By Linlan Luo
BU News Service
BOSTON – Last week, seven volunteers sat around a U-shaped table, typing, clicking and tapping away, calling and texting friends and family members, asking them to vote yes on ballot Question 3 in the headquarters of “Yes on 3” campaign.
The Get Out to Vote (GOTV) training in Charlestown jammed themselves into a small office with maps of the state congressional districts on the wall. The volunteers all faced the speaker and trainer, Martin Hamilton, a transgender person himself.
The GOTV program is a part of the “Yes on 3” campaign launched by Freedom For All Massachusetts, an organization motivating Massachusetts voters to keep the anti-discrimination law approved in 2016 in the state election Tuesday.
Volunteers have knocked on doors and had over 25,000 conversations with voters since Saturday to ask every potential supporter to turn out to vote.
Janelle Heideman, a transgender person and a queer person, joined the GOTV program because she wants the anti-discrimination law to keep protecting transgender people.
“Nobody will stop you for walking into a public place on basis of your gender, you race or anything like that,”Heideman said. “They shouldn’t stop me from going to public places on the basis of my gender.”
Annie Gaure, a coach for the program, is a long-time supporter. She said she has transgender friends and two sisters who are members of the LGBTQ+ community. Gaure said she joined in “Yes on 3” to fight for the people most important in her life.
After the training, volunteers said they felt excited and motivated about the canvass but also anxious and nervous about the result.
Hamilton explained his concerns. If Massachusetts repeals the anti-discrimination law, it would be a signal to anywhere else with this kind of law, Hamilton said.
According to National Center for Transgender Equality, 17 states as well as Washington D.C. explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation in public accommodations.
Hamilton said he was afraid what might happen in Massachusetts if the anti-discrimination law is repealed.
“I think they, like all of us, have this fear … that all the time that even in a safe place, that there is always this risk of what could happen here,” Hamilton said, referring to those pushing to repeal current protections.
While transgender communities are fighting for their rights in public accommodations, there is another campaign named “No on 3” that argue criminals will pretend to be transgender people and sneak into a female bathroom to assault women and children.
Janelle Heideman, another volunteer canvasser, said she believed repealing the anti-discrimination law would not benefit criminals.
“Assaulting a person is a crime either way,” Heideman said. “It’s alway been a crime, it always will be a crime.”
At the same time, Heideman called on everyone to pay attention to the safety of transgender people while paying attention to women in the bathroom.
“The people who are most vulnerable in public spaces are trans people and there are many of these instances of people who have been assaulted in public spaces, and killed in public spaces because they are trans,” Heideman said.
A recent count by the Human Rights Campaign noted so far this year, some 22 transgender people haves been fatally shot or killed by other violent means.