Sunday, November 15, 2009

Berkshire Transgender Vigil Friday at Williams

The transgender community in the Berkshires is modest in size, but helping to lead our state on important legislation. On November 20, they will take time out to remember those who have lost their lives to bigotry and hate. Members of the Berkshires gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) and straight communities are all invited to participate.

On Friday, with State Senator Benjamin Dowling in attendance, the Williams College Queer Student Union and Berkshire Stonewall Community Coalition will host a candlelight vigil in honor of the 11th International Transgender Day of Remembrance from 8-9 pm on Chapin Lawn in front of Paresky Student Center. Senator Downing is the sponsor of the bill “An Act Relative to Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes” (H. 1728/S. 1687), in the Massachusetts State Senate now. He and members of the community will speak briefly.

You can learn more about the bill and the Massachusetts efforts that are ongoing by visiting the Transgender Political Action Coalition.

The annual Day of Remembrance memorializes individuals who have been killed throughout the world in the previous year because of gender expression discrimination and anti-transgender hatred. Since last year's event, 99 people are known to have been murdered because of their gender identity or gender expression (this is more than twice as many from 2008).

The vigil is only one of many activities during Transgender Awareness Week which begins today and ends Friday. (November 15-20). There are a host of statewide events to both celebrate the liberation and mark the difficulty of the struggle for equal rights.

Massachusetts bill (H. 1728/S. 1687) was heard by Massachusetts’ Joint Committee on the Judiciary this past July. “Bills such as this give citizens equal protection under state law regardless of gender identity or expression,” said Justin Adkins, Williams College Queer Life Coordinator, “In doing so it will send a clear message that all citizens of the Commonwealth should be able to work, go to school, and live without fear.”

Thirteen states, including Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont already have similar laws. Within Massachusetts, only the cities of Boston, Cambridge, Amherst, and Northampton prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression. One hundred fifty-five major Massachusetts employers, such as Stop & Shop, Williams College, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield have non-discrimination protections covering gender identity and expression.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people. It publicly honors the lives of people who might otherwise be forgotten. And it gives transgender allies a chance to step forward in community and stand in vigil.

All are welcome at the Williams event which will be held rain or shine.

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