PSA: Transgender issues within the Boston community 12-2-17

WEEI Podcasts
Saturday, December 2nd

Mark Mettler, the board chair of greater Boston PFlag, and Mason Dunn, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, discuss a wide range of topics impacting the transgender community in Boston


Transcript - Not for consumer use. Robot overlords only. Will not be accurate.

I'm mark Butler longtime listener first time broadcaster. I'm also the board chair Greater Boston. I'm we help families come to acceptance we have over sixty and support groups in the Boston area we have education programs were we go to schools and corporations into training and create awareness and most importantly this year we advocate on behalf of the entire LG BT community and we'll be talking a little bit more about that because I'm sitting here with Mason Dunn. As a gallon my name is Mason Dunn I am the executive director of the Massachusetts transgender political coalition ar and TPC. I use he in his pro announce and I am media attention command which is relative to be the topic we're discussing today coaches about transgender rates identities. And anything and everything in between time very excited to be candid to channel tomorrow. Mark terrific and Mason that I neglected to mention that I and the torture Greater Boston people are primarily because on the parent of a 24 year old little transgender woman can you explain to folks just what it means to be transgender -- and I think it's helpful to have a little bit of foundation of the some of the words that will use throughout this broadcast so the term transgender will start there it can sometimes be shortened to trams and we use these terms as umbrellas to describe people who know themselves to be a gender that is different from the sex that they were assigned at birth and so I'll use myself as an example here as a transient man I was assigned female at birth. But I identified no myself to be and live as a man some other terms that you'll hear relative to transgender community. First is the term gender identity. Gender identity which is different from the sacks that you were assigned to earth. It is the internal awareness of who you are and who you know yourself to be. Relative to gender whether that's as a man as a one man has both or neither and. Beyond. And that's a really important turn to understand when we talk about transgender identities. Gender expression which is a little different from gender identity. The gender expression is how we communicate our gender identity to the world around us. Things like clothing and hair styles and mannerisms and other social cues relative to masculinity femininity and garage near beyond. In the last termites when I put out there is the word transition and hit us a lot only talk about trans people. For its part has people transition can mean a variety of things. It can mean changing your name. Changing what pronoun she used proudly key him in his she heard hers. Another example of transition can be changing your gender expression what has talked about his changing. You're outward. Expression of gender of masculinity and femininity and beyond. And for some people transition can mean access to gender affirming medical care. Things like hormones or surgery. It's important note of course that not all transient people can or do have access to medical affirming care. For their gender identity. So those are just a feud turns things to know about what it means to be transgender but at the end of the day it's important to note that transgender people are first and foremost people. We have. The same hopes and dreams and experiences. And individuality. That all people house. So I think that's important to note as well. Sure some Mason November 20 this year marks the eighteenth annual transgender day of remembrance. Where. Just talk about what that they means to the community. Sure and I think it's really important here in the Boston area for us to have an awareness about the transgender day of remembrance because it was started here. So how it was started in 1998. To commemorate act. And actually hold a vigil for eight murder transgender woman and Alston Massachusetts. Name was read Hester. And so the community came together here in Boston to mark her passing. And support one another. And it's important note actually all these years later that read hamsters murder has actually ever consult. And so that's started in 1998 and then in 1999 exactly one year later. Activists gathered in San Francisco California. As a further remembrance of readers murder as well as beginning to have an awareness for how many people were murdered because of their gender identity. And ever since 1999 as has been an annual fat that is now international in scope. There are hundreds of transgender day of remembrance. Events and vigils and commemoration is in the month of November. All over the world. And it's this year in November 20 2017 we gathered to commemorate. Approximately thirty treasure to people who had been murdered in the United States in the last year. And it's not only is the thirty approximately thirty people here in the United States but hundreds of transient people who have been murdered worldwide. And sadly actually just this week late November we added a another name to the list of transfer people who have been murdered and in the US. Her name was Brooklyn Stephenson she was a 31 year old black transgender woman and Oklahoma City who was brutally murdered this week. A Mason I field. You know very personal about transgendered favorite memories myself as a parent returns young person my daughter Maxi fortunately her name is not been on the list of folks over the last few years who have been. Remembered but. I think it's important to recognize that just because you didn't lose your life in the last years a transgender person. