Letter: Governor should support transgender bill

Governor should support transgender bill

To the editor:

Open letter to Governor Baker:

Many people have called the Transgender Public Accommodations Bill (SB 735 & HB 1577) the "Transgender Bill" or as you referred to it in 2010, the "Bathroom Bill." However, this bill is neither. This bill is about access to basic accommodations for all people living and visiting the Bay State.

As a transgender Bay Stater my trans community has to think about our access to basic accommodations, access the rest of the great people of Massachusetts take for granted. Sixty five percent of transgender people in Massachusetts report experiencing discrimination in an area of public accommodation.

Gender identity is "a person's gender-related identity, appearance or behavior sincerely held as part of a person's core identity." Your lack of commitment, and action, to make sure that all people living and visiting our state are protected from discrimination leaves people with only your previous stance to fall back on.

Here it is 2016 and you just look out-of-touch and behind the times. Our sports teams support this bill, your hometown of Swampscott supports this bill, and your former employer, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, has come out in support of the legislation as well. My employer, one of the largest in Berkshire County, supports this bill too!

Did you know that I could be denied a hotel room, or a seat in a restaurant, just because I am transgender? Having to think about where I can travel within our state is exhausting. An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination would add "gender identity" to existing Massachusetts civil rights law for public accommodations, which currently prohibits discrimination on the basis of age, race, creed, color, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, religion and marital status.

When my friends invite me to concerts, dinner, or a movie they rarely think that I might be denied access to the venue. Legally under our state law, I can be. Homeless shelters can legally deny trans people. Senior citizens centers can deny people based on their gender identity. Campgrounds, resorts, and restaurants can deny us access. These places are some of the things that make Massachusetts great.

Living in Northern Berkshire County there is a lot of discussion about tourism. As you know, tourism generates $1.2 billion in state and local taxes and $18.5 billion in travel related expenditures. Over 20 million tourists visit Massachusetts each year. We need to be clear, as a state, that we don't allow discrimination based on gender identity. This law will require equal treatment for transgender and gender non-conforming patrons and require that businesses not refuse service to transgender patrons.

It's time for Massachusetts law to expressly protect transgender people from discrimination in public spaces. Please make a statement in support of this bill.

Justin Adkins, Williamstown


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