‘Yes’ on Question 3: On protecting transgender rights

Rose Houglet

“Trans rights are human rights,” “Trans rights are under attack – what do we do? Act up, fight back!” and “Yes on 3!” were just three of the chants at the rally for transgender rights this past Friday. Combined, these proclamations form the basis of my argument: the rights of all who fall outside the gender binary are human rights, these rights are under attack and we must fight back at the polls.

As members of both the Massachusetts and the larger American communities, we have two governmental propositions to consider – voting “Yes” on Question 3 for the Massachusetts ballot and fighting back against the propositions made by the Trump administration’s leaked memo. A “Yes” on Question 3 would uphold the existing anti-discrimination law against transgender people in public spaces. And, while this initiative only affects the policies of Massachusetts, it has far-reaching implications as the first statewide voter referendum on transgender rights. If a majority of Massachusetts constituents votes “No” on 3, our transgender friends and community members could be turned away from public spaces like stores and restaurants and would no longer have legal protection to use the bathroom of their gender identity.

The necessity of upholding anti-discrimination laws has been exacerbated in light of the proposed memo by Trump’s administration which, according to The New York Times, redefines gender under Title IX as “a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth.” This interpretation “essentially eradicate[s] federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves –  surgically or otherwise –  as a gender other than the one they were born into,” according to the Times.

Because the memo was leaked and no legislative action has been taken, the scope of its impact on policy is unclear. The Times indicated, however, several possible changes, from the ways in which sex discrimination complaints are handled by the U.S. Department of Education to how some health programs and activities are dealt with by health and human services. Beyond the specifics of policy changes, we should be outraged at the attempt to erase federal recognition of 1.4 million Americans.

It seems self-explanatory that one’s right to be protected from discrimination and recognized by the government should be protected. Oppression is intersectional, and an attack on human rights should concern not just those directly affected, but everyone in the College community and beyond. Policies and candidates that protect transgender, intersex and non-conforming human rights also tend to protect the rights of other oppressed communities. Yet, defending the rights of transgender, intersex and non-conforming folks should not rely on this logic; it should be a given that all human rights are worthy of protection.

Allies need to stand in solidarity with those affected as well as listen to and check in with them; recognize the ways in which gender identities intersect with race, class, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, disability and more; build relationships that ensure inclusivity in political organizing and help amplify their voices by supporting organizations led by transgender, intersex and non-binary folks.

All these initiatives are crucial to creating a supportive, inclusive environment at the College and beyond. Actually turning out to vote, however, is imperative for policy change. Requesting an absentee ballot or making time to go to the polls may sometimes feel arduous, but we owe it to those who fall outside the gender binary – and to the common cause of promoting human rights – to try to make a change by voting “Yes” on 3 (and, accordingly, proclaiming, “Hell no to the memo”).

Rose Houglet ’22 is from Santa Barbara, Calif. Her major is undecided.