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Q&A with Mason Dunn, Keynote Speaker at TransWeek

by Jaiden van Bork

Much of America has long struggled to overcome its bias and hatred toward the transgender community. Despite significant progress made by LGBTQ activists and allies within the last few decades that have resulted in protections for things like same-sex marriage, transgender Americans still face an uphill battle in many parts of the country. Mason Dunn, the Director of Education & Research at the Massachusetts LGBT Chamber of Commerce has been fighting for such protections for more than a decade, working for the ACLU of New Hampshire, the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC), GLSEN National, and more before arriving at their role today, even co-chairing the historic 2018 Yes on Three campaign in Massachusetts, which sought to keep in place protections against discrimination in public spaces for transgender individuals. Now, in a time of unprecedented political turmoil over the lives of transgender people nationwide, Dunn is coming to Provincetown’s TransWeek to lead a presentation entitled “STILL Under Siege: Trans Rights, Equality, and Policy!”

Jaiden van Bork: Given the experience you have, where do you feel we are today in terms of transgender equality compared to when you first started advocating for this professionally?

Mason Dunn: In Massachusetts, I think we’re in a really powerful place. We’ve passed several trans-inclusive laws since 2018, including maintaining that gender-affirming care is a human right. We have been able to add nonbinary gender markers to state IDs. All of those are really big and important wins in Massachusetts. Nationally, we’re in a very scary and very different place. We are seeing states that are passing anti-trans laws limiting or outright banning gender-affirming care… [and] drag bans on drag performance artists [which] are attacks on gender expression, and LGBTQ+ rights. We are seeing violence continue to be pervasive in our communities, and states that are passing these anti-trans laws are also seeing rises in discrimination and violence—particularly against trans-feminine people of color. And all of these laws, these rates [of violence], these incidents are troubling, alarming, and terrifying, honestly, across the country.

JVB: How do you feel being in this unique position in Massachusetts impact the work you do?

MD: I’ve worked with a lot of folks who have moved to Massachusetts out of states that have anti-trans legislation, policies, or just outright violence, who come here seeking that refuge of another state where we can live free from those concerns (at least in this moment). But I find that also deeply troubling because not everybody has the ability to pick up and leave their home state—much less the desire to… So, in Massachusetts, we have this ability to be a bit of a sanctuary for LGBTQ+ folks experiencing discrimination. And I should say—just because we have these laws doesn’t mean discrimination goes away. In Massachusetts, there are absolutely still incidents of discrimination and troubling issues happening here in the Commonwealth.

JVB: You mentioned a wide variety of attacks on trans rights across the country. In the last week alone, we’ve seen a number of court rulings dealing with bans against gender-affirming care, specifically for transgender youth. As someone with a law background, what is your take on how these court battles are playing out nationwide?

MD: Yeah, you know, I think the big thing that everybody’s kind of wondering about is the Supreme Court. If some of these cases rise up to the level of the Supreme Court, where will we be? And I certainly have concerns about that. But I think we are heading in that direction, for better or worse, whether it be healthcare, whether it be students’ rights or youth access, or now a drag ban—any of these things could end up in the Supreme Court in the coming years… and the current makeup of the court is not one that is leaning in the direction of trans inclusion and human rights. So, I think that there’s a concern there. That being said, we have seen a lot of lower courts and district courts who are affirming the rights of transgender people. We have a number of situations where state laws are under an injunction [and] they can’t be enforced until the courts weigh in. And in those cases, we have seen a lot of courts say [the laws are] attacking somebody’s health care, somebody’s freedom of speech, et cetera, [and that] it should be preserved—therefore following in the realm of what we want for trans rights and LGBTQ rights broadly.

It is so individual and it depends on what state you’re in, what court case, what circuit you’re in, all of that. I do have hope that the greater good will come about, but we have to stay vigilant. We have to stay involved and informed and we have to hold our elected officials accountable… Everything from your local school board elections all the way up to your state representatives and senators…

JVB: Your presentation at this year’s TransWeek is called “STILL Under Siege: Trans Rights, Equality, and Policy!” What can we expect from this discussion and what message are you hoping to bring to attendees?

MD: I think number one would be that we are a powerful community—and even amongst the attacks, even amongst hate or misunderstanding. If Yes on Three taught me anything, it’s that when we tell our stories, when we raise our voice, and when we step into our power, we can one-hundred percent change the world, and that whatever that world is—whether that world is a school board election, whether that world is your family, whether that world is your state or your country—we can do those things. And to not let the haters be the loudest voice in the room. But when we tell our stories, when we humanize who trans and gender-diverse people are—we change things, and that’s where the future is headed.

Mason Dunn will present his keynote speech on Friday, October 20, 1:30 p.m. at the Crown & Anchor, 247 Commercial St., Provincetown, as part of TransWeek. For information about this event and about TransWeek in general, visit

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Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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