Why Doesn’t MA’s Trans Rights Bill Protect Trans People From Public Discrimination?

On Tuesday, a Joint Judiciary Committee in the Massachusetts legislature advanced a six-year-old bill that would include trans people as a “protected class” in the state’s hate crime laws, prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in jobs, housing, insurance, mortgage loans and credit—that’s good, right?

Well… the bill also shares a big flaw with a similar trans rights measure that died in Maryland just this last April—it doesn’t guarantee trans people the right to recieve proper “public accommodations” in hospitals, bathrooms gyms, restaurants, hotels or public transit.

The bill’s sponsors dropped public accommodation protections to garner Republican support for the bill—because letting trans people use public restroom will endanger daughters and wives, naturally. Jennifer Levi, director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders’ Transgender Rights Project says that the bill is at least a good start that takes political reality into account while laying the groundwork for public accommodation inclusion later on. But trans blogger Monica Roberts has called the bill an “unjust… civil rights malpractice”:

When will you white trans activists get it through your thick fracking heads that taking public accommodations out of a civil rights bill or settling so you can get a legislative win is NEVER a fracking option?…

I know it’s a pain in the rear to get comprehensive trans rights laws passed in the first place.  That’s why it’s even more important you get it right the first time and don’t do it half assed.  

And once again who will pay for your lack of civil rights vision?… POC (people of color) and low income transpeople in Massachusetts.”

Roberts argues that without laws expressly forbidding trans discrimination in public places, we’ll get more McDonald’s bathroom beatdowns like the one inflicted on Crissy Polis. Polis was a white trans person and a public accommodations law probably wouldn’t have stopped her attackers from stomping and dragging her by her hair across the Mickey D’s floor, but whatever.

Roberts at least raises one particularly powerful point: if cisgendered Massachusetts politicians wouldn’t accept a civil rights bill that denied them public access to bathrooms, transportation and hospitals, why should trans citizens?