After the 2016 election, my wife and I did a lot of soul-searching, as did many Americans. The election results reminded us of the unpredictability of life and warned us not to take the future for granted. We acted on that and decided to finally move our family to Massachusetts. We wanted our sons to grow up around their grandparents and cousins. We took it as a given that we would all be safe and welcome here. You could say we took it for granted.
On November 6, Massachusetts will decide whether to affirm anti-discrimination protections for transgender people by voting yes on Question 3, or to repeal these protections by voting no. I remember first reading about the referendum a year ago, and my breezy confidence that Massachusetts would say yes to affirming the rights of transgender people to go to a grocery store, or a restaurant, or a park without fear of discrimination.
How quickly we forget the lessons of the past.
Polling shows that less than 50% of Massachusetts voters would vote yes to affirming equal rights for all if the election were today.
I happen to be one of those transgender people whose rights are in the hands of my fellow citizens. I also happen to be a candidate for Congress. Accordingly, I’ve had occasion to have conversations about politics with thousands of people in our Commonwealth. I am happy to report that I have never, not once, had a person demean me for being transgender. Based on that experience, I would like to believe that Massachusetts couldn’t possibly make the wrong choice on November 6th.
But I’m no longer taking the future for granted, nor should you.
People that have knowingly met even one transgender person are more likely to support equality for transgender citizens. But people who do not know a transgender person are more susceptible to the fear-mongering messages of the opponents of transgender equality, notwithstanding the breadth of the coalition supporting transgender equality including everyone from police leaders and teachers to children’s and women’s health advocacy groups and an unprecedented number of political, business, and labor leaders.
When I transitioned on the job as an Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) intelligence analyst in 2006, I saw and heard half of an auditorium of my fellow employees cheer for me to be fired for being transgender. I have been discriminated against in healthcare for being transgender. I have been yelled at and threatened for being transgender, and I’ve been beaten up.
I’m one of the lucky ones.
When North Carolina passed its anti-transgender legislation in 2016, I had to explain to my Intelligence Community superiors that for the first time in my 12 year career, my status as a transgender person might prevent me from doing my job. I could no longer safely be sent to Fort Bragg, a major military installation, where other colleagues could go. Meanwhile, North Carolina became an economic pariah, costing the state billions of dollars in lost business and job creation.
If Massachusetts votes no, it is not only our economy that will be hurt. The transgender citizens of the Commonwealth and the friends and family who love us will suffer. If Massachusetts fails, opponents of transgender equality across the country will be emboldened. States around the country will launch repeal efforts or pass new laws to undermine transgender equality and even criminalize our very existence. Make no mistake, transgender people are not the only target of some of these extremists. For some, transgender people are merely the current expedient vehicle to divide Americans, by playing on the fear and ignorance of a minority in order to distract from their lack of solutions for everyday Americans’ real needs.
As a country, we should be debating policies that improve the quality of life of our people and protect our democracy from threats at home and abroad. Equality should not be debatable. Yet, on November 6th, equality is on the ballot.
Again and again, history has called on Massachusetts to lead the way for America. Answer the call on November 6th. Vote Yes on 3.