The Massachusetts Transgender Equal Rights Bill

By Jean Strout

When the Transgender Equal Rights Bill was introduced into the Massachusetts legislature in 2011, opposition emerged from a surprising source: Black and Pink, a Massachusetts-based radical “open family” of queer prisoners and their allies who “work toward the abolition of the prison industrial complex.”  Massachusetts’s Transgender Equal Rights Bill forbids discrimination based on “gender identity” in a variety of areas, including employment, housing, credit, and education.  However, Black and Pink’s opposition focused solely on the hate crime sections of the bill, which mandate enhanced sentences for crimes based on gender identity.  this is not the first time that groups representing queer and transgender communities have voiced opposition to transgender civil rights legislation.  Black and Pink drew inspiration for their letter of non-support from the response of a group of New York organizations against the 2009 Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), a similar bill which passed New York’s State Assembly multiple times but stalled in the Senate.  Five organizations that “work to advocate for and increase the political voice” of transgender and gender non-conforming communities of color, most notably the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SLRP), wrote a letter to the GENDA coalition asking them to strike the hate crime legislation attached to the bill.

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