had a great turnout thanks to MTPC supporters like you! Green-clad advocates and allies filled the auditorium, and influential figures spoke in favor of the proposed protections, including Attorney General Maura Healey and Congressman Joe Kennedy. Many powerful personal testimonies were given. “Today, I have a thriving daughter,” said Jeanne Talbot, whose teenage daughter, Nicole, is transgender. “But there is still discrimination at every turn…. Our work is not done until every person in Massachusetts is protected.” Fourteen-year-old Brandon Adams shared his harrowing story of receiving death threats after coming out as transgender in public school. He went on to say, “I refuse to live in fear. I have come here today, with my family and friends, to loudly and proudly support this bill.”
Testimonies like these paint a clear picture of why this bill is so vital to the Massachusetts transgender population. Gaps in the law are not just inconvenient; for people like Nicole and Brandon, lack of protections can be life threatening. No one should have to live with the fear of facing discrimination or harassment every time they take a taxi, eat at a restaurant, or check into a hospital – simply because of who they are. Massachusetts has long had a reputation of inclusion and tolerance; it’s time to update the laws to continue reflecting those values.
We can’t do this without your help.
As lawmakers make their decision in the coming weeks, it’s critical to keep up the momentum by continuing to put names and faces to the supporters of this bill. Freedom Massachusetts, the coalition spearheading this campaign, is still collecting personal stories from transgender folks and their allies.
Encourage your friends and family to tell their stories, and submit your own here!
The opposition needs to know that this issue is not just an arbitrary ideological debate; real people’s safety and wellbeing are on the line. To learn more about the bill and other ways you can help, please visit freedommassachusetts.org.
Photos by Hurley Event Photography
The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition is excited to announce the start of the preliminary phase of the ID Project. The ID Project will assist trans and gender non-conforming (GNC) individuals in Massachusetts through the process of legally changing their name and/or gender marker.
Once community members who would like to join the project sign up with MTPC, they will be matched with a trained volunteer. We know that changing your name and/or gender marker can be difficult, with a cost in time, money, emotional resources, and often-frustrating government bureaucracy. The ID Project can link community members with someone to make this process easier by helping to fill out forms, call the courthouse, or provide other backup in the face of a challenging system for as long as it takes. We hope that by training a pool of knowledgeable and helpful volunteers, MTPC can create a new long-term resource for the local trans community.
Spots in the preliminary phase of the ID Project are limited as we are trying to work out any kinks before it is opened up on a larger scale. If you are interested in being paired with a supportive volunteer as you go through a name and/or gender marker change, please either email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (617-778-0519)
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.