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't stop and consider. Why so many hat and you know when I think of it is apparent Maxi I know that she's experienced some very difficult. Violence situations that happen resulted in the loss of her life. But I feel like they've resulted in the loss of part of her life and so every day on transgender day of remembrance I think about. What's been stolen from my daughter because of the fears she lives in just simply because of the identity. That she hats and and tries to live every day. Can you share a little bit about your personal journey and you know what it's meant to be a trans person in America. Absolutely and Leo my experiences as a treasure manner and I know are very different from your daughter's. Am but at the same time we. We have similar fears and concerns that so many transient people. Here in Massachusetts and beyond share which is the fear of discrimination and fear for our safety our wellness. As well as the safety llamas are families. For me I came out as transgender when I was eighteen. And I intend DNA transgender activist and advocate. Started out working us in there after you may be that a year before starting getting involved in advocacy because. Of the fear that I was experiencing and realizing that if this is you know my own experience as an actress young person there are so many others out there who are similarly. Fearful and Lackey who writes. On and so I have been can generate activist for over ten years now across the country starting in California coaches I'm originally from. And then moving out here to new England and working in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Doing this work. You know for me personally I have faced violence and faced discrimination. I have and salted I've had my property damage all on the basis of my gender identity. By people who you know did not agree with who lamb for the work that I was doing. But also I think a lot of that was unfortunately rooted in simply a lack of awareness of what transshipment means. So many people see someone who is different experiences the world little bit differently and when they don't understand it or don't have the opportunity to learn and grow. They react with violence or discrimination and bias. Which is what puts so many of us in fearful places for our lives and for awhile less. Thank you for sharing that Mason you know I mention I work with Greater Boston. What we do is grounded in some very strong research that shows family acceptance. Plays a critical role. In a positive life outcomes for transgender people. If you don't have that. Support when you come out from the people closest you when your life your parents your siblings they can be really difficult and lead to depression and anxiety of homelessness and many worse outcomes and and you know you hate to cite these statistics but the rate of suicide attempts and unsuccessful attempts among transgender people it's. Higher by a a factor of six or seven men. Non transgender people in our society. So you know Greater Boston people like is one resource in the Boston community and and and it's you know one of course I care deeply about but there are many. Organization is doing great work in the community canyon just share a few of the other organizations you were with the and four of the last few years. Yeah I mean we're so lucky in his the Boston area and they of the greater. State of Massachusetts to have some amazing resources of community organizations who are doing this work and providing. Critical life saving support for transgender people both youth and adults. And I'll start with the youth aspects that you brought that up I am an knowing the work that Greater Boston. But also thinking about an organization called Bakley which is the Boston alliance of LG BTQ youth. And they are an amazing. A group of individuals. Primarily led by youth four youth. Focusing on LG BTQ writes an awareness they have community drop in centers they have health classes and all sorts of things. Focusing on LG BTQ youth. Beyond that you know there's Fenway health which is an amazing health resource here in the Boston area providing health care. Four LG BTQ folks and the city Bora health center which specifically works with LG BTQ used. We have folks like mass equality which is the the political aspects. Myself as well at doing political work to ensure that the rates. That we so desperately need to protect ourselves our community. Are represented at the Statehouse until mass quality does that work as well as an ounce trance political coalition. And gladly switch many folks are familiar with which stands for the GL BTQ legal advocates and defenders. I and they work in the court system to make sure that our rights are similarly defended in the courts and that we have legal representation. For these rights and I for our identities for families. Be on that you're there there's so many great organizations. And it's those folks are interest in learning more. Obviously can reach out to mass trans political coalition and we can pitch in touch with some of the other organizations doing this great work. Yeah thank you I'm really proud to be you know it's a citizen of Massachusetts a member of the Boston and community. Have been for well over thirty years and and to know that families in this part of the country can raise OG BP use. In a in his progress of an environment as exists anywhere is really important to me. You know over the last several years at. That the trans gender specific support groups that we Ron have seen the fastest growth in terms of new attendees. Monthly. And more more