“‘Cause I'm bound by love
And I'm thinking of what could be
Where there's a will there's a way…”
Today was the Massachusetts’ Transgender Political Coalition’s Transgender Equality Lobby Day at the Massachusetts Statehouse. Three hundred of us, transgender people and allies, gathered to urge our legislators to support the bill An Act Relative To Discrimination and Hate Crimes. This bill would finally give transgender people and all citizens basic civil rights by outlawing discrimination (in housing, credit, employment, public accommodations and public education) and hate crimes based on gender identity and expression.
At 9:30, I gathered outside the Statehouse with Keshet – including our Transgender Working Group (TWiG), other members of the Jewish community, and the Interfaith Coalition for Transgender Equality. After several weeks of news and work, how exciting to arrive and begin! Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha’olam, shehechianu ve'kiemanu ve'hegianu lazman ha'zeh. Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the world, who has kept us in life, sustained us, and brought us to this moment.
We all walked together through security and to the foot of the Grand Staircase. It was wonderful to see the standing room only crowd – how much more so to realize how few of them I recognized! It was so good to connect and reconnect with those I knew, and meet many of those I didn’t. And people continued to arrive all day. Hinei ma tov umanayim, shevet achim / achyot gam yachad. Behold how good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters [and siblings] to sit and dwell together.
Gunner Scott, Executive Director of MTPC , spoke and MCed several fine speakers; includingtransgender people, their loved ones, legislators and other politicians, and others. One of my favorite moments was Representative Byron Rushing’s speech / sermon. He told us we weren't, couldn’t be, gathered to gain our civil rights -- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- because we were born with and have always had them. We were gathered to remind our state of its failure to guarantee those rights and demand justice. I though of the early 1990s, when I first became a GLBT leader, met Rep. Rushing and heard him preach this -- during the GLBT safe schools movement, when we were working to pass the bill that added “sexual orientation” to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 76, Section 5: “No person shall be excluded from or discriminated against in admission to a public school of any town, or in obtaining the advantages, privileges and courses of study of such public school on account of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation.” Perhaps most moving was the presence of Kenneth and Marcia Garber – their son CJ was a transman who lost his life in January, at age twenty; Ken spoke and received the only standing ovation.
ICTE had the honor of organizing today’s clergy speakers – Rev. Cameron Partridge (St. Luke's and St. Margaret's Episcopal Church), Rabbi Stephanie Kolin (Temple Israel, Boston), and Rev. Will Green (St. Nicholas United Methodist Church, Hull). They spoke so passionately and beautifully – how wonderful it was to witness leaders of my own faiths and those of my colleagues preaching not only transgender equality but the inclusion and welcome of transpeople in faith communities. How much more wonderful to be able to think: This priest is my co-chair, this rabbi and pastor are our colleagues…I am so proud and blessed. To put it Yiddishly, I was kvelling! Cameron co-chairs ICTE with me, and has written a lovely blog post about today.
There was also a showing of the excellent ten-minute video MTPC created with GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project and MassEquality -- “Everyone Matters : Dignity & Safety For Transgender People”.
After the rally program, many attendees checked in at MTPC’s well-organized and stocked information table and went to prescheduled visits with their legislators – asking them to support the bill or thanking them for doing so. My fellow Keshetites and I delivered MTPC's thank-you cards to our supportive legislators and spoke with their aides and other staff, and were photographed by Ethan Halainen, Keshet’s Communications Assistant.
It was one of those days I didn’t want to end, and needed to see the end of. After most people had left, I returned to the almost empty rally site and talked with some of those who returned from their legislator visits. Even after MTPC left between two and three, I sat and talked with Joan Stratton (National Association of Social Workers) and Denise Leclair (Executive Director, International Foundation for Gender Education). Sometime after four, I had the gentlemanly pleasure of escorting the ladies out and to their next destinations.
This is one of the days when I think, over and over: I love my job. I love my work. I love my calling. I love my people, my community, my organizations and my colleagues.
How miraculous that there was a similar Lobby Day in Connecticut today, a House Judiciary Committee hearing about their hate crime definition in Rhode Island tonight, and a second vote on a similar bill in New Hampshire tomorrow. Also, Iowa legalized same-sex marriage on Friday and Vermont this morning.
And how wonderful that today is Birkat Hachama (Blessing of the Sun, the day every twenty-eight years when the sun returns to its position during Creation), that Pesach (Passover) begins tomorrow, and that it’s Holy Week (the Christian week that includes Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter).
Thank you to MTPC and its allies for creating this Day! Thanks to the Keshet staff for all their work, including creating Jewish-themed trans equality stickers for us to wear and hand out to attendees. Thanks to former ICTE member and webmistress Robyn Robbins for designing the logo for ICTE’s nametags and stickers.