From November 13 through November 20 of this year, individuals and organizations around the country will commemorate Transgender Awareness Week, culminating in the annual Trans Day of Remembrance on Monday, November 20.
This celebration serves to elevate the voices of transgender people and raise the visibility of transgender people nationwide. In Massachusetts, it is more important than ever to hear the stories of our transgender friends, family, and neighbors, as in 2018 the people of our Commonwealth will go to the ballot to protect #TransLawMA – the law passed last year protecting transgender people from discrimination in public spaces like restaurants, retail shops and hospitals.
In our campaign to defend this law at the ballot in 2018 we know there’s nothing more important over the next year than elevating the voices of transgender people – and the friends, family and neighbors who support them – front-and-center.
What follows is a sampling of just some of the stories we at Freedom For All Massachusetts have collected this year; click here to read more:
An Air Force veteran, Emma transitioned in 2015 to become the woman she’s always known herself to be. She says she has been overwhelmed by the support she’s received on the job.
“When I officially came out at work after my name change had gone through, I was blown away,” she said. “They totally accepted me for who I am.”
While serving in the Air Force from 1976-1980, Emma says it was common knowledge that there were gay people serving in the armed forces, and that their presence had no effect on troop morale or operations.
“I never understood Don’t Ask Don’t Tell – we had it figured out,” she laughs.
When the Trump administration announced the ban on transgender soldiers in the military, Emma was both shocked and disgusted.
“This [opposition] is trying to scare everyone. We’ve got to keep driving the message that this is discrimination pure and simple.”
Emma knows the importance of non-discrimination protections, and for her part, she’s pledged to double down in 2018 to protect them at the ballot by joining Freedom For All Massachusetts in our historic campaign to protect MA’s transgender inclusive non-discrimination law.
“You have to believe that we are striving to evolve ourselves to be a better society, a more open society, a more accepting society. We just need to let people be who they are and accept them, plain and simple.”
Beryl and Micah
At the age of 21, Beryl’s son Micah came out to her as transgender. Beryl says she was taken aback- not because Micah was transgender, but because she knew there were many things he didn’t tell her. As a social worker, Beryl is very aware of the struggles that transgender people in Massachusetts face every day.
“I was overwhelmed with the need to protect my son from a world that suddenly seemed a very unsafe and unfair place,” she said.
Until last year, Micah had no protections under the law – he could be turned away from a bar or club, be evicted from an apartment, or denied a job simply because he is a transgender man. Beryl, along with thousands of others, fought to pass Massachusetts’ all inclusive non-discrimination law. After having won this battle, Beryl doesn’t want to see our state slide backwards.
“I immigrated to this country to escape apartheid and live in a place that values freedom and protections from discrimination,” she says. “I want Micah to be treated with respect, and to be ensured the same protections as everyone else in our family has in the face of discrimination.”
Rabbi Victor has been a congregational rabbi for over thirty years, having also spent more than half a decade as rabbi of a Jewish day school. He has always considered his faith as a crucial part of his interest in social justice.
“I work to draw from the Torah and Jewish life the inspiration and the guidance, the ‘vision and the way,’ to help fulfill God’s hope for a world of justice and wholeness,” he said.
Rabbi Victor has long been a supporter of transgender rights. As a member of the Public Policy Committee of the Massachusetts State Board of Rabbis, he worked with others to craft a Transgender Statement of Inclusion on behalf of the board. Furthermore, he also worked on a statement calling on congregations across the Bay State to move toward full inclusion of transgender people in their congregations and the state as a whole.
Rabbi Victor has committed to work with Freedom For All Massachusetts to defend non-discrimination at the ballot in 2018, and he understands why protections for LGBTQ people are important in our Commonwealth.
“Transgender people are absolutely a part of the fabric of our society and of our communities,” he said, “Our friends, our family, our neighbors, our fellow congregants, transgender people are everywhere. Unfortunately, and still much too often, transgender people also face real discrimination, in employment, or in public places, and no one in our society should face that type of treatment.”
Brandon Adams • Framingham
When transgender Bay Staters, their families, and friends packed the statehouse in 2016 to testify about the importance of non-discrimination protections, Brandon Adams was among them.
A transgender man from Framingham, Brandon is unfortunately no stranger to discrimination. Several years ago, administrators at his school refused to let him use the men’s restroom, which caused Brandon physical and psychological trauma. For Brandon, the fact that Massachusetts has LGBTQ non-discrimination protections on the books is personal. During his testimony, he said:
“Every day, I live my life in fear. I’m scared. I’m scared because of who I am. Imagine that. What would happen to me? If someone found out? What would they do? Would they bully me, in front of my friends, or on social media? Would they beat me up? Or would they do worse?”