often we're seeing families with children as young as four years old. And certainly there at the medical community is given much more attention to the needs of families with young children who were coming out to their appearances. Not the gender. That their parents may have believed the sex they were signed the birth of the I know I've been in that room twice and and you know both times thought identified a male offspring but. The second time it turned out I was in fact wrong in terms of gender expression and gender identity. You know three years ago a family that I know now that the maze of Melrose. They receive a lot of backlash and criticism on social media and frankly on the airwaves so when they told their story of transition and there's that word there. There then four year old daughter to their son. And you know today three years later I think about. What they they endured. What they heard an out in the public sphere. And I I really want to thank them for having the courage and for other families like them both shared their stories because you know today three years later. There is a much greater awareness. In society. So. You can you talk a little bit of oh. You know I know that the climate that we're in you know when and how it has all but but also you know may be how it's gone backwards a little bit last year. Yeah and you know it's it's interesting because I've been doing this work for over ten years now I've seen the that the sea change and the way that things have. Really progressed. In many ways for the batter in awareness for transgender identity and I seen in many ways because. Although there's more awareness out there about who transgender people our lives. And that people have more access to resource is about what it means to be transgender. All of that is very true unfortunately we see that the levels of discrimination violence and death that transgender people face continues to grow. And so while there is more awareness day of violence that we face continues to grow despite that. And so I seek. One of the that the priorities for the mass trans political coalition and others doing this work. Is to ensure that there are voices like the look maize and like other transgender people telling their stories. Because that's how we change hearts and minds and and what I hope will decrease that level of discrimination violence now world. Is it it's harder to have a bias against something when you have a face and have a name. Somebody in your neighborhood somebody your faith communities somebody in your school. Who has this identity it's it's much harder to discriminate. When you have got kind of background. And I think that. In addition to. The awareness for transgender identities broadly used this focus on transgendered youth that you raised. And understanding that. Some of the myths and misconceptions. About transgender youth that are out there. Including there was will amaze came out talked about their story there was this assumption that. That there trans sign was going to be going through. Medical affirming care that there are going to be hormones and surgery. For this young child witches is not the case. Before puberty many transgender youth don't have any kind of medical affirming care. All leave their transition is predominately social where youthful changed their name change their gender expression change to a pro announced they use. And that is sufficient. Four by and large the the large majority of transgendered youth. Things like hormones and surgery and other medical affirming care doesn't happen until much later. In a youths life and I think that's a really important point to bring out because. Much of their backlash was because people assumed that their son was going to be going through medical transition. Whereas it was actually purely social transition. So Mason bill I know. That my own child has expressed this in you know many of the people that I work with and come into contact with in my work with the flag. That over the last here they have become. More anxious and fearful. And an album askew at treasure. A little bit more kind of the emotional side of this. If some of the factual what has changed it in America because there have been some roll backs of of you know rights and that work there were earned through a lot of artwork from people like yourself. But you know what I try to pay attention to is it's who creates the climate and what creates the climate. Because a lot of what people like does is to address climate in schools and corporations and to your point create awareness that. Reflects the kind of language that would be perceived portly. By some and may be through ignorance is language that they hear that they don't. Need to hear when our own president tweeted. That transgender military personnel. Cause tremendous disruption I thought to myself. Forget the facts that the president niceties just made a proclamation that transgender folks would no longer be welcome in the military. It's the words themselves and I looked at the response on Twitter. To those tweets and the scores of supporters who responded to the president's message. Responded we is hateful commentary that none of us would want a repeat here on the here today. So when you think about an entire community of people. Who not only have real rights taken away but horse spoken about. In a way that is demeaning. That confers second class citizenship. To my mind my ears it allows those who would rather remain ignorant and who would. Like to. Perpetrate violence on others who they fear they feel are just less than what's been equal. That's what really troubles Maine and the words really do matter and I think all of us remaining vigilant in the defense of equal rights for children