Sitting through the hearing this morning was so inspiring! The hearing committee had few questions, but allowed speaker after speaker to eloquently present their perspective on why moving this bill forward promptly is crucial. Not only were there parents and adults who spoke, the stream of young people who overcame their fears, reluctance and anxiety to speak in front of nine legislators was amazing. We recognize their presence as revolutionary. There were no speakers in opposition to the legislation and we hope the Committee will vote in favor of moving this forward.
A huge shout out to our very own Aspen Eberhardt who testified for the very first time. Thank you to MassEquality for getting the notice of the hearing out, for MTPC for helping us to get organized, to Diego Sanchez from PFLAG National who changed his schedule to testify today. Thank you to everyone who submitted your testimony and to everyone who came today, not just to speak but to be present.
Below is the testimony Greater Boston PFLAG submitted to the committee alongside a packet of parent and personal testimonies:
JOINT COMMITTEE ON STATE ADMINISTRATION AND REGULATORY OVERSIGHT
Testimony Of Greater Boston PFLAG In Support Of H.3664/S.2203 An Act providing for a gender neutral designation on state documents and identifications
Greater Boston PFLAG (GBPFLAG) is the eastern Massachusetts chapter of the National PFLAG network which is a volunteer-supported organization made up of LGBTQ+ individuals, family members, and allies that works to create a society that is respectful of human diversity so that all people can live with dignity. We fully support the passage of H.3664/S.2203 which will provide for a gender neutral designation on state documents and identifications, because it is the right of all people to have their official documents truly match who they are.
Massachusetts already allows for self-designation of “Male” and “Female” on birth certificates and driver’s licenses, consistent with existing Massachusetts laws which define “gender identity” as “a person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth.” This is a critical policy that benefits many people, but on its own this binary choice is insufficient to fully encompass the diversity of gender identities which exist. Nonbinary gender identities have been recognized by cultures throughout history and around the world, as well as by legal systems in the United States and other countries, medical authorities, and researchers.
The addition of Gender X marker is crucial for members of the Commonwealth who are intersex, who are nonbinary, and others who currently are incorrectly represented by either a “Male” or “Female” selection on their state-issued identifications such as drivers license, birth certificate, and other legal documents. If gender identity is protected and nondiscriminatory, we must as a state provide legal documents that encompass all gender identities – Gender X gives us a single marker which can stand as a catch-all for all those not currently represented.
At all ages and all life stages, possessing documentation which matches gender identity improves quality of life and mental health. In the case of a child of one of our members, living in DC allowed them to get a driver’s license with an X gender marker, which has made a major difference in validating their identity, increasing their sense of societal acceptance, averting the gender dysphoria that results from being repeatedly “misgendered,” and educating officials, health care personnel, and others about our culture’s evolving understanding of the gender spectrum. In addition to this member’s experience and our testimony, GBPFLAG is submitting a packet of testimonials from our members that demonstrate the personal impact this change in Massachusetts law will make in their lives.
Although our existing state Gender Identity Guidance for Public Accommodations provides four separate ways in which gender identity may be established legally, the reality of lived experience of individuals is that physical documents such as birth certificate and/or driver’s license documentation are frequently treated as the definitive proof. We have seen this extensively in our position as an educational organization. Often, teachers, healthcare providers, peers and casual strangers ask individuals “Yeah, but what’s on your birth certificate? What’s on your driver’s license?” Having the availability of a Gender X marker protects an individual’s constitutional right to informational privacy and minimizes emotional burden in a variety of situations from bars to hospitals, employment documents to housing applications. According to the 2015 US Transgender Survey of 28,000 respondents, nearly one-third (32%) of respondents who have shown an ID with a name or gender that did not match their gender presentation were verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave, or assaulted.
In 2016, a report from Boston Insight and Fenway Health noted that about 7.2% of Massachusetts adults report being LGBT according to Department of Public Health estimates and that nearly 16% of 18- to 24-year olds identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or something else. When we combine this data with the Human Rights Commission’s 2017 youth study which reported that 46% of LGBTQ youth identified as gender-expansive we can predict a future in which a full 8% of Massachusetts residents might not have access to identification which match their identity- an estimated 443,000 individuals!
For all the same reasons that the self-designation law was necessary and beneficial, both of these bills are but the next step to more accurately reflecting the reality of human experience in our laws and legislation. As of this summer, there are fourteen states which issue driver’s license and other legal documents with a gender neutral third option beyond the binary identifiers of “Male” and “Female”, one of which has been available since 2017. It is time for Massachusetts to move forward in joining their number.
We are extremely grateful and proud that the Massachusetts Legislature is willing to discuss this proposal; we are optimistic that you will see the value and validity to ensuring that our citizens are legally recognized consistent with the truth of their identity, not forced into a choice in which neither is correct.
1 Gender Identity Guidance for Public Accommodations, September 1, 2016.
2 James, S.E. et al, (2016) The Report of the 2015 US Transgender Survey, Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality.
3 Anna Brown, 5 key findings about LGBT Americans. June 2017. www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/06/13/5-key-findings-about-lgbt-americans
4 The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, 2018 Gender Expansive Youth Report