Opinion » Guest Opinion

Not in our name

Wednesday Oct 24, 2018

Not in our name

by Gina Scaramella

This week, the New York Times reported that the Trump Administration was pursuing a legal policy that would narrowly define gender. If enacted, it would attempt to, for all intents and purposes, legislate people who are transgender, non-binary, and intersex out of existence.

Not only that, but it would put a policy on the books that aims to dehumanize people—a key piece of what sexual violence does. This makes our mission of ending sexual violence even harder.

This is yet another reason why we need civil rights protections for transgender people at the state level. And it is why the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC), as an organization, has endorsed Ballot Question 3, which, if approved, will keep a 2016 law prohibiting discrimination against transgender people in public spaces like stores, restaurants, and movie theaters on the books.

The Trump Administration's plans to rescind many of the gains we have made over the last decade in policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity in education and health care is offensive. Putting civil rights for transgender people up for popular vote is equally so. But the argument anti-transgender activists are making to repeal the 2016 state law might surpass both in terms of lies and misinformation. And that is the argument that women and children need the 2016 law to be repealed because doing so will protect them from men who might otherwise attack them in public restrooms.

At BARCC, we have provided services for survivors of sexual violence for 45 years. We serve women. We serve men. We serve people who are nonbinary, genderqueer, gender-nonconforming, intersex, and transgender. The survivors of sexual assault that I know at BARCC don't want this law repealed in their name. They don't want their experience of sexual violence to be exploited to harm a vulnerable community of people.

As an expert on sexual-violence-related public health and safety, I can tell you with certainty that protecting transgender people has zero negative consequences on the safety of women and children. Especially given that there are many women and children who are transgender. In truth, transgender people themselves face some of the highest rates of sexual violence. The 2016 law is about protecting transgender people—our loved ones, our neighbors, our coworkers—from discrimination in public places.

The city of Boston has had protections for transgender people in place for more than a decade and has seen no increase in criminal activity in public restrooms. Since 2016 when the law was implemented, the same holds true statewide. A recently published study proves that there's no connection between rates of crimes committed in restrooms and our state's protections for transgender people. It is already illegal to assault someone in a public restroom. This law doesn't change that.

What this law does do is make our communities safer and more inclusive. That is why law enforcement officials and advocates for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence want voters to vote "Yes" on Question 3 on November 6.

Anti-transgender activists are trying to distract voters from what is really at stake. This is about ensuring respect, dignity, and safety for everyone. Those are the things that prevent sexual violence.

Gina Scaramella is the executive director of the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center.