By the time you read this the 2018 Midterm Election will be over. We’ll find out whether we’re surfing the “blue wave” or if we’ve been slammed against the “red wall.”
There is a lot on the ballot across the country, not least of which is democracy itself. Will Americans elect people who will hold Donald Trump accountable? Or are Americans the worst?
In Massachusetts, transgender people are on the ballot. More specifically, on the ballot is whether or not transgender people deserve the protections granted to them under law in the state.
According to the Washington Post, “At stake is a 2-year-old Massachusetts law protecting transgender people from discrimination in public places, including restaurants, stores, hospitals, libraries and gyms.”
Now, I don’t need to tell you that minority rights should never be on the ballot. It was wrong to let the majority vote on marriage rights for same-sex couples, for example. It is incredibly damaging to have the voting majority debating whether or not your family is legitimate or if the love you feel for your partner is “real” or if you’re just a weirdo pervert.
Which is exactly what is happening in Massachusetts right now as people will vote on whether or not transgender people are allowed to participate in public life.
Because that’s what this is. If you are cisgender, then you probably have never had to think twice about what to do when you’re, say, at the grocery store and have to pee. You go into whichever restroom corresponds with your gender identity, and then what happens behind stall doors is your business.
But if you’re trans or gender queer or just gender non-conforming, it’s not that easy. There are lots of misconceptions about what it means to be transgender. Hence all of the “bathroom bills” that have popped up across the country under the guise of keeping women and girls safe from “men in dresses.”
Let me just point out how disingenuous it is that those who claim to want to protect women from harm are the same people who are so quick to paint women who come forward with their experiences of being sexually assaulted as liars who are hurting poor, innocent men.
I don’t buy for a second that people who push anti-trans bills care about anything other than hurting trans people.
The group behind trying to repeal the protections calls itself Keep MA Safe, and its logo is particularly revealing. It depicts the common stick figure with a skirt women’s room symbol on one side of a divide, and a stick figure without a skirt on the other side standing on a toilet peeking over the divide.
Their TV spot is even worse, depicting a man lurking in a bathroom stall and peering out at a young women getting dressed while a voiceover warns that “convicted sex offenders” would basically be commandeering all toilets from here on out.
Anyway, the message is clear: the “Bathroom and Locker Room Law” as KMAS calls it, will allow creeps to prey on women in these public spaces and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. As if laws against sexual assault and harassment weren’t already on the books.
Most egregious is an image on their website of a frightened girl looking out from a stall door. A beefy hand is planted next to her head, clearly indicating she’s cornered and about to be assaulted. This is, plainly, sick. Because sexual assault against children is something that actually happens and the people who are demonizing trans folks are actually putting children in more danger by diverting resources and attention from actual threats.
It’s never been easy to be trans, but today’s climate is particularly awful. For one thing, under President Obama protections for trans people were written into law. Many trans people came out once they had the law on their side. But now the president himself demonizes trans folks and those who find the whole “transgender thing” confusing or icky or wrong are steadily chipping away at those protections. And yet trans folks who are out can’t exactly go back into hiding. They are left exposed and targeted from the very top of the government on down.
Thankfully voting yes on the ballot question, which would leave the trans rights laws in place, has wide support in Massachusetts and it’s likely to win. And I hope that by the time you’re reading this it has. And that we have many other wins to celebrate before taking a quick break so that we’re refreshed and energized for 2020. Because fascism isn’t going to fight itself.
D’Anne Witkowski is a poet, writer and comedian living in Michigan with her wife and son. She has been writing about LGBT politics for over a decade. Follow her on Twitter @MamaDWitkowski.