By Assistant Designer Emily Lannon.
Question 3 on the Massachusetts ballot for the midterm election is one that lets the community vote on the protection of bathroom rights for transgender individuals. Specifically, it affirms that gender identity stays on the “list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in places of public accommodation, resort, or amusement” according to a Vote411.org copy of the ballot. Other things on this list are markers like race, color, religion, sex, orientation, and disability. This means that business owners who have areas that separate men and women, like restrooms and locker rooms, must allow people to use the area of accommodation that aligns with their gender identity.
The transgender community is one that has come under attack a lot in the past, especially most recently with the leaked Health and Human Service memo that was published in the New York Times. They are constantly facing dehumanization and assaults from the public. Massachusetts has, in the past, been a proponent of protecting those rights but now there is an opportunity for more discrimination with the ballot question proposed to repeal the protections they have already been granted.
Transgender individuals are people who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth and instead identify as a different gender.
They are not “men identifying as women,” or “women identifying as men” they are people identifying as themselves.
Gender is not always what you were assigned at birth. I doubt any of us are who we were when we were born. The same is true for trans individuals. Gender also has nothing to do with genitals, or secondary sexual characteristics. Gender identity is defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “a person’s internal sense of being male, female, some combination of male and female, or neither male nor female.” It is entirely an internal feeling and is not always dictated by outward appearances, it also is not always male or female.
I will not tell you how to vote. I will urge you to protect the rights of individuals. I will urge you to try and understand that what you think is the trans experience may not be it. I will urge you to remember that anyone can become anything and someone close to you could be trans, or may transition in the near future and will need those rights to protect themselves when they need accommodations in public. I will urge you to remember that people are people, and trans people, especially trans women, face a disproportionate amount of violence in their day to day lives. I will not tell you how to vote, but I will ask you to think, and ask questions, and do research.
CNN writers Emannuella Grinberg and Dani Stewart did research on the topic of assaults in restrooms, and came up with information that contradicts the claim that trans bathroom rights cause more assaults, in their article “3 myths that shape the transgender bathroom debate” they say “CNN reached out to 20 law enforcement agencies in states with anti-discrimination policies covering gender identity. None who answered reported any bathroom assaults after the policies took effect.” In fact the same article cites a UCLA survey in which 70% of trans respondents report being harassed in public restrooms.
UMass Dartmouth is a community that has always prided itself on acceptance and individulatity and has always fostered a safe space for LGBTQ communites—so much so that we have a group on campus dubbed “Gender Punks,” a group for gender nonconforming individuals.
The repeal of this law will put them and countless others in our community in immediate danger. We need to be informed and participate in our democratic institutions.