As a part of the recent midterm election, the people of Massachusetts voted to uphold a law that helps transgender individuals navigate public spaces. Titled “Question 3,” the ballot measure looked to repeal a 2016 law signed by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker that protects the rights of transgender individuals to use public spaces ranging from restaurants to public transportations to bathrooms.
Led by an organization called Keep MA Safe, the ballot measure began with a relatively small referendum that grew to a massive petition. This petition was certified by the Massachusetts Secretary of State and was added to the November ballot. The organization created ads that used fear-mongering and biased ideals in an attempt to convince voters to vote against the law. Stating that the bill “would endanger the privacy and safety of women and children in public bathrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms, and other intimate places (such as common showers), opening them to whoever wants to be there at any given time, and also to sexual predators who claim “confusion” about their gender as a cover for their evil intentions,” the organization aimed to arm voters, particularly suburban women, to vote against the law. The tactics used were similar to those used to create an atmosphere of fear and mistrust among communities.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the organization Yes on 3 worked fervently to keep the bill in place. Using tactics such as debunking myths perpetrated by Keep MA Safe and extensive canvassing, the group was able to defend Question 3. Yes on 3’s website states that the law was not about separation and fear, but more about “treating others as we would want to be treated.” Volunteers from Yes on 3 were recently featured on the queer podcast Nancy. Listening to the podcast allows one to hear what the process of canvassing for Question 3 was like as well as about the difficulties canvassers and trans people were forced to face.
Other organizations have looked into problems supposedly brought up by the 2016 law, such as the allowance of men to enter women’s restrooms simply because they claim to be a woman. In a study done by UCLA, it was found that “concerns regarding safety and privacy violations are unfounded. No empirical evidence has been gathered to test such laws’ effects.” This means that despite the 17 other states and more than 200 cities that have enacted such laws that protect trans people, there has been no real difference in sex offender crimes or “peeping tom” crimes in women’s restrooms. However, despite the evidence stacked against Keep MA Safe, the law was still highly controversial and heavily debated.
When the question was first proposed, it appeared to be the most controversial one on the ticket in Massachusetts. When questioned by the Suffolk University Political Research Center, 49% of voters stated that they would vote to keep the law, 37% of voters stated that they would vote to repeal it, and 11% of voters stated they were undecided. After the midterm elections, however, the numbers looked quite different. According to WBUR, a Massachusetts radio station, 67.8% of voters voted to keep the law in place while only 32.2% of voters voted to repeal the law. This meant that protections for transgender individuals would remain in place.
Protections for transgender people are extremely important. They allow individuals to feel a safety in public that has never been afforded to them before. It makes a difference in their day-to-day lives from something as drastic as allowing them to actually feel a sense of security in their own community to something as seemingly mundane as going to the bathroom. By voting yes on Question 3, the voters of Massachusetts showed that they were not going to allow fear-mongering and discrimination to destroy the protections of transgender people in their state.