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My Life, My Struggles & Being a Woman in a Man's World

The Podcasts

by Angela Alberti
Bay Windows contributor
Tuesday Feb 1, 2011

Show of support for "An Act Relative to Transgender Equal Rights."

Despite snow-covered roads last Thursday, Jan. 27, more than 75 transgender
rights advocates and allies from across Massachusetts traveled to the State
House in Boston to visit their legislators. Their goal was to show support
and gather legislative co-sponsors for "An Act Relative to Transgender Equal
Rights," a bill that, if passed, would add gender identity and expression to
existing Massachusetts civil rights laws.

"Our goal is to make legislators aware that there are constituents in their
districts who care about this bill. Some of the folks visiting today are
transgender themselves, some are friends, family, and allies," said Gunner
Scott, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition
(MTPC), which sponsored the Transgender Equal Rights Action Day. Scott said
the number of legislative co-sponsors is indicative of the level of support
that can be expected if the bill is voted on.

The bill was first introduced in the 2007-2008 legislative session by
Representatives Carl Sciortino and Byron Rushing, but over the past three
sessions has been sent to committee study and has not been acted upon,
despite having 104 co-sponsors -- the most co-sponsors of any bill in
last year’s session.

"There are thousands of bills filed each year and many never make it
to the floor for a vote," Scott said. He thinks that the bill will have
as many co-sponsors this year, and is optimistic that it will make it to
the floor this session.

Zippy Ostroy, a retired speech pathologist from Brookline, doesn’t know
anyone who is transgender, but wanted to show her support for the issues.
"Supporting equal rights for transgender people seems like an obvious
thing. It’s necessary," she said. "I didn’t even realize the extent of
the problem until I got involved with Keshet."

Keshet is a Jewish organization that works for the inclusion of gay,
lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. "But I’m not
concerned just with the problems that the Jewish community has with
this -- it’s a broader problem. And the discrimination and negative
impacts of discrimination, including violence, employment problems,
and housing problems, they shouldn’t be there," Ostroy said.

Ostroy said another reason she attended the day of action was because she
thinks that organizations fighting against trans rights are slowing the
process down. "The anti-rights groups, they’re very vocal and organized.
So I think any visible support for this bill is beneficial," she said.

Joan Stratton, a clinical social worker from Mattapoisett, travelled almost
two hours to show her support at the State House. "I’m going to Senator
Montigny’s office and Representative Straus’s office to say this is really
important to me as a trans woman," she said. Stratton said that the trans
people she knows in her area are not openly identified as trans because
they’re afraid of discrimination. "They could lose their jobs if their
employers find out they identify this way," she says.

Stratton herself was commuting to work in Rhode Island until recently
because it is one of the few states where transgender people are offered
equal protection in employment, housing, and credit. There are currently
thirteen states with similar laws protecting people on the basis of gender
identity. "I’m a social worker; I help people for a living," she said.
"I’m [also] a Vietnam era veteran and I’ve served my country since I
was a teenager, and I’d just like to have the favor returned."

Elizabeth Maria Rivera Valentine, a community organizer for TransCEND,
an HIV prevention and education program for trans women, says the law is
particularly important for her clients, many of whom are homeless or
unemployed but want to find work. "This law would put it in the books
that they can’t discriminate against us based on gender identity," she
said. "It’s basically adding the ’T’ in GLBT to all the laws." According
to a 2009 survey by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 97 percent
of transgender people surveyed experienced harassment on the job, and
respondents experienced unemployment at almost double the rate of the
general population.

Valentine, who has a younger sister who is also transgender, feels that her
advocacy of trans rights is setting an example for others. "I wanted to prove
not only to my family, but to myself, that you can live a successful life as
a trans woman," she said. "I think one of the lessons I’ve learned is that
silence won’t get you very far. You have to be able to speak up for your
rights, and as human beings we deserve to be equal."

Category:Aliya Leigh Live - Podcast -- posted at: 7:27pm EDT

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