Dear Massachusetts Legislators,
Last Friday a transgender woman was brutally attacked in Lowell. Her attackers yelled anti-gay epithets and told her she was not welcome in their town. Her lip was ripped into a bloody mess.
Gender identity and expression are not included in our hate crime laws, and in most areas of this great country of ours it is still legal not to hire, fire, or deny housing to someone because of their gender identity or expression. It is also still legal in most states to deny housing or not hire someone based on their sexual orientation.
As our community focuses so heavily on the issue of marriage, and as our legislators’ time is absorbed with wheeling and dealing, lobbyists knocking at their doors, and thousands of calls and e-mails flooding their inboxes the most marginalized members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) community are being denied jobs, housing, and being beaten on the streets.
Our youth are 4 to 5 times more likely to attempt suicide (According to the Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey) than their straight peers, and yet the organizations serving them are severely under-funded. And the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force has said that our country is facing an epidemic of homelessness among LGBT youth.
I personally moved to Boston in an effort to escape anti-gay violence. I was severely physically and verbally harassed on a daily basis in my rural Pennsylvanian community. After switching high schools in an effort to escape the violence, I ended up coming to Boston with no high school diploma. Emerson College listened to my story and allowed me to complete my senior year of high school with my freshmen year of college. Without that opportunity I would not be alive today.
Since moving to Boston seven years ago, I have found a supportive community that has helped me heal from the discrimination I faced, but there are still many times when I do not feel safe. There are times when men pull over in their cars to yell things at me. There are times when people on the subway mumble faggot. There are times when I am on my way home from work and people mock the way I am walking, and yell things like sissy, queer and homo at me. And there are always times when my partner and I are stared down for holding hands in public.
The last thing I want to see when I sit down on my couch and turn on the television is an advertisement funded by James Dobson that says I am an immoral, disgusting human being. The last thing I want to hear when I turn on Kiss FM is a radio advertisement saying my friends do not deserve full equality. The last thing I want to see out the bus window is a billboard saying “homosex is sin.” These are the kinds of messages our community will face if the amendment on marriage is allowed to move forward. These are the kinds of advertisements that are blanketing other states at this very moment.
I ask: How will those kinds of messages impact the already shocking suicide rates of LGBT teens? How will those kinds of messages affect the alarming rates of street harassment and violence directed towards LGBT people in Boston? I will not stick around to find out.
This Thursday our state has the opportunity to quell a surge in verbal and physical violence towards a community that already faces a disturbing reality of hardship.
People’s rights to things like healthcare, retirement benefits, and the other 1400 rights and privileges that accompany our governmental system of marriage should never be put to a vote.
Deval Patrick said it is time to move on from this issue, and he is right. We have a myriad of things to work on to ensure that our state is the most welcoming, affirming, healthy place to live.
I am not above begging. Please, please, please kill this amendment by any means necessary.
Mark D. Snyder