Lately, transgender rights have been a hot topic in politics and in public discourse. Everything from President Obama’s recent directive for all public schools in the country to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity, to the so-called “Bathroom Bill” here in Massachusetts have received heightened media attention and scrutiny.

In keeping with our mission to educate, advocate and respond, the Winchester Multicultural Network is providing up-to-date information* about two related Massachusetts Senate and House bills that have recently passed. We are pleased that Massachusetts lawmakers have taken one more step towards advocating for civil rights for everyone!

1. Senate Bill No. 735
An Act relative to transgender anti-discrimination passed on May 12, 2016, 33 to 4.

“Section 2: Any public accommodation including without limitation any entity that offers the provision of goods, services, or access to the public that lawfully segregates or separates access to such public accommodation or other entity based on a person’s sex shall grant all persons admission to and the full enjoyment of such public accommodation or other entity consistent with the person’s gender identity.”

What it means:
In other words, in public businesses and service providers in Massachusetts, it is unlawful to discriminate based on either or both sexual and gender identity.

2. House Bill H. 4253
An Act relative to gender identity and nondiscrimination passed on June 1, 2016, 116 to 36.

Status: As of June 1, will go to conference committee where it will be reconciled with the version the Senate passed in early May, and will then head to the desk of Republican Governor Charlie Baker who has stated that he will sign it.* Massachusetts will join 18 other states and more than 100 cities that have explicit non-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations, housing and employment.

What it means:
Like the Senate bill, the legislation would offer transgender people protections from discrimination at public accommodations like restaurants and malls, and will allow people to use the restroom or locker room that matches their gender identity. The House bill also includes a provision that the Attorney General’s office issue guidance for potential legal action against “any person who asserts gender identity for an improper purpose.” The language refers to fears by some critics that say the so-called “bathroom bill” could be used as cover for predatory men who want to gain access to women’s bathrooms.

Contact your state legislator to find out more on these and other important issues.

For Winchester: House Representative Michael S. Day,  Senator Jason Lewis, and Senator Pat Jehlen.

*On July 8, 2016, Massachusetts’ Republican governor, Charlie Baker, signed the transgender bathroom bill into law.

Download PDF “De-bunking the ‘Bathroom Bill’: transgender Anti-Discrimination Bills in Massachusetts.”

WMCN Letter to the Editor, Winchester Star

October 3, 2016

To the Editor:

We are writing in response to a post on Facebook which indicated that a company polling voter preferences and supporting a local candidate used aggressively transphobic language in reference to the law passed in Massachusetts that protects the rights of transgender people.

This law, S.4207, colloquially known as the “Bathroom Bill,” went into effect on October 1st. While the signing of this bill by the current Massachusetts Governor is a cause of celebration with social justice advocates, it is unfortunately being used as a ploy to raise anxiety for political purposes. In the voter preference poll, residents were asked an implicitly transphobic question relating to this new law that implied that young girls would be at risk from predatory men, simply because transgender women can no longer be discriminated against because of their sex or gender identity. This is deeply offensive and unacceptable.

The person who received one of these polling phone calls expressed their dismay and disbelief about this political rhetoric, and was courageous enough to express their disappointment at the time of the telephone conversation.

In June of this year, the Winchester Multicultural Network distributed an informational handout about local legislation on the “Bathroom Bill.” To learn more, visit www.wmcn.org. Furthermore, we are initiating a series of programs addressing our cultural and political climate. Standing up against intolerance is central to the Network’s mission and our goal of strengthening our community through inclusion and the understanding and appreciation of differences.

Hillary Turkewitz

Oneida Road

Aba Taylor

Executive Director

Winchester Multicultural Network