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Further Brandeis values by upholding transgender protection

Brandeis is known around the world, and especially in Massachusetts, as a leader in social justice. The school was founded on the values of justice and equality and has lived up to its reputation through student activism, such as the Ford Hall sit-in and the fight by Brandeis Climate Justice to have the university divest from fossil fuels.

As college students, it is our responsibility to be the voice of the younger generation. We will be living with the results of this November’s election far longer than the rest of the voting population, so it is especially important that we stand up for what we believe in.

For this reason, students at Brandeis have a duty to shape the future by the way that they vote in elections. That is why I am asking you to go to the polls in November and vote “yes” on ballot question 3 to uphold transgender protections in Massachusetts.

I love my state. I grew up in a small town in Massachusetts, and I am so grateful for the life and the opportunities that my state has given me. When I went to Tufts University and came out as transgender and non-binary, I was overwhelmed by the support I received from my friends and my school.

As a campus community, Brandeis is open and accommodating to LGBTQ friends and neighbors. Because of the public accommodations nondiscrimination law that was passed in 2016 by Massachusetts legislature and signed by Governor Charlie Baker, transgender students are able to access all that Waltham, Boston and the surrounding areas have to offer without fear of discrimination. If this bill is repealed, however, that safety net will dissipate. That reality is very much a possibility if college students don’t mobilize and get out the vote.

Even in true-blue Massachusetts, not all transgender people are as lucky as I am. I have seen firsthand how anti-trans discrimination can devastate someone’s physical and mental health. As soon as I learned that there was a ballot question that threatened to legalize discrimination against transgender people, I knew that I had to do everything I could for my trans friends and loved ones in this state.
Rolling back these protections would completely change the landscape of our state and, ultimately, our country. The United States looks to Massachusetts as a model for progressivism, especially when it comes to civil rights. We were, after all, the first state to acknowledge and legalize the right for same sex couples to marry. If we decide to vote no and repeal protections for transgender individuals in Massachusetts, the message we send to the rest of the nation is that it isn’t important to treat transgender people with dignity and respect.
Anti-transgender activists making the case for the no vote are using scare tactics to try to convince the public that the safety of women and children is in jeopardy by protecting transgender people from discrimination and harassment in public spaces, particularly restrooms. That just isn’t true.
Since the law was implemented two years ago, there has not been an increase in safety incidents in restrooms. Safety in restrooms is important to all of us—including transgender people. Harassing people in public facilities remains illegal and those who commit crimes are prosecuted, as they should be. The law protecting transgender people from discrimination hasn’t changed that.
That’s why the state’s leading safety officials—including the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association and the Massachusetts Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence—support this law.
For most citizens in Massachusetts, this law does not affect them one way or the other. But for transgender people like me, it means the world. I urge you to make sure that you are registered to vote in Massachusetts in time for the November midterm, and that you vote Yes on 3 to uphold transgender protections.

For more information on how to get involved on campus, please contact the campaign’s Campus Vote Representative, Kim Nguyen, at kim@freedommassachusetts.org.

Ben Rutberg is an undergraduate student at Tufts University.

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