^ Attorney General Maura Healey, with Suffolk District Attorney Dan Conley and Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans : “a matter of basic human dignity and respect.”
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Four years ago Massachusetts enacted some measure of protection for transgender people. Unfortunately, public accommodations protection was left out of that law. As a result, transgender people may be denied entry to restaurants, shops, bus stations, hotels — any venue that offers accommodation to the general public. As a result, a Massachusetts restaurant cannot reject an employee for being transgender, but it can deny that same person entry as a customer.
That makers no sense at all.
So it is that proponents of transgender civil rights protections have filed House Bill 1577, which would establish these public accommodation civil rights. You may read the language of House Bill 1577 here : https://malegislature.gov/Bills/189/House/H1577
Section 2 of House Bill 1577 contains language worth quoting : “Any public accommodation including without limitation any entity that offers the provision of goods, services, or access to the public that lawfully segregates or separates access to such public accommodation or other entity based on a person’s sex shall grant all persons admission to and the full enjoyment of such public accommodation or other entity consistent with the person’s gender identity.”
These words make clear that transgender people are entitled to the same protections as anybody else, which is as it should be. So, why is this even an issue ?
Perhaps Attorney Maura Healey said it best, at yesterday’s Judiciary Committee hearing, when she noted that “there is discomfort out there.” It is indeed uncomfortable to find that one’s assumptions about identity aren’t as settled as we think. After all, if identity isn’t settled for a transgender person, might it also not be settled for the rest of us ? The existence of transgender people challenges who we are.
It certainly unsettles those who openly oppose House Bill 1577. In a New Boston Post op-ed, opponent Jim Lyons, a State Representative from Essex County, uses the phrase “men who claim to be women.” Lyons either does not get, or refuses to admit, that transgender women are NOT men claiming to be women. They ARE women. By self realization deeply, profoundly felt.
Some transgender people submit to surgery to bring their bodies into line with their identity, but why should surgery be the basis of identity ? If one is a woman, then one’s body is a woman’s body, regardless of genitalia. Not all chromosomic women are born with full estrogenic genitalia. Does that make them any less women ?
One can go on endlessly about these distinctions to no end. The issue of House Bill 1577 isn’t to settle biological or medical ethics but to establish legally that a person’s gender identity need not accord with his or her body characteristics; that you have a right to be who you affirm to be. For many, that assertion surprises. But life is a mystery. It surprises. It catches unawares even those who find themselves made whole by that which they were once unaware of.
And that is where House Bill 1577 steps in to say, the law supports and protects you.
Representative Lyons, at yesterday’s hearing, asserted that transgender people already have a remedy from discrimination : they can file a complaint with the MCAD. But why should a transgender person have to suffer harassment or worse, then have to hire a lawyer, file a complaint within the brief time allowed by the MCAD, then miss days of work or school to attend a hearing that may or may not rule favorably ? Transgender people risk bullying, shaming, ridicule, and violence. They do this because they have the strength to be who they are despite all. Why should our law add legal burdens to those that transgender people already face ?
The ultimate battlefield, as all concerned know, is bathrooms. The toilet and the shower bath are where the rubber of nakedness hits the road of identity. The eye of the beholder sees the nakedness; only the soul can grasp the identity within.
By the way : kids get this. Kids mostly are quite OK with transgender people. But kids don’t enact laws. Parents do.
All the signs say that Speaker DeLeo supports House 1577; which means that it will pass. The Senate is fully aboard its own version, Senate Bill 735. A final bill will thus surely reach the Governor’s desk, What will Governor Baker do ?
Months ago he stated opposition. More recently he has softened that position, saying that he “prefers” the current law. Mike Deehan of WGBH writes that Baker will “examine the details of the legislation.” That sounds almost promising.I also note that while he has not lifted a finger to support the bill, neither has he done anything to prevent it. He was conspicuously absent from yesterday’s hearing, as were his guardians.
I cannot tell what he will do, and no one is saying; I think that is exactly how he wants it.
My sense is that he “prefers” that the legislature deliver him a veto-proof majority vote. Can it ? we will soon find out.
—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere