Transgender civil rights will be at the forefront at the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition's day of action on June 23rd. On this day, participants will discuss transgender civil rights with legislators and encourage them to support recent legislation that would grant transgender individuals protection from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, and label violence against transgender individuals as hate crimes. Similar bills have been passed in 13 states; although Massachusetts has long been known for its support of gay rights, it does not yet have laws protecting transgender individuals.
The planned day of action comes two weeks after a community meeting in which both those in favor of the legislation, which is called "An Act Relative to Transgender Equal Rights," and those opposed to it discussed their concerns. At this meeting, transgender advocates talked about civil rights violations and called on legislators to grant them equal rights, while opponents expressed concern that sexual predators would enter opposite-gender bathrooms to attack legitimate visitors to the bathroom. These concerns have come up beforeÂ—in 2009 right-wing groups in Massachusetts claimed that the passage of such a bill would allow men to use the women's restroomÂ—but as trans advocates point out, they are largely unfounded. Furthermore, public accommodations refer to far more than bathrooms; without equal access laws, transgender individuals can be denied access to homeless shelters, shelters for victims of domestic violence, and hospitals. Given these facts, denying passage of the bill because of the public accommodations clause harms transgender individuals more than it protects others. For some transgender individuals, such as those attempting to escape violent partners or get off the streets after losing their homes (which happens frequently due to a lack of protection against discrimination in housing or employment), equal access to public accommodations is literally a matter of life and death. Furthermore, transgender individuals sometimes get attacked in public bathrooms because of the bigoted belief that they are there to hurt others, and some transgender people refrain from using public restrooms at all.
On the day of action, MTPC staff members will facilitate meetings between participants and legislators by providing participants with a packet of information about the bill and their legislators' position on the bill, as well as setting up appointments with the legislators. Participants who speak well and can tell compelling personal stories may be able to convince legislators of the vital importance of protecting transgender civil rights with this bill. However, if a particular legislator is prejudiced against transgender individuals, nothing a participant says will necessarily change his mind. Participants will still feel empowered by getting involved with the political process regardless of their representative's attitudes towards them, and if nothing else the participant will come away armed with a better understanding of opponents' concerns. Thus, day of action is worth going to regardless of the participant's success during the meeting. MTPC staff will be on site to facilitate the meetings and give first-timers pointers on how to lobby successfully, so nobody should allow fear to interfere with participating in this event.
Persons interested in participating in the day of action must contact MTPC by June 14, 2011 to RSVP. They can send an email to Rachel@masstpc.org or call 617-778-0519.