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Massachusetts proposes bill to add third gender identity to state-issued IDs

Massachusetts State Senator Karen Spilka proposes having a third gender option on state issued IDs. PHOTO

A new bill proposed in Massachusetts could make it possible for residents to choose a third gender option, “X,” when being issued state identification.

If the legislation passes, Massachusetts would become the third state to allow for such an option.

The bill, An Act Relative to Gender Identity on Massachusetts Identification, proposed by Sen. Karen Spilka, has been discussed widely on both sides of the isle.

The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition defended it, claiming the safeguards it will put in place for those who identify as a non-binary gender and opponents are essential.

Mason Dunn, the executive director of the coalition, wrote in an email the legislation is important for people who do not feel included in the current system.

“Representation of nonbinary identities, as well as those who are intersex, on state IDs is an important step towards inclusion and validation,” Dunn wrote. “Having an ID that accurately represents who you are, who you know yourself to be and how you express yourself is important for safety as well as representation.”

Those opposed to the additional gender identity do not have sufficient evidence for their claims, he wrote.

“There is no evidence from the other states that have taken this step — Oregon, California and DC — this will cause an increase in safety concerns,” Dunn wrote.

The process for the change would be difficult, time consuming and expensive, Dunn wrote, so it is less likely people will exploit the system.

“There is no evidence that those who would want to exploit such a policy would want to wade through this process, much less be able to do so, given all the steps and procedures involved,” he wrote.

The Massachusetts Family Institute, on the other hand, argues government identification should be strictly objective.

Andrew Beckwith, the president of the institute, said one issue with the proposal is the difference between sex and gender. The bill calls for a change in gender, not sex.

“[State-issued identification] states someone’s sex, which is biological and anatomical,” Beckwith said. “Gender identity, per Massachusetts law, is based on someone’s internal sense of self and can be expressed in a variety of different ways at a variety of different times and can change.”

The change should not be reflected on state-issued identification, since it can interfere with the purpose of the identification, which is “to accurately identify someone for reasons, some which could be law-enforcement related,” Beckwith said.

“They’re supposed to reflect objective facts,” he said. “I may decide to be 6 feet 5 inches when I’m actually 6 feet, but 6 feet is what goes on my driver’s license.”

Several Boston residents expressed varying degrees of support for the legislation.

Ricardo Vasquez, 27, of Roxbury, said the legislation should not cause problems unless people use it as a way to mask their identity.

“They say the country’s free, so why not?” Vasquez said.

Kimberly Dixon, 42, of Brighton, said she has faith people will not misuse the “X” identity option.

“If you’re going through this, then you have to use your social security number … and you should be able to have the same rights as everyone else,” Dixon said. “It doesn’t matter what your gender orientation is.”

Susan Swirsley, 64, of Back Bay, said she thinks this bill is a step in the right direction for equality in the state.

“It’s completely innocuous,” Swirsley said.  “[This bill] will be in step with everything else we are doing towards inclusivity.”


  1. “They’re supposed to reflect objective facts,” he said. “I may decide to be 6 feet 5 inches when I’m actually 6 feet, but 6 feet is what goes on my driver’s license.” Precisely. Why bother having any information at all if it can be whatever anyone decides? If my eyes are blue but I identify them as brown, should they be changed to include my subjective perceptions? If I am 64 but identify as 24yrs, shouldn’t that be changed too to be “inclusive?” Where does this cow towing to subjective identity begin and end? Why is gender (when in actuality, the denoting of sex is what goes missing) the specific element that is allowed subjective acknowledgement on legal documents? I already know the answers to these questions but I do think more people should be asking them, for themselves. The answers are dangerous, and don’t make one feel good, like the virtue signaling of being inclusive of a vulnerable minority. If the trans lobby (not individuals) were so vulnerable we would not see the institutionalization of this dangerous ideology being implemented into our schools, medical institutions and law at a breakneck pace while any opposition to the general narrative of this being a positive for a tiny percent of the population without consequences to rest, is being silenced.

    • You are absolutely correct. People have no idea how dangerous this is becoming.

    • Height is one static, physical characteristic. Gender (and often sex) are lived experiences which may have a physical/visual component, and are highly personal (unlike, say, height). What one’s gender is marked as can determine how law enforcement and other establishments treat a person (whether through how they talk about them, where they group them in schools/health centers/sports, what biases or ideas they might hold). Consider cases where third gender markers aren’t allowed, for people who look visibly androgynous, or when even binary trans people aren’t allowed to change their gender markers. Very masculine-appearing people who have an “F” on their ID may be turned down from businesses by people who think the ID is fake. There is nothing dangerous about it; these gender markers will increase clarity, not lessen it.

    • The idea of a one’s sex as being described by a person as head to toe according to the state of genitalia at birth was conceived so people knew what is between other’s legs to avoid fire and brimstone wiping out their towns, lest they allow themselves to fall in love with the same “gear description” as themselves.

      If the idea that faculties of the body that haven’t anything to do with one’s private parts must be displayed a certain way (male hands, female hands, male legs, female legs, short /long hair, etc) to force people to conform to standards with no real reward for doing so, then aside from the fire and beimstone part, how is it so dangerous?

      There have been several towns throughout the malennias that have persons that displayed themselves in such varying way and more of the populous is starting to ask if God is truly a respector of persons then where is the fire and brimstone? Why are towns still standing, despite several shows of flaunting of such rules? Aren’t these same towns yet also enjoying increasing prosperity that it is written that only God can provide here in real time?

    • Height and eye color and age you can actually see. Unless officials are going to start checking what’s in peoples pants which is really inappropriate I don’t see how me carrying an F on my ID is helping anyone. Without this law I’m walking around with false identification because my gender isn’t legally recognized. I’ve had to have so many conversations convincing officials that my ID is not fake or stolen because no one believes its mine. How is having an X gonna hurt anyone? There’s still a picture and height information etc. Its just going to make peoples ID’s match them better.

  2. An outsider’s perspective. My driver’s licence her in Australia does not have a gender marker. Why do you need to have one at all? Remove gender markers and the problem is solved.

  3. Biological and anatomical sex differences are not that clear, contrary to what Beckwith says. And gender (how you present yourself in the world) is complex as well. We invented sex and gender to identify differences in bodies of people and other living beings.

    Trans and nonbinary people aren’t out to trick anyone. They want to be represented, respected, and recognized as human beings. Changing a marker on an ID is simple, there’s precedent, and it harms no one. I’m all for it.

  4. Exactly right, Jennifer. Also, an ‘x’ doesn’t negate the biological déterminantes. It is actually inclusive. If a Biological’ [sic] male is expressing her non binary identity as female, the ‘biological’ data element would only raise suspicion or worse. There is no need to limit gender to a binary choice on the face of a license when it’s clear now it is actually a full spectrum.

  5. As someone who does identify as non-binary, I think adding a third gender identity to state IDs is extremely important for my own validation as a person. I never felt female growing up, nor male, and I do not express myself as either. If I had an X on my ID rather than an F, I would be easier to identify by ID. And as a student, I find this extremely relevant because my housing at my college is affected by this law. My college records and identification are under state regulation, and lacking a third option for a gender marker affects where and with whom I can live. I have to live with people of a different gender than myself. It is incredibly uncomfortable. Oftentimes, I will hear from a roommate that I don’t need to define myself when I explain my gender, meaning that I should not put a word on it and to keep it to myself. It’s like coming out of the closet only for someone else to shove you back in. If I had the ability to change my gender marker to a third identity, I could feel confident expressing my gender to others and I would be able to live with other people who identify the way I do.