Victory for Dignity and Respect.
There is so much to unpack from the 2018 election results. There was unprecedented voter turnout. Democrats took control of the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years and saw the election of one of the most diverse classes in our history. We saw Texas become a battleground state. And there are still pieces of the puzzle that haven’t been decided yet. But in particular, folks around the Activist Lab let out a very specific sigh of relief on Tuesday the 6th, a breath we’d been holding onto for almost two years.
If you haven’t heard by now, let us be the first to tell you: On Tuesday, 68% of Massachusetts voters upheld transgender protections by voting yes on ballot question 3. This was a big, hard-fought battle and the Activist Lab couldn’t be happier with the results.
This victory was a long time coming.
The Activist Lab and the School of Public Health have been heavily invested in Question 3 since the critical anti-discrimination law was originally signed by Governor Baker in 2016. “When opponents of transgender equality forced this law onto the 2018 ballot, we knew that as activists and public health professionals, we couldn’t stay neutral or stand on the sidelines,” said Dean Harold Cox, Director of the Activist Lab. “As a school with a focus on equity, it is our responsibility to engage our faculty, staff, and students in real-world activism. So when we see an opportunity to make a difference, like with question 3, the decision to get involved and take a side is an obvious one.”
To that end, we partnered with the Yes on 3 campaign, hiring Activist Fellow Iris Olson to work with Freedom for All MA in January and bring this important issue to our Medical Campus community. Iris was instrumental in orchestrating so many important awareness events and volunteering opportunities on this and the Charles River Campus. We can’t thank Iris enough for their tireless work, creativity, and dedication. We’ve learned so much from them through this process and are incredibly excited to see what they achieve next.
Students, faculty, and staff under the leadership of Dean Galea wrote op-eds, made financial contributions, educated our colleagues, and joined the Yes on 3 grassroots coalition. We took a stand against discrimination and declared that hate has no home in our Commonwealth. We showed our trans friends, neighbors, and colleagues that we see them and we will fight for their freedom, safety, and dignity.
“I wish we as trans people hadn’t had to fight for our basic rights like this, but having to fight meant we got to see who would fight for us,” says Michelle Samuels, senior writer and editor in the SPH Office of Communications. “Now that we’ve won, I’m especially excited for all of the young trans and gender non-conforming kids I got to volunteer with for Yes on 3, some of whom came out over the course of the campaign. They know who’s behind them, and how hard all of us, cis and trans, will fight to keep them safe.”
Mason Dunn and Kasey Suffredini, the Campaign Co-Chairs for Freedom for All MA said in their victory email that, “Transgender people were the core of this campaign, and they had standing shoulder to shoulder with them a massive team of staff, volunteers and more than 1,500 coalition partners: law enforcement, sexual assault prevention advocates, businesses large and small, labor unions, faith leaders, educators, and professional sports teams—including the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox.”
What the size and diversity of this coalition shows us is that the momentum for trans rights and the rights of other marginalized communities is moving in the right direction, and we can’t afford to squander it by thinking this victory is the end of a bigger war. The trans folks at the heart of this campaign suffered and sacrificed to make this win happen. The 68% of people who voted yes must now take the next step and continue to fight for trans rights, human rights, civil rights, and common sense in their workplaces, towns, schools, and wherever else battles need to be won.
“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,” said Iris Olson after reflecting on Tuesday’s results. “But we need to take a step back and make sure that we continue to protect human rights for all people. Looking at this campaign, I hope people realize that there is so much work ahead.”
Mason and Kasey ended their email with the following, “We turned the tide against discrimination—and we can’t wait to see the ripple effects.”
We couldn’t agree more with Iris, Mason, and Kasey. And can’t wait to see where those ripples take our Medical Campus and SPH community as we continue to move forward.
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