In an op-ed in the Belmont Citizen Herald, Senator Will Brownsberger—co-sponsor of bill SB 735 and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee—goes to bat for transgender Bay Staters and their equal right to be treated fairly, with respect and dignity.
Massachusetts has had non-discrimination protections on the books for more than two decades, prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and public spaces—like hospitals, shopping mails and restaurants—on the basis of sexual orientation. While transgender Bay Staters are protected under the 2011 law in housing and employment, there is no state law prohibiting discrimination in public spaces on the basis of gender identity.
The centerpiece of opposition arguments against fully inclusive protections is the claim that allowing people to use public restrooms that align with their gender identity will somehow endanger public safety for women and children. Sen. Brownsberger highlights that, in actuality, the opposite is true:
What is really contrary to public safety is requiring transgender women to go to the men’s room where they would be deeply embarrassed and humiliated and at real risk of molestation. Transgender women do get harassed just like women who were designated female at birth. They are vastly more likely to be victimized than to be victimizers.
In fact, of the 17 states and over 200 cities with fully-inclusive non-discrimination protections—including 13 municipalities across Massachusetts—not a single one has reported a public safety incident involving a transgender person and restrooms.
On the other hand, just weeks ago the Joint Committee on the Judiciary heard public testimony from dozens of transgender people detailing the routine discrimination they face in public spaces, especially health care facilities. Sen. Brownsberger notes that—beyond the moral injustice of treating any specific group of people unfairly—being the victim of discrimination has long-standing destructive impact on a person’s psyche:
Transgender people, especially transgender young people, often don’t have the benefit of supportive peers or family and have to bear the crushing burden of discrimination entirely on their own, resulting in exceptionally high rates of depression and suicide.
If passed, Senate Bill 735 would update the Commonwealth’s non-discrimination law to include protections for transgender people in public spaces. It is currently under consideration alongside a sister bill, HB 1577, in the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, which Sen. Brownsberger chairs.