are friends or coworkers. You know we we can't let language like that component dress so. Let me segue to who you know Massachusetts and you know the fact that as you maybe share with a some of the things that on a national stage have happened. In the last year. We can look ahead to 28 team and see that in our own state there is a ballot initiative. Where voters will be asked to reverse an important. Whether they should reverse how would you really explain it but you know my understanding is there isn't that the nondiscrimination. Laws passed last year. Will now be put in front of the voters thanks to the ballot initiative. By opponents of fractures long. In back to that language. The way the opponents. Talk about the law. Is in ways that. Perpetrate I guess. Perpetuate. That view a transgender people as being you know worthy of content in some wage so I know it put a lot of the table there. You know to just talk about the national stage with Eckerd and what's mr. masters it's. Jury is set the stage perfectly there so. Thinking it'll start nationally. There has been an attack on rollback of trash and rates in the last year that is. Alarming. It's started back in February when there was the rule back line the student writes. Transient students in our schools. And I and what that role back then too is that transgender students are now less safe and less protected in our schools nationally. I'm that was ruled back by the White House administration. And that was really is a good indicator for us advocates doing this work both at the state and national level say this is going to be. A difficult. And I year ahead and and years ahead. And so passport from February up tunnel August and September of this year when the military rule back. Was announced on Twitter and became. It Rolling Stone. Ruling Barack actually progress. And the language just as you said the language used community. I'd distraction. Two transgender people apparently represented to this administration and. Is alarming. That kind of language is such a signal of bias and a misunderstanding. Of who transient people are. There are over 101000. Transgender people serving an active duty in the military right now. Over 101000 people who are. Qualified. Employees of this country who are putting their lives on the line for our rights and to say that they are a distraction. Is a a horrible this characterization of their service. These folks are serving honorably they are doing their jobs and now their jobs are in question. And we will continue to stay vigilant as you say. To how this roll back and other roll backs that may come down the pike here. Will have an impact on our community. So then focusing in on Massachusetts. And there's often this assumption that Massachusetts as a beacon of light for LG BTQ quality. And in many cases that is true. But in this instance when it comes to trans generates specifically were actually a little bit behind we were only the eighteenth state to pass transgender or non discrimination legislation are Statehouse. And that happens that it completed the nondiscrimination protections in the Statehouse last year 2016. When we passed public accommodations on discrimination for transgender people. And let me just kind of pull apart that language a little bits of folks understand when we say public accommodations. Nondiscrimination protections. Public accommodations is believe the laws way of saying any public space. So we say public accommodation on discrimination we're talking about the ability for transgender people to access parks. Sidewalks. The MBTA. Hospitals restaurants and he plays that is open to the public. And to ensure that treasury of people in those spaces at equal access. To any space. Same as the general population. And so it can get to an important. Did a very important piece of civil rights legislation that we finally won last year after many years of fighting for it. Unfortunately that legislation. Now law. Has been put up for a referendum vote. Opponents to transgender rights were successful in gathering signatures. Hi and to put that law now on the ballot for November 28 team. And that's. An important. Date for many reasons. But what I wanted to do is say nationally. Massachusetts will be the first state in the country to vote on statewide protections for transgender people. Just like the first state for marriage equality we will now be the first state. To come together as voters in two that we support transgender rights which is what myself. And members of the freedom from Massachusetts coalition are doing. To briefly did the freedom for all Massachusetts coalition is organizations like. And Astra has political collection Greater Boston. Freed from Americans each RC NASA quality and Bagley and many others who come together until we're going to work together to defend the rights that we have. Worked so hard. To get it. And so that will be a major focus of the work that we are doing over the next year. What I wanna say is. Will he pass this at 26 team one of that is important notes here is that we passed with an overwhelming. Veto proof majority. The it was a a bipartisan vote both Democrats and Republicans voted to support tranche generates a public accommodations. And it was signed into law by governor baker a Republican governor. And so it's important to note that this is not a matter of party politics. This is supported by Democrats and Republicans. Not only that we. We have gathered a huge amount of support from all over the state. We have over 350. Faith clergy and congregations. Who support tranche at a public accommodations on discrimination. We have over 250 businesses both large and small who support this legislation and support transgender rights. Small fun