The Starting Gate: Turning Anger into Advocacy for Trans Rights.
My name is Iris, I use they/them/theirs pronouns, and identify as genderfluid. I have been the Activist Fellow with the Boston University School of Public Health’s Activist Lab, and I have been working with the Yes on 3 campaign since December of 2017. During the campaign, I have been phone banking, canvassing, recruiting, and leading actions to keep transgender nondiscrimination protections. As a nonbinary person, this legislation was crucial for me.
When I began my career at the Boston University School of Public Health last year, I had just moved from Yellow Springs, Ohio. My community at Antioch College was accepting of me, but the communities outside of the town were a different story. I was excited about moving to Massachusetts, a state that many queer, transgender, and gender nonconforming people feel is a safer place. After living in Massachusetts for a few months and learning that I had a few misconceptions of my new home, I heard about this referendum vote and was angry. I felt deceived and wanted to make sure that these protections stayed intact. If Massachusetts could not keep these protections, there was no way that any other state could keep theirs or that another state could implement this legislation.
If you have not already heard, sixty-eight percent of Massachusetts voters voted ‘yes’ and upheld protections for transgender people statewide. While this campaign has ensured that we keep nondiscrimination protections for transgender people in Massachusetts, there is much more work that needs to be done.
We talk about Massachusetts being a “liberal” and “progressive” state, but it is important to not let these flat characterizations overshadow the flaws that are in our communities. We had to vote on these protections because there is a large enough portion of Massachusetts residents that are transphobic. While sixty-eight percent of people voted Yes on 3, there were still three hundred thousand people that voted against nondiscrimination protections in Massachusetts. There are three hundred thousand people who do not want transgender people in public spaces. There are three hundred thousand people that think myself and my friends are dangerous. The reason we got to this point is because of discrimination and a political system that does not support our queer and transgender communities. We need to take a hard look at our local politics and the people that we engage with because this referendum shows me and many of my friends that there are giant gaps in who Massachusetts voters’ care to protect.
This does not mean that I’m not excited that we kept this legislation. I’m very happy that a majority of people in Massachusetts are in favor of transgender people being safer in public spaces. The reason why we won and are keeping these protections is that many dedicated individuals have worked for almost two years to keep transgender protections in Massachusetts. We got to this point because transgender people were fighting for our own rights. Transgender, gender nonconforming, and many of our families have spent the last two years convincing and educating everyone else that we should be able to be in public spaces without being discriminated against. It’s been incredibly difficult for many people to work on this campaign, and I’m glad that so many people volunteered, donated, and educated about this issue. However, we need to take a step back and make sure that we continue to protect human rights for all people. Looking at this campaign, people must be cognizant of the tremendous amount of work that still needs to be done.
It is necessary for us to continue this work in our own communities. Especially here at Boston University. There are fundamental issues that we need to address concerning our queer and transgender students, faculty, and staff members. Many people continue to ignore that Boston University was not on the coalition supporting transgender rights during this campaign, that our university still struggles to implement gender-neutral bathrooms, and that name change accommodations through Boston University are either nonexistent or confusing to go through.
While I and many others are happy that this campaign won, this legislation is only the starting point. We need to strive to continue to protect our community at Boston University as well as queer and transgender people across the state and the nation. As a student of public health, I implore you to get involved, take care of your community members, and continue to fight for human rights.
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