Metro Weekly

Transgender teenager asks Massachusetts voters to support her rights in November referendum

Campaigners are trying to revoke legislation that protects transgender people from discrimination in public accommodations

Photo: HRC / Twitter

A transgender teenager is asking Massachusetts voters to protect her rights in an upcoming vote.

In a video for Human Rights Campaign, 16-year-old Nicole Talbot spoke about the Yes On 3 campaign, which is asking Massachusetts voters whether to keep in place a piece of 2016 legislation which prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity in places of public accommodation.

A “Yes” vote would support keeping the legislation in place. A “No” vote would revoke the legislation and prevent trans people from accessing facilities that match their gender identity.

“It’s saying to people, you can’t take rights away from me just because you don’t agree with who I am,” Talbot says in the video.

She adds: “It’s about me having the right to go to a restaurant, go shopping, get a coffee — the day-to-day things. I am nervous that the laws will be taken away and my protections will be taken away.”

She asks voters to discuss the law, to “spread the word” and “tell [people] to vote yes.”

“The stakes couldn’t be higher for trans people like 16-year-old Nicole, who is at risk of losing vital non-discrimination protections in Massachusetts,” HRC said in a tweet. “Vote #YesOn3 to uphold the dignity and respect for trans Bay Staters in November.”

The referendum is taking place after campaigners gathered enough signatures to get the vote onto the ballot this November.

Keep MA Safe, one of the groups leading the charge to repeal the law, came under fire after releasing an advert featuring a man hiding in a bathroom stall while a young girl undresses.

Kasey Suffredini, co-chairman of the Yes on 3 campaign, told Boston.com that the advert was nothing more than fearmongering.

“This law simply protects transgender people from discrimination in public places and that is why law enforcement leaders from across Massachusetts and the leading sexual assault prevention groups support upholding this law,” Suffredini said.

A core argument by No supporters is that the new law would punish those who discriminate against a transgender person trying to access a public facility.

Debbie Dugan, chairwoman of the group, claims the law is “ripe for abuse by criminals and convicted sex offenders.”

However, a 2016 report by Attorney General Maura Healey’s office found that the law “does not provide any protections for someone who engages in improper or unlawful conduct, whether in a sex-segregated facility or elsewhere. Nor does it provide a defense to criminal charges brought against someone engaged in unlawful conduct.”

Recent polls suggest that voters are unlikely to be swayed by Keep MA Safe’s arguments.

WBUR News and the Boston Globe both conducted polls that suggested over 70% of voters support keeping the law in place.

Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.

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