As Election Day nears, Tufts students are increasing efforts to spread awareness about protecting transgender nondiscrimination laws through the Yes on 3 campaign. The name of the campaign refers to Question 3 on the 2018 Massachusetts ballot that will either uphold or repeal a law that “adds gender identity to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination in places of public accommodation, resort, or amusement” according to state’s election website.
Juniors Sean Murphy and Martina Tan have been active volunteers for Yes on 3 since June of this year, when both were recruited during the Boston Pride Parade. According to Murphy, the campaign has two main branches: public education and volunteer recruitment. Both sectors are active through phone banks and in-person efforts, Tan said.
As a volunteer leader, Murphy is involved in in-person volunteer recruitment at Tufts. He is also responsible for “action leading,” which involves training volunteers to recruit even more people to the campaign. According to Tan, she and Murphy became volunteer leaders after other leaders in the campaign noticed their heavy involvement and participation.
“You become a volunteer leader … if you’re devoted to the cause and have a good set of skills that will make you a good leader,” Tan said.
Murphy echoed this sentiment, adding that he finds the campaign rewarding.
“We do this because this is worthwhile work,” he said.
In their roles, Murphy and Tan make sure the Yes on 3 campaign events at Tufts run smoothly and consistently each week, they said. According to Murphy, phone banks take place on Tuesday nights from 6–9 p.m. at the LGBT Center and Thursday nights from 6–9 p.m. at the Women’s Center.
Murphy and Tan, along with other volunteers, run the Thursday night phone bank, as well as in-person recruitment efforts on Fridays from 2–5 p.m. near the Mayer Campus Center. The events began this semester, they said.
Both efforts are centered around public education, which includes calling Massachusetts voters to talk about why nondiscrimination is important, according to Tan. At the in-person events, Yes on 3 volunteers speak with students about transgender rights, according to Murphy and Tan. They encourage students to attend campaign events at other locations, whether at Tufts or in the Greater Boston area.
Tan noted that students don’t have to be registered to vote in Massachusetts to help out.
“I’m registered to vote in New Jersey, and I have my business there, but the fact that [Question 3] is on the ballot is a little ridiculous to me, and if I can do something about, it I will,” she said. “We’re still looking for people who are willing to get more involved in the campaign.”
She also pointed out that the campaign is inclusive toward everyone.
“There’s no one way that a trans rights activist looks,” Tan said.
Murphy highlighted his personal connection to the campaign, as he wants to preserve the nondiscrimination rules that incentivized him to attend Tufts in the first place.
“At the most basic level, these are protections that every person deserves … [and] took place for a great reason,” he said. “When I first came here, I thought, ‘Tufts and Massachusetts [are] going to be an awesome place to be gay,’ and I know a lot of my trans friends came here from out-of-state because they thought [Tufts] is going to be a wonderful place to be trans, and that is in jeopardy. I want to protect it.”
Ben Rutberg, a rising senior currently working as a remote team organizer for Yes on 3 during her semester off, recounted a similar experience of having met trans people who moved to Massachusetts because they thought it would be safe, and how the Yes on 3 campaign reaffirmed that safe environment.
“I had never been in a space before where being trans was not only okay but totally normal … and that being cis[gender] was not the norm and I was like, ‘That’s really amazing,’ so I kept going back,” she said.
Rutberg continued to become heavily involved in volunteering for the campaign, eventually taking a staff position. Rutberg, who identifies as trans and uses she-series pronouns, feels a deep connection to the goals of the campaign.
“This campaign is a chance for us to make a statement that we’re not going to stand for that and that we love trans people,” she said. “It’s a tough job, but I’m really glad I’m able to do it”
Rutberg also strongly encourages students to become more involved in the effort to protect transgender rights, especially in an environment of other like-minded, passionate students.
“Massachusetts is almost unique in that we have so many college students who are all so bright and enthusiastic and engage with the issues that, if they register to vote, and if they vote, that will put us over,” she said. “ This is one of the most pivotal battles the trans rights movement has seen and will see.”
Murphy criticized the history of trans rights activism in America, noting that past LGBTQ rights campaigns seemed to to prioritize select issues while ignoring others.
“When same-sex marriage was becoming an issue, and when people would raise issues concerning trans rights, a lot of the response was ‘No, that’s too radical right now — we’ll come back for you,’” Murphy said. “I think there is something to be said about communities sticking together.”