YW Boston testifies in support of bills for transgender rights

YW Boston Communications

Today, Beth Chandler, our VP for Programs, testified in support of Senate Bill 735 and House Bill 1577, acts relative to transgender anti-discrimination. YW Boston joined a long list of businesses and organizations showing their support for the Transgender Rights bill making its way towards Beacon Hill. This bill is filling the gaps left from the 2011 law that forbid discrimination against transgender people in housing, employment, and credit. While this law was a win for equality, there were still many issues left uncovered. Mainly, the bill did not protect against discrimination in public spaces.

Legally in the state of Massachusetts, a transgendered person does not have the right to enter the bathroom of the gender they identify with. Further, business and store owners are allowed to refuse any kind of service to a person that is transgender. To make matters worse, the definition of ‘public spaces’ is vaguely any place besides your home, work, or school. That means that riding the subway, seeing a movie, or walking through Boston Common are unsafe zones for transgendered people.

This legal and social inequity denies a basic human right for transgendered people. The work the YW Boston does and advocates for is centered on promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all, and in light of that it is our obligation and honor to supporter this much needed effort. The testimony we presented today is below:

Testimony in Support of SB 735 and HB 1577
Before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary
October 6, 2015
Beth Chandler, YWCA Boston 

Thank you Chair Brownsberger, Chair Fernandes, and members of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary. My name is Beth Chandler. I am the vice president of programs at YWCA Boston, where I lead programs that advance our mission of eliminating racism, empowering women, and promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.

As the first YWCA in the nation, we have been championing equal rights for almost 150 years. Through generations we have worked to address the systemic and social barriers faced by women and people of color, guided by the belief that creating equality of opportunity will improve social cohesion and create a better Boston for all. That principle is what led us to build one of the first gymnasiums for women in the 1880s, to resist national trends toward segregation and retain racially integrated leadership in the 1940s, and to start a nationally recognized jobs program training women in traditionally male occupations in the 1970s. That belief is also why we are here today, supporting legislation that protects individuals from being excluded based on their gender identity.

Our organization was born out of a need to advance the rights and opportunities of all women, and we welcome and include transgender women in our women’s programming. Our history of activism has shown us that women’s issues are about ensuring fair treatment for people of all gender identities in order to create a stronger, safer, and more unified community. Transgender Bay Staters are a part of our YWCA family. And they deserve to feel safe and welcome in all public spaces. We are here today to urge you to vote in favor of SB 735 and HB 1577, as anyone opposing this bill is not truly speaking in support of all women. Thank you. 

If you would to learn more and get involved, please visit http://www.freedommassachusetts.org/. We encourage you to sign the petition, volunteer with the cause, or contact your local Representative and advocate for equality in Massachusetts.

At YW Boston, we are working to empower women by educating current and future leaders about gender equity, providing health literacy training to girls and women, and celebrating and publicizing the achievements of local female leaders. Connect with us to join us in our mission and help make a change today.