Yesterday I took my radical trans self out to the Eastern part of our great Commonwealth of Massachusetts to attend the hearings being held by the Judiciary Committee at The State House on Beacon Hill in regards to HB1728/S1687, known in the English version of governmentese as “An Act Relative To Gender Based Discrimination And Hate Crimes”.
I dragged myself out of bed at the crack of dawn and did all the things I have to do to make myself not just presentable to the larger world, but to the press as well!
Somehow, I managed through a combination of highways, subways and my own two feet to arrive at The Statehouse in time for the press conference held by The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition
in The Senate Reception Room at 11:00.
There were already a number of the movers and shakers in the Mass Transgender community there as well as a number of supporters. Gunner Scott, the Director of MTPC was there as well as his new right hand woman, Rachel Katharine Zall. Also in attendance were the chair of MTPC, Nancy Nangeroni; Ethan St. Pierre, of “The Radical Trannies” podcast on TransFM.org; and my new friend Interfaith Leader, Mycroft Masada Holmes.
There were a number of others there as well, including a very nice woman who was there with her transmale son. I spoke with her and her son for a few minutes as I regained my “social sea-legs”. They were totally inspirational to me! It’s so nice to see such support at the family level. She just absolutely loves and supports her son and they were both pitching in to fight the good fight for Trans Right!!!
The press conference was fairly brief, essentially just an overview of the bill we are supporting, the work that MTPC has been doing and an introduction of several of the expert panel members who would be testifying later.
At this point, I did not expect to be testifying myself, I was simply there to support as a face in the crowd (albeit a fabulous one!) and a body in the seats.
After the press conference, I went and had a small lunch at Finagle A Bagel down the street with Mycroft. And by lunch, I mean, for myself, primarily coffee! (My lifestyle brought to you by the miracle of coffee!)
I have always loved watching the crowds of business people and others in the lunch hour buzz of downtown Boston and was pleased to have such excellent company and conversation to share it with.
Lunch was over fast though as Mycroft got a message from Gunner saying that bodies were needed in the lobby of The Gardner Auditorium where the Hearings were being held. So off we went, back into the fray. As we entered the State House we passed a couple of sweet looking little old ladies holding a banner for MassResistance, a group that has put an astonishing amount of time energy and effort into hating LGBT folks!!!
So much so that I often wonder what kind of issues the folks in charge of that particular Hate Group are repressing? I’m not saying anything particular, but I’ll just mention that they put as much energy into hating us as I put into loving cheese (sweet, glorious, yummy cheese…)!!!!!!
I greeted them with a pleasant hello anyway, because that’s just how I roll. And also because they were “kind enough” to give me some fabulous publicity when I first came back to the East Coast, by making me essentially the face of “The Tranny Menace In Massachusetts”. A fact which my friend Justin Adkins, a hardworking trans-activist of note I might add, and a great guy, seems to be quite jealous of!!
(Note to MassResisitance: Justin feels awfully slighted by your ignorance of him! He’s just as Evil as the rest of us you know, and he’s been working really hard spread the Transgender Agenda!!)
As soon as we got to the lobby of the auditorium I was intercepted by Dan Ring of The Springfield Republican for an interview. He needed a Western Mass transperson to interview and had been aimed at “The really tall girl around here somewhere”, which is actually a pretty accurate description of me and my habit of being in as many places as possible.
It was a decent interview, Dan seemed like a good enough guy. It was really super-hot in The Statehouse though and as I poured sweat in the interview I couldn’t help thinking of Dick Nixon facing down Kennedy in their famous debate. Thankfully I fared a might better than old Tricky Dick.
As soon as the interview was over I was asked if I was interested in testifying and since I make a point of saying “yes” as often as possible, I signed my name to the dotted line. Gulp. “Oh my, I guess that’s that.” I thought. Somehow, I always knew I would end up testifying before some governmental committee. I’m just glad no one was asking if I was now or ever had been a member of the Communist Party. I’m not by the way, but my politics are pretty far left… Oh heck, just call me Comrade!! (wink, wink)
Caught up in the whirlwind at this point, I was glad to be called upon to switch into “techie mode” for awhile. I was “volunteered” to help Gordene MacKenzie, Nancy Nangeroni’s life partner and co-host with her of “GenderVision” and also a very nice woman, to set up the camera and microphones for taping all the testimonies.
Nothing gets me over a case of the nerves like adjusting a tripod, plugging in wires and setting levels! A potentially hostile and packed crowd full of strangers immediately becomes simply an obstacle to be gotten through when I’m carrying camera equipment!
I tied my hair back and I was able to set aside thoughts like, “OMG!!!! What the heck am I going to say!?!?!” for several minutes while I fiddled with knobs and listened for buzzing.
After all that was fairly well-settled and set up, it was time for the waiting.
I stood around, listening to testimony on a bunch of other, very interesting bills. I opened up my trusty yellow pad and quickly outlined what I was going to say. Three minutes to testify and hopefully get my message across, so I kept it as simple as I know how.
2:30, the appointed time for the testimony on our bill came and went. 3:00, 3:30, time passed as we all waited, asking each other for any scraps of useful information on when our testimonies would be heard. All the while the pressure differentials of the packed auditorium were wreaking havoc with my sinuses and seriously f—king with my equilibrium. I could hear the sound of my own breathing echoing in my ears and the room sounded like I was underwater. Awfully unsettling.
