We all know that standing up for what is right and speaking out to defend others is the right thing to do, yet for many it is the most difficult. Not so for David J. Breen, Clinical Associate Professor of Law at Boston University, current Fenway Health Board Member, and former Board Member of the Massachusetts Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus. David was the only one in a packed house who chose to publicly confront Candidate for Boston City Council, District 3, Doug Bennett, for Bennett's multiple transphobic references at DotOUT's Candidate Forum at the Ledge in Dorchester last Monday night.
KnowThyNeighbor.org attended DotOut's Candidate Forum and Endorsement Event, held on August 29, 2011, to witness whether or not another District 3 City Councilor Candidate, John O'toole, could be palleted by the Dorchester LGBT that make up this powerful community organization for his having signed the petition to end same-sex marriage back in 2005. The answer to this was "no." O'Toole's explanation was all over the place and DotOUT activists publicly rose to request that others not endorse him. O'Toole a once community favorite was knocked out in the first round of votes and DotOUT's Endorsement went to Craig Galvin.
But what transpired between David Breen and District 3 Councilor Candidate Doug Bennett took for me center stage. Bennett, the only of the ten candidates to NOT fill out DotOUT's Candidate Questionnaire (which by the way included as its first question Support for Transgender Rights), began his Transphobic Demonstration by declaring his support verbally for "The Bathroom Bill." I kid you not. The room remained without reaction. No other candidate corrected or admonished him, nor did any of the room full of LGBT Dorchester voters or politicos such as Felix Orroyo, Suzanne Bump or Sonja Chang-Diaz. And at Bennett's first go around, neither did moderator and BayWindows Editor, Sue O'Connell.
And it got worse as later on during the question and answer period when asked what candidates would do to stop crime in Dorchester, Doug Bennett, said that right out this door there are at least twenty-five prostitutes that work the street and about four of them are "men dressed as women." Again, no retort from the room. Maybe it was shock, maybe it was fear of making a scene, maybe it was acceptance of Bennett's ignorance. I know that many if not most Transgender people reading this are most likely saying right now that they are not surprised at the reaction.
Then at the last round of public questions which were pushing for answers about same sex marriage and the 2005 petition, Doug Bennett acknowledged once again that he signed the petition in 2005 along with O'Toole, but he supports "gay marriage" though "wanted Massachusetts to vote on it" and he supports "The Bathroom Bill." This is when David Breen brought the forum to a halt by yelling out, "You don't call it the Bathroom Bill. Do you realize how offensive that is to our community. Do you even understand why it is offensive to say Bathroom Bill?" Bennett responded, "Because it is called the Bathroom Bill at the State House!" And then, another candidate, Marydith Tuitt, yelled out "Oh, no it is not, it's called the Transgender Equal Rights Bill!"
David Breen's action caused Sue O'Connell to ask David to explain to the room why the term "Bathroom Bill" was offensive and David responded, "this is what the Far Right uses to demean transgender people." O'Connell then took stage and explained to all candidates that many of us in the room are minorities. She suggested that everyone think about the absolute worst fears that the majority opinion would create to demonize the minority you represent. And then to take that message and to "put it on a bumper sticker" and "that is what referring to The Transgender Equal Rights Bill as 'The Bathroom Bill' would be like."
Later on that evening I heard Breen speaking to Bennett. Doug Bennett apologized to Breen for referencing the term "Bathroom Bill." I interjected and explained to Bennett how equally offensive and dangerous it was for him to make the references that he did about the prostitutes as "men in dresses." He apologized for that also. What worries me is that Bennett claimed in the forum to have been making his rounds, door to door in Dorchester, meeting voters, many of which were in the room. At what other places did Bennett use the term "Bathroom Bill?" It concerns me that he was not reprimanded at some other point. Maybe the MTPC should make a telephone call to Bennett immediately.
I was impressed with DotOUT's forum. I saw a questionnaire that gave the Transgender Equal Rights Bill first billing. I was impressed by the nine candidate's comprehensive and supportive answers to the trans bill even though technically as Boston City Councilor's they have no direct vote on the bill. I was impressed by the many activists who rose up to challenge John O'Toole on his name being associated with a petition which would have stopped marriage equality. But I am doubly impressed with Mr. David J. Breen for standing up for Trans People and calling out bigotry and ignorance.
Tom Lang, Director
To VIEW the answers to All the Boston City Councilor (District 2,3 and 7) Candidates' Answers to DotOUT.org's question on Transgender Rights see below link