Pass transgender anti-discrimination bill

We want to feel safe being who we are

WE ARE TWO OF THE FIRST openly transgender elected officials in Massachusetts history. As elected school committee members — in Sturbridge and Melrose, respectively — we see many complex issues come before us for consideration.

Our work takes many hours and is done without compensation. It includes attending meetings, participating in debates and votes, engaging in decision making, and, overall, doing our part to make Massachusetts schools the best they can be for our children. Although we are both willing to share our experiences as transgender women, it wasn’t a centerpiece of either of our campaigns and had nothing to do with the reasons we were elected. We were elected because of our strong work ethic, our passion for our communities, and our ability to make positive change for future generations. It is for these reasons we call on our fellow elected officials, specifically those elected to the Massachusetts legislature, to pass the transgender anti-discrimination bill (H1577/S735).

This important bill would finish the job that lawmakers began in 2011 of ensuring full protections for transgender people in our Commonwealth.  It would also directly affect our individual lives and how we do work in this state. Currently, we’re not protected from discrimination in the very government buildings we are expected to visit as part of our jobs. In addition, we’re not protected from discrimination in any other public accommodation, including restaurants, hotels, theaters, parks, shopping malls, or other businesses. Under current Massachusetts law, in fact, transgender people can work a full-time job at a restaurant or other service establishment, and then not be served at that very same place. This is wrong.

We support this bill because we know firsthand the positive impact these protections have on us directly, as well as on our communities more broadly. Since spring 2012, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has issued guidance throughout the state on how to implement policies and procedures that ensure robust protections for transgender children in public schools. These guidelines have led transgender children who attend schools in our districts, and who are already more vulnerable to harassment and bullying, to feel safe and welcome in all areas of their lives. But we must finish the job and update Massachusetts law to include protections from discrimination in the area of public accommodations.

The legislation would help transgender people and their loved ones, and it would harm no one. It finishes the job of equality for transgender people in the state of Massachusetts. We believe this bill will help us be better able to do our jobs and contribute to our state’s economy and overall progress. We want to be able to feel safe while being who we are, and feel assured that the government is on our side. That’s what this law provides.

Meet the Author

Jacquelyn Ryan

Member, Tantasqua School Committee
Meet the Author

Lizbeth DeSelm

Member, Melrose School Committee
We have dedicated a great amount of time and energy over the past years to making Massachusetts a better place to live and work for all its citizens. Now, we ask the Legislature to do the same for us by doing the right thing and passing the transgender public accommodations bill without any further delay.

Jacquelyn Ryan is a member of the Tantasqua School Committee and Lizbeth DeSelm is a member of the Melrose School Committee.