While activists would have liked to see this day come sooner, the likely passage of the state’s transgender protections bill has teed up an extra-meaningful Pride Month in Boston this year.
The House on Wednesday passed its version of the bill, which would protect trans people from discrimination in public places and allow them to use the bathrooms and changing rooms that correspond with their gender identity. It’s expected to land on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk soon, and he has said he is comfortable enough with the House version to sign it.
“We were hoping for this to happen in the fall of last year,” said Sylvain Bruni, president of Boston Pride, which runs the annual parade and festival as well as events year-round in the city. “But it’s a great gift to the LGBT community right as Pride Month is starting. It’s a gift in the sense that this is long overdue in Massachusetts. In the 46th year of the Pride movement in Massachusetts, we finally have this equality.”
There won’t be any celebrations specifically about the bill in June, he said. But per usual, the parade on Saturday, June 11, will feature lots of blue-pink-and-white transgender pride flags – as well as one big one held by members of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition.
The bill, and trans rights in general, will also figure into discussion on Monday at a free-to-the-public political forum on Monday in Faneuil Hall. One of dozens of events happening around the region this month, it features a panel of politicians and analysts and will be moderated by Janet Wu, the WCVB reporter.
Bruni also hopes the bill’s passage will bring more people out to celebrate Pride overall.
“We already know this celebration will be the largest we’ve ever had,” Bruni said. “This news, I think, will encourage even more people to show up.”
Visibility of transgender people and transgender rights issues has undoubtedly increased. The Massachusetts trans bill is one obvious example, but the state was just the 18th in the country to pass anti-discrimiantion legislation.
Another example of how things have changed can be found in the ranks of Pride itself, Bruni said.
“I can say that in the last four or five years, there is significantly more visibility of trans participants and trans organizations, and the need for trans rights in the parade and at the festival,” he said. “The community is getting more vocal, more visible, more present, which is great and I think this is one reason why we still have Pride.”
Bruni in an interview described the dual goals of Pride events throughout the organization's history in the city. One is to celebrate progress, thumb their noses at homophobes and encourage those still in the closet to come out and join the movement. The other goal has always been to serve as a platform for the biggest issues of the day, and the ones that could be the legislative battles of the future.
Even with marriage equality and an equal rights battle for transgender people behind them, Bruni said, the fight is nowhere near over for Pride.
So what’s next?
“That will be for the community to say,” he said. “From my perspective, I see a lot of things that need to be done, specifically for the trans community: access to healthcare, the ability to change your gender on your official paperwork, workplace equality. Those are all still things where transgender people are discriminated against and we need to work on that.”
He said Pride is also focused on the problem of homelessness among youth in the community – people identifying as LGBT make up between 20 percent and 40 percent of the nation’s homeless young people.
At the same time the effort for Boston Pride and other local activists extends outside Massachusetts.
“When we finally attain full equality, we’ll be working to ensure everybody else gets full equality around the globe,” Bruni said. “It’s a global fight and little by little we’re progressing.”