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YES

Beryl Domingo

Bridgewater resident, mother of a transgender child

Beryl Domingo
Beryl Domingohandout

As the mother of a transgender son, the bill to update Massachusetts’ current nondiscrimination law to include transgender people in public accommodations is hugely important and would make life better for our entire family.

My 27-year-old, Micah, was born and raised in Massachusetts. When he came out to me and my husband as transgender and began transitioning from female to male at age 21, my first and most consistent concern was fear for his safety. I know as a social worker that transgender people face some of the highest rates of assault, homelessness, and suicide in Massachusetts. I was overwhelmed with the need to protect my son from a world that suddenly seemed a very unsafe and unfair place.

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Micah struggles to go to bars, clubs, and movies – the normal activities for young people – without fear of harassment and assault. He has often encountered verbal harassment and now avoids going to certain places. My son could be refused services and told to leave a public place because he is transgender. I want him to be treated with respect, to have fair access to everyday resources like restaurants and hospitals, and to be ensured the same legal protections that everyone else in our family has in the face of discrimination.

I’m from South Africa, and I immigrated to this country to escape apartheid and live in a place that values freedom and protections from discrimination. My husband and I chose Massachusetts because we believe it is a symbol of freedom and equality in America. Now, Massachusetts is lagging behind 17 other states and more than 200 cities that already fully protect transgender people from discrimination. According to the antidiscrimination group, Freedom for All Americans, there has not been a single documented instance in which a transgender person or someone pretending to be transgender committed an assault in a restroom, as claimed by opponents of this bill. The bill helps people who are already vulnerable to discrimination, and it harms no one.

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It’s time to make Massachusetts a safe place for my son to live his life. I want to be proud once again to be a citizen of this great state.

NO

Jonathan Alexandre

Brockton resident, legal counsel to the Massachusetts Family Institute

Jonathan Alexandre
Jonathan Alexandrehandout

Supporters of the “bathroom bill” have disguised their movement as a civil rights issue with both the Massachusetts attorney general and co-sponsors of the legislation making analogies to segregation and race-based discrimination against black Americans. As a person of color, I strenuously object to the false narrative of equating “gender identity” and race.

The disgraces and unspeakable hardships faced by black Americans over the course of our nation’s history are, quite simply, unmatched. No other group of individuals, including those who desire to express themselves as a different sex than the one with which they were born, has ever been enslaved, sold as property, or been considered less than human under the law.

No man who expresses himself as female has ever been forced to drink out of a “transgender water fountain,” and no woman who believes she is a man has ever been forced to sit at the back of the bus in the “transgender section.” Americans suffering from gender dysphoria have never been denied the right to vote or to attend their neighborhood public schools.

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The bill that is currently before the Massachusetts Legislature is not about the lunch counter or the back of the bus. It’s about bathrooms. And while it is true that there was a time when some bathrooms in this country were labeled “whites only” and others as “colored,” we as a society now recognize that there is no legitimate basis for limiting bathroom access based on the color of someone’s skin. Racially segregated bathrooms would violate our civil rights; separate public bathrooms for men and women do not.

As an opponent of this bill, I have spoken with many state legislators who are worried about being labeled discriminatory if they vote against it. It is imperative that they understand that requiring men and women to use bathrooms consistent with their biology and anatomy does not constitute “discrimination,” as experienced for generations of black Americans. It is simply the responsible and common sense thing to do to ensure continued privacy and safety for all citizens in intimate settings like bathrooms and locker rooms.

Last week’s Argument: Should Massachusetts raise the minimum age to buy tobacco-related products to 21?

Yes: 76 percent (38 votes)

No: 24 percent (12 votes)


As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at laidler@globe.com.