Text says "Defend Transgender Protections in MA!" Picture of hands holding trans and gay pride flags on a green background

Legal protections for trans Massachusetts residents hang in the balance

On Election Day, Massachusetts voters will decide whether or not to uphold an existing anti-discrimination law that protects trans people’s access to public accommodations.

As the first statewide referendum on trans rights in the U.S., the outcome will be precedent setting, providing a basis for other nondiscrimination policies to protect trans people’s access to housing, healthcare, and education, or fueling transphobic right-wing policies at a state and federal level.

To put this another way, trans people’s ability to live freely in Massachusetts is now at the mercy of our neighbors, who may not have much information about trans people. This is scary. Opponents of the public accommodations protections are relying on debunked fearmongering tactics that paint trans women as sexual predators and a threat to the safety of cis women and children. But make no mistake: these bills are really about controlling and limiting trans people’s ability to work, go to school, access housing and healthcare. As actress Laverne Cox says, they are ultimately about erasing us from public life.

It’s not just the rollback of rights itself that is a threat but also how the debate about these bills furthers prejudice and myths about trans people. Transphobic rhetoric like the kind surrounding Referendum 3 creates a hostile climate that contributes to the murder of trans women, especially black and brown trans women.

And although New England is seen as a more progressive region, trans people still face discrimination in all aspects of life. Earlier this year, local trans community activist Christa Leigh Steele Knudslien was murdered by her husband. The national Trans Day of Remembrance started in Boston after the 1998 murder of black trans woman Rita Hester.

In Massachusetts, it’s encouraging to see that a number of anti-sexual violence and feminist organizations have signed on to the coalition to preserve public accommodations protections for trans people. And trans people are fighting back by sharing what this referendum means to us.  

If you’re in MA, there are many ways for you to take action to support the #Yeson3 campaign. But even if you’re outside the state, you can amplify trans voices and challenge transphobic myths.

Nondiscrimination protections are crucial—not as the be-all and end-all, but as a basis to affirm that trans and gender non-conforming people are human and valuable members of our communities.  

Image credit: Freedom for all Massachusetts

Jess is a first-gen college graduate, cat parent, and LGBTQ person living in Boston, MA. At Feministing, Jess writes about the intersection of state and interpersonal violence, LGBTQ communities and radical activism. They can usually be found on public transportation or the internet.

Jess is a first-gen college graduate, cat parent, and LGBTQ person living in Boston, MA. They can usually be found on public transportation or the internet.

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