The dust has barely settled on the 2018 midterm elections, but high voter turnout and strong emotions have turned this campaign season into what will most likely be one of the most significant turning points of the decade. Across the country, House and Senate seats were up for grabs, and ballot initiatives were put in place, resulting in electrified political battles. One of the biggest victories, in the end, was the record-breaking election of over 100 women to Congress.
When Massachusetts voters went to the polls, they reelected Senator Elizabeth Warren and Governor Charlie Baker, while also electing Ayanna Pressley as the first black Massachusetts congresswoman. Massachusetts ballots also listed three initiatives:
- Question 1: An attempt to establish safe nurse-to-patient ratios was voted down. However, according to Boston.com, the nurses have sworn that the fight isn’t over.
- Question 2: A measure to restrict the influence of big money in politics, was approved.
- Question 3: One of the most important battles of the night, though, was a veto referendum to either uphold or repeal a previous law, which banned discrimination based on gender identity in public places. The stakes on this vote were high. The transgender community faces widespread prejudice, abuse, and mistreatment, with surveys of transgender individuals showing that nearly half have attempted suicide.
In the United States today, transgender rights and recognition are constantly under attack from both local and federal governments. Question 3 was one of these attacks, and this initiative wasn’t just a test for Massachusetts, but for the nation as a whole. Are we, as a country, going to protect the rights of transgender individuals? Question 3 gained nationwide attention with major public figures like Laverne Cox, who urged Massachusetts residents to uphold transgender protections.
Thankfully, the voters of the commonwealth stood up high and tall, voting yes, and thereby protecting the transgender population against discrimination by a 2:1 ratio. This is a big moment for Massachusetts, as it proves that support for transgender individuals is supported by the majority of residents.
However, on a country-wide level, transgender rights and protections will continue to face attacks. By upholding Question 3, Massachusetts proved itself as a national leader in this arena, so it’s now more important than ever to keep the ball rolling.
The first thing that Massachusetts needs to do is make sure that Question 3 is publicized, loud and clear. The second thing is to make sure the law is followed, in every public place and in every situation. Third, and finally, Massachusetts needs to push back against inevitable attacks by the federal government. Last month, it was revealed that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is attempting to reinterpret Title IX, a civil rights law that bans sex discrimination in schools, by narrowly redefining gender according to a strict binary: male or female. As Quartz explains, research has shown that this sort of strict gender binary definition is just a myth, perpetuated by social stigma with no scientific backing. The efforts to redefine Title IX have no basis in fact; they discriminate against countless individuals who don’t fit into a fictitious binary and may result in attempts to discard all transgender protections in schools.
Massachusetts made the right choice to vote “yes” on Question 3. Now, it’s time to take that fight to the next level.
While defending the rights of the transgender community as a whole is necessary, it’s also important to take care of the individuals who have already suffered from vicious discrimination. Transgender individuals are forced to endure attacks from friends, family, and society at large, often without proper support, all-too-commonly resulting in suicidal thoughts or feelings. As the 21st-century suicide epidemic grows ever larger, now is the time to lend a helping hand. Volunteer for the Suicide Prevention Lifeline today, and help make a difference in people’s lives.