“You steered the Queen Elizabeth in the wrong direction. You landed in Africa instead of London.”
That’s what a mental health professional said to a mother when lecturing her on how to properly raise a child. Because she chose to accept her transgender son rather than send him into conversion therapy, this “professional” thought it would be appropriate to demean this parent by criticizing her decision to accept her son’s gender identity.
Another parent, the father of a transgender teen, said this about raising his son in Massachusetts: “I have to get my son through the next few years without him committing suicide.”
Recently, Greater Boston PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer People) cosponsored a round table with Congressman Joe Kennedy III. Parents from across the state shared heartfelt stories about their inherent fear about their children’s safety in public spaces.
One mother is concerned that her 5-year-old transgender son will be bullied in public when he gets older. Another parent discussed the frustration she felt when counselors at a day camp for children sought to reject her transgender daughter.
Other parents fear their children will suffer the embarrassment of being kicked out of a restaurant, or being treated poorly at a health clinic or hospital while seeking care, or being asked “what are you” by a store clerk or a bus driver as they’re out and about with their friends.
A bill before the Legislature would amend the law to protect transgender and gender nonconforming people from discrimination in public spaces, such as hospitals, coffee shops, and retail stores. Similar legislation is currently working successfully in 17 other states as well as in the nation’s capital.
Since 2012, public schools in Massachusetts have had transgender guidelines and there have been no reported hiccups in the implementation. Planet Fitness, the national gym franchise with facilities in all 50 states, has successfully amended its policies to allow for trans folks to use the locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.
With a decision about to come down from the US Supreme Court on the constitutionality of marriage equality, residents of the Commonwealth need to know that there are still additional issues of inequality affecting LGBTQ people that need to be rectified on both state and federal levels. Let’s show the nation that Massachusetts is still the progressive powerhouse that has historically set the tone for civil rights in this country.
Tom Bourdon is president of Greater Boston PFLAG (Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays).