On June 1, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a transgender protection bill by a vote of 116 to 36, which will protect transgender people from discrimination. The bill will allow transgender people to use locker rooms and restrooms consistent with their gender identity. The day before, Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, said he would sign the bill if it was passed and added, “No one should be discriminated against in Massachusetts because of their gender identity.”
Supporters of the transgender protection bill hugged and cheered outside the courtroom on Wednesday, while detractors of the bill chanted, “Shame on you!” Republican Representative Marc T. Lombardo said, “This is a bill that would take away rights from more than 99 percent of the population—the basic right to privacy in bathrooms and locker rooms, the rights of our children to feel safe in a bathroom.” Massachusetts now joins more than 20 states that have similar laws protecting transgender people, and there has not been an increase of crime, as feared by many, associated with the new laws.
Massachusetts House passes bill, expands transgender rights to public accommodations: https://t.co/kOzNFX5W2j pic.twitter.com/oEo8Kbrtyo
— Essence Magazine (@essencemag) June 2, 2016
The legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, Sarah Warbelow, gave her opinion on the transgender protection bill being passed. “The fact that the state is doing it at a moment of heightened awareness around transgender people and misperceptions about what laws protecting transgender people are really about, is really an important signal to the rest of the country.”
Hooray! Massachusetts just passed a bill banning discrimination against transgender folks in all public spaces: https://t.co/mofn56Jy7D
— Feminist Campus (@feministcampus) June 2, 2016
Last month, the Obama administration issued a directive that helps protect transgender students, as reported by the Washington Post. The letter was composed by Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Vanita Gupta. It said,
“As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class of students…Protecting transgender students’ privacy is critical to ensuring they are treated consistent with their gender identity.”
Last October, residents of Massachusetts spoke out in support of full transgender protections at the State House. Elected officials, business leaders, school administrators, public safety officials, and civil rights leaders, among many others, testified at the State House. Among them was Brandon Adams, a 14-year-old transgender teenager, who gave a powerful testimony.
“Every day, I live my life in fear—I’m scared—I’m scared because of who I am. Imagine that. What would happen to me if someone found out? What would they do? Would they bully me in front of my friends or on social media? Would they beat me up? Or would they do worse? I am here today to no longer live my life in fear. I am a 14-year old transgender teenager and I accept who I am because I refuse to live in fear. I have come here today with my family and friends to loudly and proudly support this bill…
“I am a boy who happened to be born in a girl’s body. My family and most of my friends, give me nothing but love and unconditional support. At school though, it took some time. We had just moved into a new building, and all of a sudden I have a new name, new pronoun, and I’m asking to use the boy’s bathroom. I asked to use the boy’s bathroom because that’s where I felt safe, because that’s who I am; I am a boy. I was told no because of the fact that my anatomy was not male. I was then offered the staff bathroom, and when I used the gender neutral bathroom, male students would push me and shove me into the wall and call me a freak. Because of this hatred and fear, I chose to avoid the bathroom at school, causing me to drink less water and feel dehydrated and get headaches all day, every day…The school asked me to use restrooms that were segregated from the rest of my classmates. We know from history that separate but equal rights are unconstitutional. Separate but equal makes me feel like a second-class citizen.
“Working with the school, and referencing the Massachusetts education guidelines, finally got me to be treated equally, and I was no longer scared. My friends though, they were a different story. Some did nothing but make me feel loved, but some bullied me in school and on social media. And one day I checked my Instagram account and a former best friend said he dreamed of waking up with blood on his hands, and me dead. With the help of my town’s police department this harassment is being investigated. I look to you, my representatives, to focus and support, in any way you can, make all kids feel safe and supported and let them focus on being kids…”
People celebrated after the transgender protection bill was passed, and gave their opinions on how this was a major step forward in protecting transgender people’s rights and civil rights altogether. But perhaps Brandon Adams said it best last October.
“Kids should be thinking about their first date, on getting their driver’s license, not living in fear.”
[Photo by: David Greedy/Getty Images]