Brandon’s testimony helped convince the state legislature and Governor Charlie Baker to pass comprehensive and historic non-discrimination protections. Keeping #TransLawMA protected at the ballot is pivotal to helping people like Brandon feel safe and welcomed in public accommodations
Alishia is one of thousands of transgender Bay Staters directly impacted by the recent update to Massachusetts law that protects transgender people from discrimination in public places.
“As a transgender person, this is about me and people like me,” Alishia said.
Unfortunately, Alishia has experienced the type of discrimination that #TransLawMA protects against. Several years ago, she was exercising at a local gym; at the time, she had a very strict fitness regimen as part of her physical therapy while rehabilitating an injury she had sustained on the job as a firefighter.
After a year of attending the gym with no issue, Alishia was abruptly told she would no longer be allowed to use the changing facilities she was used to. This unnerved Alishia greatly.
“They didn’t have any complaints, no one was uncomfortable, they just told me, ‘Not anymore.’ It was humiliating.”
Naturally, Alishia was thrilled when Massachusetts passed #TransLawMA; however, she knows that if it is repealed, she and other transgender people face the threat of discrimination once again. Alishia is committed to working to protect the law at the ballot, and ensure that non-discrimination protections remain in place for everyone.
“As a Navy veteran and a firefighter, I’ve spent my whole life supporting my country and protecting my community; it would mean a lot to me if my community could do the same for me, and for others like me.”
In light of Transgender Awareness Week, it is more important than ever that we work to protect #TransLawMA at the ballot. When people can discriminate against someone for being LGBTQ, we know that’s bad for business and bad for Massachusetts.
The most poignant part of Transgender Awareness Week occurs on Monday, November 20, the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). Our communities will gather to commemorate the lives of transgender individuals lost to violence this year. Events and vigils are taking place throughout Massachusetts, including:
November 20, 2017 7-8:30pm
The Pittsfield Human Rights Commission presents ‘Trans In The Berkshires: A Conversation with members of our Trans Community’. Panelists will discuss the challenges faced by the trans community, the support groups and networks they have created, and the horrifying rise in hate-crimes against the trans community. Free – everyone welcome.
For more information please contact Drew Herzig – [email protected] or click here for a flier.
Boston’s annual Trans Day of Remembrance will be hosted on November 19th, 2017 at 6pm at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul (138 Tremont St, Boston, MA 02111). Click here for more information.
Cape Cod will be honoring the Trans Day of Remembrance on November 17th, 2017, at 5:30pm, hosted at the Harwich Community Center. Click here for more information.
Saturday, November 18 6-9pm
Location: First Parish UU Church of Chelmsford, 2 Westford St (on the Chelmsford Common)
Procession on Common begins 6pm including a brief observance
Vigil begins indoors in the Chapel (next to parking lot) approximately 6:30pm
Tuesday, November 21, 2017 5-7pm
Location: All Souls Unitarian Church, 399 Main Street, Greenfield, MA 01301
November 19, 3:00-3:30pm, Emery Park (Depot Square), Lexington
Please join the Lexington Pride Coalition in honoring lives lost to anti-transgender violence in 2017. Event runs rain or shine.
November 20, 2017 7-7:45PM
Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil
First Parish Malden Unitarian Universalist Church
2 Elm St
Malden, MA 02148
Monday, November 20, 2017 at 7pm
Candlelight Remembrance and Panel Celebrating the Living.
Location: First Parish Church, 23 Dedham Avenue in Needham.
Sponsored by Congregational Church Of Needham UCC, First Parish UU, First Baptist Church, Progressive Needham, Needham Diversity Inititative and others. Offering to benefit Umbrella, OUT MetroWest’s program for trans and gender non-conforming youth.
For more information: [email protected]
Saturday, November 18, 2017 6pm
Location: Trinity Church of Northborough 23 Main Street, Northborough MA 01532
Trinity Church of Northborough will show a brief movie and hold a memorial litany, followed by dinner with speaker Taj Smith. The intent is to educate about the plight of transgender people, and to learn how communities of faith can better include them.
The event is free and open to the public. Donations to benefit Trinity Church’s outreach to the LGBTQ community are welcome. RSVP appreciated but not required; [email protected] or by phone (508) 393-8156.
Monday, November 20, 2017 at 7pm
Location: Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester 90 Holden Street, Worcester
Please join us this week in both celebration and remembrance. By protecting the LGBTQ community, we take a significant step in making sure that people are safe, and can live openly and freely.