note given days at the audience here all of the major. Massachusetts sports teams the patriots the Red Sox the Bruins the Celtics and the New England Revolution. All of them have signed on in support. Of the legislation. And the ballot initiative so this is really. Not a matter of a small community. But actually of all of us together fighting for the human rights and the dignity. A transgender people in Massachusetts. So with that I just was a bit of freedom Massachusetts dot org to find out more and to learn more about this coalition of businesses and a sports teams. Who are supportive of this work. Mason thank you for the rundown on those probably. You know a tough topic for our listeners to grasp it if they haven't been paying a lot of attention in in the initiative you don't really won't be. The very highly public until after we probably turn the year past the holidays and we get into the actual campaign year of 2018. But one of the many talking points the common talking points that the opponents of last year's bill. I used in and quite frankly in Garrett garnering support now for this this action that is on the ballot. Is that the bill that was passed would put women and children at risk if it would. Give license to sexual predators who would use the law to gain access to women's restrooms and locker rooms facts here in Massachusetts. Well let the facts are very different from Wyatt the opponents to this legislation. And this law. Say the fact is that there is no recognizable increase in public safety concerns when he passed on discrimination protections. Bear in mind what I said earlier we're the eighteenth state to pass this kind of legislation. In these seventeen other states where we already have these protections we have seen no recognizable increase in public safety concerns. And going back to the coalition that we've built in support of this we have law enforcement we have. Major police chiefs organizations. Who support this legislation because they see that not only is this a threat to public safety. But it actually is better for public safety because we are protecting. All people including transgender people. Additionally we have domestic violence victims advocates women's rights organization and children's rights organizations. Who understand the value of human rights legislation and support the public accommodations law. And so. The fact it is. This is not a threat to anyone's safety. It actually increases the safety for all people in Massachusetts by having this important law. Law enforcement has at the victim's rights advocacy women's rights and children's rights act he organizations all supports. Thank you Mason you know -- long time marketers and as a career and probably why I'm so focused on language. And the language very specifically that opponents of the bill will continue to use and to continue views is that this is not a nondiscrimination bill it's a bathroom bill. And you we will on shores he placards saying stop the bathroom bill. By the time we had turned the corner in 22018. But as you just shared. It's. A it's a ghost it's not a true fear to it too that people should be concerned about. Entering a restroom or locker room for the purposes of of credit and praying sexually on someone therein is a crime. Always has been a crime and always will be a crime and will be prosecuted in the state of Massachusetts. And so we really are getting back to talking about rights in people's individual rights. And as you very eloquently stated at the start transgender people are people. And that's the parent of one I can shorter. Shortly assure you our listeners that. That particular person in my life who just happens to be transgender. I'm deserves every. Civil right. Legal rights and human right. That are older brother has enjoyed for all of his 27 years. And you know thanks to folks like you win and the parents and friends of of transgender folks in the community. We have confidence that we know Massachusetts will do the right thing and voters will. Overwhelmingly sent a message for the entire nation to your point since we are the only state. Having a state by plebiscite on this. That. Human rights are real rights and transgender people are real people. Right I think. What's important for listeners to think about having awareness forest just. To have an open lines. I know that's for many people the idea of being transgender is. Terribly forum and I understand that that's okay. But to have an open mind and if this is something you don't know much of ballot before you vote in November talked to a transgender person. And understand that we are people and get to know somebody whose life will be. Horribly impacted if we lose. These rights at the statewide level. Get to know us we Larry we are people too we are members of your congregations be it we are students in your schools we are your neighbors we are family members. You know we aired. People just like anyone else we just wanna have the same rights to be able to go to the park go to the library colonel hospital and knows that we will be protected. Just like anybody else. And if I can a final plug. If you would like to meet a transgender person or hear from a transgender person may be that your organization that you work or that you pray or that you go to school. Great velocity planet has a speaker's bureau and we have a ton of of trans people over. Willing and able to tell their story authentically and and you know change your hearts and minds so. I'm proud that Greater Boston. I'm certainly throw that fewer continue to lead the effort to you know we've others in the state for. These rights and I I thank you very much for your time and this morning it's been wonderful speaking with it yet thank you so much.