In Massachusetts, the first U.S. state to make same-sex marriages official, the next wave of the war over sexual identity and morality has begun.
Transgender activists, many of whom had undergone hormone treatments and surgical procedures to alter their gender appearance, marched down the main street in Northampton, Mass., last week, carrying signs demanding the passage of new laws to end discrimination against transsexuals.
Many of the marchers, born women, wore beards and boasted love for their husbands or wives. According to one observer, some who had undergone surgery to remove their breasts took off their shirts at a rally following the main event. WND was able to confirm the claim, but refrained from posting photographs for decency concerns.
"The activists knew they had a critical mass of people in Northampton that wouldn't object to women without shirts," said Amy Contrada, a leader in the Massachusetts pro-family movement, MassResistance. "This is what we're going to start seeing all over the nation. This was a trial balloon for the transgender movement."
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Contrada explained to WND that Northampton is one of three cities in Massachusetts that have ordinances forbidding discrimination against transsexuals. The city, according to Contrada, has become a magnet for the radical lesbian and transgender movement, making it an ideal place for staging a topless rally that might be restricted elsewhere.
"With anti-discrimination ordinances in place, there's no way a policeman would arrest a woman for being shirtless, because she could say she's not a woman, and under the ordinance, she gets to determine whether she's female or not," Contrada said.
The marchers toted signs supporting Massachusetts bill H1722, the Transgender Rights and Hate Crimes Bill, which would add the words "gender identity or expression" to Massachusetts statutes and would effectively prohibit employers, schools, landlords, realtors, hospitals and more from discriminating against transsexuals.
Opponents of the bill believe it places unreasonable expectations on society and infringes on both freedom of speech and religion. Supporters see it as a civil rights issue and hope to move it out of committee before the Massachusetts legislature's end of session on July 31.
"It's going to be a long, hard process, as most civil rights movements are," said Gunner Scott, director of Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, at the parade.
Scott and "his" allies have had much cause to celebrate this summer.
Last month, the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) announced it will include a $75,000 lifetime benefit for transgender health care in its graduate student health insurance plan. This is a huge benefit for transsexuals, as health procedures – for example, hormone treatments, plastic surgery, hair removal, hysterectomies, artificial genital construction, vocal cord surgery and breast removal – are frequently sought by transgender individuals hoping to alter their appearance, but are often not covered under insurance plans.
Yesterday, the House of Delegates of the American Medical Association passed a resolution to "support public and private heath insurance coverage for treatment of gender identity disorder," a move that will likely encourage more insurance plans, like that at UCSB, to cover transgender procedures.
In Massachusetts last month, the legislature approved an $850,000 budget item for transgender programs in the public schools, and later this month, Scott's organization will team with a Boston-area group to put on an already sold-out Transgender Youth Summit, where Katherine Patrick, lesbian daughter of Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, will be a featured speaker.
For now, however, the Transgender Rights and Hate Crimes Bill, H1722, remains stuck in the Massachusetts legislature's Joint Judiciary Committee.
Contrada believes the bill will likely stay there, at least for this session. "The Senate chair of that committee, Robert Creedon, Jr., has not let a bill legalizing 'gay' marriage go forward, he wouldn't let out a bill decriminalizing sodomy, so I don't see 1722 passing this term," she said.
"I'm worried about next session though, especially if Creedon retires, as some have speculated he will. Once Creedon goes, that bill could pass."
If it does, Contrada worries that the ordinances that permitted the topless march in Northampton would become effective throughout the state and eventually farther. "Unless the whole country starts waking up and making noise," she said, "I don't know what is going to stop it."
More coverage and photos from the event can be found at the MassResistance website (but be warned: the photos are graphic and may be offensive to some).
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