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You Don't Have To Choose Between Protecting Women And Protecting Transgender People

UMass Boston student Chanel An enters one of the toilet and shower rooms in the open concept, all-inclusive bathroom at a new dorm building. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)MoreCloseclosemore
UMass Boston student Chanel An enters one of the toilet and shower rooms in the open concept, all-inclusive bathroom at a new dorm building. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

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As a survivor of sexual violence, I care deeply about women’s safety. I’m constantly pressing to increase our state’s efforts to support survivors and implement effective methods for reducing violence. That means providing funding for rape kits, investing in social services, and creating tools and policies that prevent sexual assault in the first place.

Here’s what it doesn’t mean: regulating where transgender people can go to the bathroom.

As someone who works every day for a world in which all people are treated fairly and with respect, I’m voting yes on 3, the ballot question that would uphold the transgender non-discrimination law the state passed two years ago. As a professional anti-violence and women’s rights advocate, I’m offended by the disingenuous claims that upholding this law will put women’s safety at risk. It just isn’t true.

I’m offended by the disingenuous claims that upholding this law will put women’s safety at risk. It just isn’t true.

Trans people are my neighbors, colleagues and friends, and I refuse to be invoked as a reason to deny people I love the freedom and dignity we all deserve. The non-discrimination law was put in place because trans people face rampant discrimination. There is nothing in the law that allows anyone to commit a crime, whether or not they are transgender. We all care about safety and privacy — and that “all” includes trans people. Treating trans people with dignity and respect is not — and has never been — a threat to public safety. That’s why the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence, the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association and the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs all enthusiastically endorse protecting trans people from discrimination by voting yes on 3.

The “No on 3” campaign attempts to equate transgender people with criminals in restrooms. They’re trying to use fear to roll back Massachusetts residents’ basic protections from discrimination. They’re trying to trick you into believing you have to choose between protecting transgender people and protecting women’s safety. But we can — and do — already protect both at the same time. A crime is a crime. It’s already illegal to harm or harass anyone in a restroom or locker room, and the attorney general’s office guidelines make it clear that any of us can report to law enforcement someone we suspect of abusing the law for an improper purpose.

The reality is simple: We already have proof this law poses no risk to public safety. In the two years since state law began protecting transgender people from discrimination, there has been no uptick whatsoever in public safety incidents, including in restrooms. None.

These protections from discrimination include restrooms, because all of us need to access public bathrooms in order to go about our daily lives. But voting yes on 3 is about so much more. These protections ensure that trans people can go shopping at retail stores and dine at restaurants, seek medical treatment at the doctor’s office, take the T and other public transportation, and enjoy everything our commonwealth has to offer, without fear of humiliation or harassment because of who they are. It’s about treating others as we would want to be treated.

Harming trans people does nothing to help women or survivors.

I am happy to share the same restrooms and locker rooms as transgender women, because that’s where they belong: trans women are women. Honestly, they’ve been using women’s bathrooms and locker rooms for years already, without threatening anyone. Whatever your gender, you’ve probably already shared plenty of spaces with transgender people and not even realized it.

If the No on 3 side truly cared about protecting women, they would invest their time and resources in more effective ways. Harming trans people does nothing to help women or survivors.

Let’s protect everyone and let’s treat our transgender neighbors with dignity and respect. Voting yes on 3 does both.

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Jaclyn Friedman Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Jaclyn Friedman is a writer, educator and activist. Her latest book is "Unscrewed: Women, Sex, Power and How to Stop Letting the System Screw Us All."

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