When it comes to protecting transgender people from discrimination, the truth is more boring than fiction. Legislators updated Massachusetts law in 2016 to protect transgender people in public places because all people should be treated fairly. Also check out our Mythbusters documents en español and em português.

Myth: “Public accommodations” means restrooms and locker rooms. Fact: Public accommodations are all the places we go when we’re not at home, work, or school. These include movie theaters, restaurants, parks, public transportation, and coffee shops; and yes, it includes being able to do something as basic as using the restroom in these places.
Myth: This law is unprecedented and untested. Fact: Across the nation, 18 states, Washington, D.C. and more than 200 cities and towns have passed laws protecting transgender people in public spaces. That includes Massachusetts in 2016 and 14 Massachusetts municipalities, from Worcester to Swampscott, prior to the statewide law.
Myth: Non-discrimination protections could be used as cover for misconduct in restrooms and locker rooms. Fact: That’s false. The language of the law prohibits its abuse, criminal laws remain in force, and real-life experience tells a different story:
  • The law explicitly prohibits people from asserting gender identity for any “improper purpose.”
  • Nothing in this law weakens existing laws against illegal behavior. Assault and harassment remain illegal.
  • The 18 states and more than 200 municipalities with laws protecting transgender people from discrimination have reported no problems.
  • Gyms with policies protecting transgender people from discrimination report no problems -- including Planet Fitness, the gym franchise with more than 50 facilities across Massachusetts.
Myth: This law allows men to invade women’s spaces. Men can just “wake up” and claim to be women, then access women’s facilities. Fact: Safety and privacy are important for everyone. That’s why we have laws in place that make it illegal to harm or harass people, or invade their privacy. It’s already illegal to enter a restroom or a locker room to harm someone, period. Anyone who does that can and should be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Police use these laws to prevent assault, keep people safe, and hold perpetrators accountable. Updating Massachusetts law to protect transgender people from discrimination hasn’t changed that.
Myth: Legally protecting transgender people in public places endangers women and children in public restrooms and locker rooms. Fact: More than 250 organizations around the country that do work to prevent and treat survivors of violence support laws that protect transgender people in restrooms and locker rooms. These include The National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, The National Center for Victims of Crime, The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and more. In Massachusetts, 16 local organizations that do this work support protections for transgender people from discrimination in public places.
Myth: Transgender people who use restrooms and locker rooms will make others uncomfortable. Fact: Transgender men and transgender women use restrooms and locker rooms for the same reasons everyone does. And when they do, they value safety, privacy, and modesty just like everyone else. Transgender people are part of our workplaces and our neighborhoods, and they need to be able to use the restroom just like everyone else.
Myth: Prohibiting discrimination for transgender people in public places allows public school students to access opposite-sex restrooms and locker rooms. Fact: Since 2012, Massachusetts law has prohibited discrimination against transgender people in public schools and ensured students have access to facilities that match the gender they live every day. There have been no reported incidents. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education provides guidance for school districts to ensure safe and equal educational opportunities for all students.
Myth: This law is forcing businesses to spend money to remodel their restrooms to be gender neutral or to add restrooms or other sex-segregated facilities. Fact: Businesses have not had to spend a penny on remodeling or new construction. This law simply guarantees patrons safe access to existing facilities that match the gender they live every day.
Myth: Discrimination against transgender people is not a problem in Massachusetts. Fact: A 2014 survey revealed that 65 percent of transgender people in Massachusetts faced discrimination in a public place in the previous 12 months.

In Massachusetts, we believe everyone should be treated fairly.

This law is about protecting the freedom of all Massachusetts residents—including those who are transgender—to live their lives free from discrimination. All hardworking people. including those who are transgender, should be treated fairly and equally by the laws of our state, and that’s why we updated Massachusetts law this past year. Nobody should have to live in fear of discrimination simply because of who they are.

For more information: Mason Dunn at 617-778-0519 (x6) or [email protected].

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