Question 3 — Yes for Transgender Rights

A Yes vote on Question 3 on the November 6 ballot will approve the legislature’s vote in 2016 to extend full civil rights protections to transgender people.

I led the senate negotiating team in the conference committee that finalized the legislation and sent it on for the two branches and the Governor for approval.

It felt right to me from the beginning. Gender identity is not a simple binary thing – it can be complicated.  But the issue is not complicated: We need to respect and honor transgender people as we do all other people.

For those who initially had trouble with the principle of transgender equality, the key pathway to a yes vote was getting to know some transgender people. They include some of the most brilliant and dynamic people I know, yet they are often vulnerable – to the prejudice of others and, in some cases, to private inner discomfort. I’m passionate about supporting them in their efforts to live safe, full and creative lives.

In 2011, we passed protections for transgender people against discrimination in employment, housing, education and credit. At that time we ducked the issue of protection from discrimination in public accommodations – hospitals, restaurants, transportation and also bathrooms.

In the discussions about the final bill that we passed, all of those at the table expressed commitment to the principle of equality, but we talked a lot about how to make sure that the new protections would not be abused by people with bad intentions.

Under the law that we passed, a transwoman should be able to use the ladies room like any ciswoman (non-transgender woman). This gave rise to three layers of concern.

Some opponents of the legislation suggested that the presence of transgender women in a ladies room would create risks for ciswomen. That’s a patently absurd idea – real transgender women have the same range of sexual orientations as ciswomen and pose no special risks to them.

A second layer of concern was that somehow cismen would masquerade as women and waltz into ladies rooms with bad intentions claiming the new law as cover. All the available data suggest this is not a strategy that molesters actually use – and it hardly seems likely to be an effective one.

The concept of gender identity as we defined it in the law means much more than wearing certain clothes: “Gender-related identity may be shown by providing evidence including medical history, care or treatment of the gender-related identity, consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held, as part of a person’s core identity.”

That is what is so heartbreaking about the arguments about this issue: Transgender people do have deeply held real gender identities. It is fundamentally disrespectful to suggest that transwomen are simply men in women’s clothes.

The third layer of concern was more legitimate: what guidance to give people who manage public accommodations as to how to sensitively respond if a question is raised by a customer about whether a person belongs in a gender specific area. The managers that some legislators had most in mind were the managers of locker rooms in health clubs.

We did respond by requiring the Attorney General to develop guidance for managers so that they could respond to any customer questions appropriately. That thoughtful guidance appears here and speaks intelligently and respectfully to the managerial dilemmas that could theoretically arise.

I hope that the people give a Yes on Question 3 on November 6 to support our legislative commitment to equality.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

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11 Comments

  1. Will, thank you for your leadership on the 2016 legislation and for your beautifully worded and well-reasoned case here for protecting transgender people from discrimination. Our transgender family proudly joins you in voting Yes on #3!

  2. Males in ladies’ rooms are quite common. Most of them are toddlers. Women regularly take their small children, even boys, into the ladies’ room when the boys’ father isn’t around.

    Would you send a 3-year-old boy into the men’s room by himself? Should we prevent those women from protecting their children?

    The people who fantasize about fake trannies invading rest rooms should be reminded that ladies’ rooms have stalls, not open urinals.

  3. Thank you so much for affirming the civil rights of trans people. The students in your district thank you from their hearts for seeing them as people and understanding the complicated nature of gender and sexuality.

  4. A yes on all 3 questions! If you support the working and middle class, it’s a big yes vote on question 1.

  5. Here’s why I urge people to vote NO on Question 3, to repeal the “Bathroom Bill” law–a law that falsely purports to protect transgender people.

    For as long as people can remember it had been the non-controversial custom that when it comes to the use of public- access bath rooms, shower rooms and similar gender-specific areas, that people with male genitalia use the rooms designated for males and people with female genitalia use the rooms designated for females. This custom is perfectly acceptable to the vast majority of transgender people who have genitalia different from what they were born with. It is perfectly acceptable to virtually everybody else also. It is an extremely rare transgender person indeed who even wants to use, say, a shower room with people whose genitalia are different from his/her own, and most transgender people would oppose such bizarre behavior as “ideological exhibitionism.”

    The “Bathroom Bill” law, however, absurdly says that a person with male genitalia who claims to be a woman has a legal right to enter a public-access women’s shower room, and that if a woman tells him to leave then that woman is in violation of the law. (Vice versa for a person with female genitalia entering the men’s shower room.)

    The main, and obvious, reason this is absurd is that people have an understandable desire not to be naked in front of a stranger with the opposite kind of genitalia.

    The liberal politicians ignore the obvious absurdity of the “Bathroom Bill” law and use a straw man argument to divert attention away from its absurdity. They act as if the main reason people object to the law is that they have an irrational fear of transgender people committing a crime in the bath or shower room. The liberal politicians then argue that since transgender people are no more criminal than anybody else (and that, besides, there are laws against crimes), that therefore it is irrational for anybody to oppose the “Bathroom Bill” law; as if people’s desire not to be naked in front of a stranger with the opposite kind of genitalia were not the main concern here of people opposed to this absurd law!

    I think the liberal politicians are using the absurd “Bathroom Bill” law to demonize good and decent people as irrational “transphobic” bigots. This in turn enables Big Money to divide-and-rule us by pitting people who mistakenly think transgender people need the “Bathroom Bill” law to be safe and who think anybody who disagrees with them must be a bigot, against people who see that the law doesn’t protect anybody from anything and only ends the privacy that the long-standing and perfectly sensible custom had ensured for many years. I believe that the “vote yes on 3” organizations that purport to represent transgender people don’t really do so; they are funded by Big Money and act to help it divide-and-rule us this way.

    John Spritzler

    1. Hi John,

      It is true, as you say, that many people have a desire not to be naked in front of a stranger with the opposite kind of genitalia. In fact many people don’t like to be naked in front of strangers at all. Certainly, transgender people share these same feelings and will make decisions based on them. That’s why bathrooms have stalls!

      But transgender people should have the same rights as others to use a bathroom consistent with their felt and expressed gender — it is often unsafe for them to do otherwise.

      And don’t forget that this bill is about hospitals, transportation, restaurants and other public accommodations, not specifically about bathrooms per se.

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