April 30, 2010
The Hon. Deval L. Patrick
Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Room 360 Boston, MA 02108
Dear Governor Patrick,
We write to express our strong support for an act to add gender expression and identity to our Commonwealth's antidiscrimination and hate crimes laws, and to ask you to work to ensure its passage.
As bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, our eyes are open to the realities of transgender people and their families. Many of them serve faithfully in the congregations and ministries of our diocese, as lay people, as deacons and as priests. They are dedicated and loving parents, children, siblings, friends and community leaders. Again and again, we hear how they have struggled against incredible odds and pressures to be true to their identity as beloved children of God, made in the image of God.
It pains us that even as transgender people claim their identities and step into newness of life, they face discrimination and violence that undermines their human dignity. A November 2009 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 97 percent of respondents had been harassed or mistreated on the job, and 26 percent had been fired for being transgender. You will recall that in November 1998, an Allston transgender woman, Rita Hester, was murdered and her killer never found. This local tragedy led to an annual Nov. 20 international Transgender Day of Remembrance, for transgender people who have died, especially those who have been killed or taken their own lives. It is fitting that our state should model amendment of life and hope for a future that is better than this sad past.
Adding gender identity and expression to the state's nondiscrimination and hate crimes laws is no isolated concern of a special interest group. The disproportionate suffering of transgender people should grieve the hearts of all who love justice and liberty. Both the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts and the General Convention of the Episcopal Church are on record in support of full equality for transgender people (resolutions attached).
So many of the arguments against the full inclusion of transgender people in our society are driven by unfounded fear. Transgender people are simply seeking the removal of barriers that prevent them from flourishing as full members of and contributors to society. One need not fully comprehend what it is like to walk in their shoes to provide them with the protections every citizen-every person-is due. Please act to ensure their rights.
The Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, SSJE Bishop
The Rt. Rev. Bud Cederholm Bishop Suffragan