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THE ARGUMENT

Should the state ban discrimination against transgender people in public places?

YES

Alishia Ouellette

Peabody resident, retired Danvers firefighter, US Navy veteran

<b>Alishia Ouellette</b>

As a transgender woman, the public accommodations bill is about me and people like me. Knowing that Massachusetts fully protects me from being discriminated against because of who I am would have a direct, positive impact on my my life and make me feel safer and more welcome in the state I call home.

Last year, 65 percent of transgender Bay Staters reported discrimination in a public place. I know firsthand what that is like. Several years ago, prior to retiring as a firefighter, I sustained an injury on the job that required physical therapy and a rigid exercise regimen. I began to work out regularly at a gym, hoping to quickly return to work. I was treated well by the management who knew I was transgender, and overall felt safe and happy with my experience.

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I spent over a year at the gym with no problems. But one day a news story ran about another transgender person at a gym across the state, and I was abruptly notified that I would no longer be allowed to use the women’s locker room. Because I am perceived as — and am in fact a woman — I could not use the men’s room without risking my safety and making the men uncomfortable.

With no other options for changing and the swimming pool part of my therapy, I had to wear my swimsuit underneath my sweatsuit on days I worked out. I never got over the humiliation and alienation I felt, and it resulted in a nervous breakdown.

I’m now retired and disabled as a result of other on-the-job injuries. But what happened to me could happen to any other transgender person in Massachusetts. As a Navy veteran and a firefighter, I’ve spent a good part of my life protecting my country and community. Now, I’m asking to be protected in return.

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I understand that for people who have never met a transgender person, our experience can be hard to understand. But we seek safe and equal access to public spaces for the same reasons as everyone else. The proposed legislation would prevent discrimination. The Legislature should pass this bill as soon as possible.

<b>Margot Rogers</b>

NO

Margot Rogers

Gloucester resident, business owner

The movement to require public restroom and locker room use by men expressing themselves as women is an assault on the rights of actual women.

As a woman, I am shocked and insulted that a man’s right to cross-gender sexual identification, for example, would be elevated above the rights of the millions of women and children in Massachusetts who are not seeking to change their gender. It seems to me that the voices of the vast majority of women have been ignored on this issue, as activists push to open the doors of the most private places to essentially anyone who wants to come in.

The state owes women the protection and privacy that our public restrooms and locker rooms have historically provided. I agree with rape survivor Kaeley Triller, who blogged in the Federalist about the problem with bathroom bills: “I’d much rather risk hurting a smaller number of people’s feelings by asking transgender people to use a single-occupancy restroom that still offers safety than risk jeopardizing the safety of thousands of women and kids with a policy that gives would-be predators a free pass.”

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Safety in public accommodations should be the priority. This certainly includes public bathrooms and locker rooms, whether in the public school or the local fitness center. If the state invites men who identify as women into our bathrooms, it violates the privacy of real women and their children, potentially exposing them to dangerous predators.

The “bathroom bill” would allow for men to enter women’s bathrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms, fitness centers, and homeless shelters. In Boston, which already enacted a municipal version of this bill, police were forced to settle a lawsuit by a transgender woman they arrested for refusing to leave a bathroom in the Woods-Mullen women’s shelter. Why would we jeopardize the privilege, privacy, and protection that real women should be able to take for granted in the most private of spaces?

We need to keep our public accommodations – bathrooms and locker rooms especially - a safe place for those of us who were born female to be women.


Globe correspondent John Laidler solicited opinions for this exchange. He can be reached at laidler@globe.com.