Editorial: Support our transgender neighbors and vote “yes” on Question 3

  • The National Center for Transgender Equality, NCTE, and the Human Rights Campaign gather on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, for a rally. AP PHOTO/Carolyn Kaster

Published: 10/24/2018 8:54:46 AM

Another day, another assault on our civil rights. This past Monday, LGBTQ activists organized in Washington, D.C. to protest a leaked Trump administration memo that proposed narrowing the definition of gender to “a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth,” according to The New York Times, which obtained a draft of the memo and reported on it Sunday.

The memo was seen by many as an attempt to erase “transgender” out of the language and law — and transgender people out of existence. Across the country, activists took to Twitter with the hashtag #WeWontBeErased. But it’s not enough to not be “erased.” Given our national political climate, the rights of trans people need to be clearly and explicitly defined, and that’s why we urge readers to vote “yes” on Question 3. A “yes” vote will protect transgender members of our community from discrimination in public spaces, including restaurants, stores, hotels and hospitals. A “yes” vote will uphold the current law as is.

For many people in our region, this issue hits close to home. In September, the Gazette published a letter by Western Massachusetts Parents of Transgender Adults, urging readers to vote “yes” on 3. “We care about the safety of our children, and we worry about the dangers when society legalizes discrimination,” they wrote. “But this is not just an issue for us, the parents. We believe that our community — all of you — care. In a world of growing hate and fear, voting to uphold these vital protections for all is something you can do.”

Recently, regular columnist J.M. Sorrell wrote about the fear-mongering tactics of Keep MA Safe, a coalition pushing to repeal the law, after gathering signatures for the referendum. Guest columnist Mariel Addis also wrote in support of the law, offering a personal story of transition: “People tend to fear what they don’t know or understand, and that seems to be the case for some people when it comes to understanding what it means to be transgender,” Addis wrote. “I thought it might be helpful to introduce everyone to a transgender person I know very well — me.”

Earlier this month, reporter Greta Jochem introduced readers to other transgender people and their allies in our area in her article, which included the perspective of Karen Robitaille, the mother of a 21-year-old transgender son, who identified as a boy early on. Finding a public bathroom was a challenge, Robitaille said: “I know firsthand how much we as a family struggled to do something simple that most people don’t even think about.”

In 2016, our elected state legislators outlawed discrimination against people on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, ancestry or gender identity in a public place. It was landmark legislation that marks the Commonwealth as a welcoming and fair society.

But if proponents of Question 3 get their way, they would strip gender identity from the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination.

Known by the dog-whistle (i.e. a coded message) term “bathroom bill,” its proponents would have you think that women using public bathrooms are in danger of assault by predatory men dressed up as women, despite no solid evidence to back up such claims. The law has been in place for two years, with no increase in public safety incidents.

Supporters of the law include the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association and Major City Chiefs of Police, women’s organizations and the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, the Massachusetts Parent-Teacher Association, a broad array of Democratic elected officials in Massachusetts, the Northampton City Council, and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, who signed the bill in 2016.

Without the protection afforded by the original 2016 law, the civil rights of transgender persons would be abrogated in many public places. Their rights, including the right to use the bathroom of their choice, shouldn’t be subject to interpretation, prejudice, second-guessing, spot checks or 911 calls by bigots with a smartphone at the ready.

A “yes” vote on Question 3 would keep in place the current law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity in places of public accommodation. A “no” vote would repeal this provision of the 2016 public accommodation law.

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, we urge you to protect the rights of our transgender neighbors and vote “yes” on Question 3.




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