It could be hard following this blog which is one minute about silly stuff and the next about something serious, like addiction or giving away your power in sexual subservience. What I’m saying is that on Sunday I wrote about Marilyn Monroe’s terrible struggle. Then yesterday I talked about trying to drive home from the eye doctor’s after having my pupils dilated. (OK that’s not really a picture of me; I keep my whiskers trimmed closer. ha ha.) And now I want to tell you how great it is that the Board of Selectmen of my town has just now voted to include the words “gender identity” in our official Human Rights Statement.
Three of us were allowed to speak in favor of this motion.
This added language echoes the intent of a state law that went in to effect here just last month that makes Massachusetts the 16th state in the nation to add non-discrimination laws for gender identity in the areas of employment, housing, K-12 public education, and credit.
Additionally, Massachusetts Hate Crimes laws were also updated to include gender identity. This law is a very good thing, since transgender youth in particular are now being targeted in the same vicious way gay youth were once targeted (and still are targeted in many quarters.) The child born male who knows even at three years old that his outsides don’t match the way he feels inside is not rebelling against anyone; this is that child’s deep reality.
I heard Jennifer Finley Boylan speak when She’s Not There first came out, her first book on the experience of being transgendered. I remember her telling the audience how she remembers crouching under the ironing board and watching as her mother pressed her father’s shirts.
“Someday YOU’LL go to work dressed in a shirt like this,” her mother said to Jennifer who the world then called James.
“Oh no I won’t!” she remembers thinking, even at that tender age. Ms. Boylan is a 12-time author, professor at Colby College, and good friend to that quintessential Mainer Richard Russo who gave the world among many other books Empire Falls and Nobody’s Fool and whose friendship with Boylan is part of that book’s narrative.
The board of my town’s Multicultural Network on which I serve had this to day in a letter to the editor last spring:
For most of us, our gender identity and gender expression are straightforward—our physiology, our outlook, the way we choose to dress, our mannerisms, our relationships are in harmony within ourselves and with societal expectations. For others of us, the physical characteristics we are born with are in conflict not only with societal expectations but also with our internal sense of self–at all levels: physical, emotional, behavioral. Moving through myriad choices in resolving personal wholeness and harmony is a daunting task in itself. Transgender and gender non-conforming people deserve the right to enjoy the same non-discrimination and civil rights as other Massachusetts residents.
In Massachusetts, 76% of transgender people report harassment in their jobs. Thirty-one percent of transgender youth, in grades K-12, experience physical assault. Passing through an airport body imaging scan or undergoing an annual physical at a medical facility can become unimaginably difficult, especially when dealing with under-educated personnel. Transgender individuals suffer depression, anxiety, health issues, and job discrimination at an increased level. A Massachusetts Department of Public Health report (July 2009) recommended that “Support of non-discrimination protection for transgender persons could help reduce stigma and, by extension, improve health.
The three of us who spoke last night just spoke from the heart. And we spoke to a body of people who saw the wisdom in this motion: They passed it unanimously so here is how our town’s Human Rights Statement will now read:
“Winchester is a community that is grounded in respect for every individual and, therefore, protects all residents, employees, business owners, students and visitors in the enjoyment and exercise of human and civil rights. It is town policy to ensure equal treatment and opportunity to all individuals regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, ideology, socio-economic status, health, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, military status or disability.”
I feel so proud to live here. I feel so proud of my townspeople too for doing as Gandhi recommended and being the change they wish to see in the world.