Finally, around 4-4:30, the judiciary committee chair, Newton Senator Cynthia Stone Creem (D), announced that they would begin hearing testimony on “An Act Relative To Gender Based Discrimination And Hate Crimes”.
I couldn’t hope to do justice to the details of the many, many testimonies that were offered by both sides of the issue. However, I will relay my general impressions.
I was especially impressed by one of the initial speakers in support of the bill, Jennifer Levi, Esq., Transgender Rights Project Director at GLAD. Her testimony was informative, insightful, well reasoned and very persuasive. Immediately after she finished the Committee asked her a number of questions all of which she answered like a pro. Well okay, I guess actually she is a pro, but her answers simplified and explicated a number of complex issues.
For hours the testimonies continued. Back and forth, between supporters of the bill and those who opposed the bill.
On our side, we had people from all across the spectrum. Transpeople with personal stories of triumph and difficulty. All manner of experts. Parents of transfolks. Professional business types. Pretty much all walks of life were intelligently and movingly represented.
As for the opposition. I will try to be fair. There were those who seemed decent enough and genuinely concerned. For the most part though, I was shockingly reminded of just how much blind hatred and ignorance there still is out there towards transgender people.
I sat and listened as we were called all kinds of horrible things. Rarely directly mind you, usually by association. We were alluded to as potential child molesters and perverts. Emotionally charged stories of rape and abuse were used as arguments against us. None of these stories involved transpeople doing the raping or abusing mind you, but it was implied that if this bill passes it would open the door for all kinds of perverts and predators to begin their reign of terror in the name of the evil “gender expression”.
I listened to endless streams of testimony about “The Bathroom Bill”.
While we were asking for equal rights, for protections against job discrimination and violent Hate Crimes, our opposition was more concerned with where we should pee!
The usual cries of “Save the children!” were heard over and over. Despite the fact that not a single incident involving a transperson attacking someone in a public restroom has ever been reported. Despite also the fact that most child-molestation occurs within the family unit.
The opposition to this bill that would protect the basic human rights of transgender people, often seemed to boil down to the fact that they were “uncomfortable” with us.
I know what my kindergarten teacher would have said about this. She was a sweet but stern woman, who would have told them that there are all kinds of people in the world and just because some people are different and that makes you uncomfortable is no reason not to let them join in your games. “Now go back and play nice or I’ll have to make you stand at the fence for five minutes.”
There was one Catholic priest who used the tired old “Deuteronomy calls them an abomination” argument. To which I badly wanted the opportunity to point out that Deuteronomy also strongly recommends the stoning of Sabbath Breakers!!
Sadly also, a number of the testimonies from the opposition to the bill called upon the name of the DSM-IV, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association. Which lists gender dysphoria among a whole host of serious and troubling other philias. Our inclusion as a group in this book was used to link us to the aforementioned perverts, predators and pedophiles. Another strong reason why we need to step up the fight to have ourselves removed from the next edition, the DSM-V, currently being compiled, just as the Gays were removed from it years ago!
As I grew more tired, I began to welcome the testimonies from our opposition, as the anger that was stirred up each time was helping to keep my caffeine starved-self awake!
Finally as the room was slowly emptying and the night wore on, I heard my own name called. I was totally prepared and had been ready for hours, but as soon as I sat down at the single brown table in the middle of the room, between the audience and the Judiciary Committee’s long table, I was swept by a wave of nerves. I could feel myself shaking ever so slightly. It was as if I had never spoken in front of a crowd before. The literally thousands of people I’ve performed for over the years disappeared from my mind.
I was just Lorelei, trying to tell my story. Hoping the words came out that needed to be said.
I told them I was a proud transgender woman and talked briefly about my family’s long history in the State of Massachusetts. I then went on to talk about my difficulties obtaining a job and the sometimes subtle but still overwhelming amount of prejudice and discrimination that I have faced. Essentially a pared down version of what I submitted in my written testimony, but with the force of being an actual person speaking before them. Trembling slightly, scared and nervous, but not afraid to speak up for what I believe in.
As soon as I saw the sign that said “Time” flashed by the woman sitting quietly to my left in front of the table, I wrapped up with a statement that I had written out so I could deliver it clearly and succinctly.
“I support this bill because I wish to have the opportunity to once more become a gainfully employed and contributing member of society and this great Commonwealth. Thank you.”
After I delivered my testimony I stayed for a while longer to listen to others and finally, at around 10:30, with the hearing still going I began the long midnight journey back to Western Mass with my friend Danica Marie, who also gave a very powerful and moving testimony, along for the ride.
All in all it was a glorious day!! I felt like we were ready and fully charged for the battle we fought. It made me proud to see so many transfolks stepping forward in solidarity and speaking up for the rights we deserve!
Hopefully we were heard loud and clear and the Judiciary Committee will pass this crucial bill along for approval by the House and Senate.
It’s hard to know what will happen from here, but one thing is for certain. We will never give up the struggle against discrimination and hatred. No matter what the outcome of this single battle, we will never give up the fight for Transgender Rights!!!! We cannot and we must not.