Letter: Civil Rights, not Bathroom Fear

Published in the Beverly Citizen, March 2010

Dear editor,

On March 18, Brenda McFeeters wrote that people should “stop the Transgender Rights/Hate Crimes Bill.”  But her arguments don’t hold water.

First, she says that this bill would create new legal rights.  That’s just not true.  All it does is add “gender expression and identity” to the existing non-discrimination list that includes race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, and disability.  In other words, it says that just because a person’s gender is not what you think it ought to be, does not give you the right to discriminate against or do harm to them.  That’s it.  Nothing special.

Then she argues that the number of transgender people is very small.  Does that make us disposable?  How many transgender people do there need to be before we can enjoy the same protection for our civil rights that she enjoys?  I think one is enough.

Then she says women and children would be subjected to a “predator party” of male perverts entering women’s restrooms.  Let’s consider: are such fears realistic, or over-inflated?

FACT #1: In the 13 states and over 100 other jurisdictions – including Boston, Cambridge, Northampton and Amherst – where such laws have already passed, has there been a flood of men impersonating trans women to invade ladies rooms?  NO!  In fact, not a single ligitmate case has been reported.  None.  Nada.  Zilch.   (In the same period, hundreds of transgender persons have been murdered).  Could it be that we just haven’t heard about them?  Right, like that kind of thing would never get picked up by a reporter, or our opponents.  Hardly!

FACT #2: The same fear-based argument was used against integration (black men would molest our white women), women’s rights (women would create havoc in all-male workplaces) and gay rights (gay men/women would molest straight men/women in locker rooms).  Each time these fears have proven to be nothing but fiction.

So please, don’t fall into the same fearful trap that McFeeters is caught in.  In the three years this bill has waited for a vote in Massachusetts, too many transgender people have suffered the loss of dignity, livelihood, home, and worse (did I mention the shockingly high rate of violence against transgender folks?).

In general, most people are a little uncomfortable about using public restrooms.  Me too.  But let’s not let our fears run away with us.  Our laws are based on reason, not fear, and that’s the way it should be.  When it comes to transgender civil rights, look a little deeper, and insist on facts.

You’ll find nothing to fear.  The real fact is that transgender people need the full protection of the law, just like everyone else.

You can learn more at www.masstpc.org.


Nancy Nangeroni

Chair, Massachusetts Transgender Coalition