By Barbara Conant
On Tuesday November 6th, of 2018 I plan to exercise my right as an American citizen and vote in the general election. I’m particularly excited to vote on question three. Let’s first look at what this Massachusetts ballot question is asking. Question three asks voters if they want to uphold a law that prohibits discrimination in public places based on gender identity. I will vote yes, meaning I will vote to uphold Senate Bill 2407, which passed in 2016, in the hopes to continue prohibiting discrimination.
However, as a cisgender woman I am being asked, for my safety and the safety of children, to vote no. A vote no would repeal Senate Bill 2407 and allow discrimination in public places based on gender identity. Public places meaning coffee shops, locker rooms, schools, hotels, and most controversial: bathrooms.
No-voters seem to believe allowing transgender and genderqueer people to use public accommodations, such as bathrooms, would take away my safety. The logic behind this argument is that men would be allowed, encouraged even, to come into the women’s bathroom and assault women and children.
This logic disregards the fact that since this law came to place in 2016 there have been no reports of assault from a man abusing this law. This becomes particularly interesting when one notes that in 2015 65% of transgender people in Massachusetts reported discrimination in a public location. Based on this statistic alone I think it’s clear transgender people are inherently more at risk. Nevertheless, I can recognize that opposers truly believe my safety is at risk if I vote yes. I believe their concern stems from feelings of fear and a lack of understanding of people who aren’t cisgender.
I admit that I don’t know many transgender people or genderqueer people but, that does not stop me from wanting to support and understand them. Though I cannot truly understand any transgender experience, I try to empathize as best I can. I have sought out stories of transgender people on social media. Through that I have learned of the traumas people have faced. Such as not going to the bathroom and/or normalizing lower stomach pain to not have to face looks of aggression from other people. As a cis-woman I don’t share that experience. However as a woman of color, it makes me think about times I have been shunned in classrooms for simply being me.
Though the two situations aren’t the same, I believe they are parallel. I can understand the discomfort that stems from being rejected in a place where you have the same goal as everyone else. Just as I don’t want my community of women of color to feel discomfort in a place they belong in, I don’t want any other minority group rejected from places they belong in. In this time of elections, which I would argue matter more due to our current political climate, I feel the need to vote for the rights of others. Let me be explicit, I want transgender and genderqueer people to feel safe going anywhere public. I would go as far as to say that with Senate Bill 2407 I feel safer in the bathroom and in any other public space knowing that my transgender and genderqueer peers have legal support in their existence.
I realize explaining my stance to liberals is essentially preaching to the choir and therefore does nothing to change the minds of no-leaning people. So what can we, yes-voters, do about that? How can we help people see the humanity in people different than them? I believe one thing we can do is reach out to the American in voters. The United States prides itself on being a land of equal opportunity. This is particularly visible in the American Dream. We, Americans, must keep ourselves aligned with our standards of equality for people in this country. In order to better this country we must remain patriotic and provide equal opportunity for our citizens. Repealing Senate Bill 2407 would be an un-American act and defy what we preach in this country.