Image by Kent Buckley
The expansion of transgender rights and protections, as called for in proposals that are currently stalled in the state legislature, should be a no-brainer for Massachusetts, which has led the country in accommodating queer rights. Unfortunately, it seems Commonwealth lawmakers, while eager and enthusiastic to dust off rainbow flags and celebrate gay pride every June, are more concerned with looking like a queer rights state than actually leading.
The petitions (H.1577 and S.735), which have been called the “bathroom bill,” would provide a critical update to the current law by adding “gender identity” to the list of classes of people who are protected by anti-discrimination laws. The current wording on the books uses the designation of “sex” to define protections, which is a dated description at best. A law that protects residents based on how they identify will allow transgender people to access the appropriate public spaces, which makes everyone safer.
Not so, say critics of the bill. They claim allowing people, particularly students, to access areas like public toilets and locker rooms will create unsafe situations for, I guess in their eyes, the people who are supposed to be using those facilities. What chaos and violence would run rampant if a sexually deviant teenage boy can claim that he really is a girl just so he can sneak into the girls’ locker room? Where are the protections for cis students who feel uncomfortable with alternative gender identities?
I don’t know what kind of boys these critics know, but instead of denying an entire class of people the right to use public spaces, they should act immediately to make sure they get help! As I read through the critiques, I have to wonder if these folks who are concerned with perverts seeking loopholes are the ones who believe that women falsely accuse men of rape at their whim.
These bills will protect our friends, neighbors, teachers, and children. These are the people who are beaten and murdered for expressing their identities, and they need this protection. For those who are uncomfortable with laws allowing trans folks to use the same bathrooms and facilities that they use, I have news for you: You’ve been sharing bathrooms with trans folks this whole time.
To quote Attorney General Maura Healey, who spoke in support of these bills at a recent public hearing: “Discomfort is not a reason to perpetuate discrimination.” Opposition to this bill isn’t really based on a legitimate complaint about safety. The dozen-plus states that have adopted protections can speak to the years that have passed without issue since. For trans folks, and for queer people in general, the discomfort of bigots should not be our burden. To quote the many shoulders we stand on: We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it.
Free Radical is a biweekly column syndicated by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. Emily Hopkins is BINJ projects coordinator.
Copyright 2015 Emily Hopkins. Licensed for use by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and media outlets in its network.