“Boston is, and will remain, an accepting and inclusive City. I’m proud to raise the transgender flag at Boston City Hall today.”
Such was the message that Boston Mayor Marty Walsh sent out via Twitter on March 30 as the so-called “free speech” anti-transgender bus rolled into town. The mayor also held a press conference outside City Hall, where he raised the flag and stated, “”We will not be intimidated by discrimination or harassment. And we will not tolerate these types of actions. When you deny the experience of transgender individuals, you are denying the experience of basic human civil rights.”
Protestors met the bus as it traveled from Boston to Cambridge. Sponsored by conservative groups like the National Organization for Marriage, CitizenGo and the International Organization for the Family, the big, orange vehicle is brandished with the words “It’s biology: Boys are boys . . . and always will be. Girls are girls . . . and always will be. You can’t change sex.”
Joseph Grabowski, spokesman for the National Organization for Marriage, told the Boston Globe that the mission of the bus is to raise awareness about “so-called transgender rights,” and opposition perspectives on the “bathroom bill.”
“Unfortunately, [the issue] seems to be on a collision course with other rights of other citizens,” Grabowski said. “We are trying to have a respectful policy discussion that considers everybody’s concerns.”
Members of the transgender community and elected leaders railed against the message on the bus Thursday, calling it discriminatory and hateful. One person reportedly tossed a cup of coffee at the vehicle.
After the bus stopped at City Hall, Walsh raised the transgender flag on the plaza with Alex Zafris, a transgender woman who serves as the mayor’s deputy director of scheduling, hours after the vehicle had left the area.
Walsh told a large gathering of college students, elected officials, and members of his administration that his office is “always going to support our transgender community and defend their fundamental rights.”
Walsh said he did not know about the bus’s City Hall visit until earlier Thursday.
But he had a message: “We will not be intimidated by discrimination or harassment,’’ Walsh said. “And we will not tolerate these types of actions. When you deny the experience of transgender individuals, you are denying the experience of basic human civil rights.”
At around 11:30 a.m., the bus was parked outside the State House, where people held signs and chanted, rallying against the words displayed on the vehicle.
The bus then continued to Cambridge, where students had anticipated its arrival. According to The Crimson, Harvard’s student newspaper, the College’s Office of BGLTQ Student Life hosted a banner-signing event this week, after learning the bus would possibly venture to the area. The event was intended to reaffirm the office’s commitment to supporting transgender rights.
Freedom Massachusetts, which fights for the equal treatment of transgender people statewide, said the groups’ presence in the Boston area was “downright frightening.”
“This bus is the embodiment of the kind of harassment and discrimination that study after study documents our community combats on a daily basis,” said Kasey Suffredini and Mason Dunn, cochairs of Freedom Massachusetts, in a statement. “We urge our community — especially our vulnerable transgender youth — to remember that the overwhelming majority of Bostonians and Bay Staters see you and support you.”