Have you ever looked at a form and not known what to do when asked to designate your gender as male or female?
Jason Grenier, a rising senior at Attleboro High School, recalls being in that position when he first came out as transgender.
Today, Grenier, 17, is comfortable answering “male” on a form, but he says there is much more to his identity than a simple ‘X’ in a box.
“I don’t identify as male because I’m transgender,” Grenier said. “I was raised a girl. I’m definitely not a guy.”
Even though Grenier has decided to stick with “male” when filling out official forms, he recognizes that would not be the case for all transgender people.
The confusion that some in the transgender community feel over identifying their gender on forms led Sen. Karen E. Spilka, D-Ashland, to sponsor a recently passed Senate bill that, if implemented, would create a non-binary “X” option for gender designation when obtaining a driver’s license, learner’s permit or ID card in Massachusetts.
Spilka says the bill is about freedom.
“Everyone should be free to live their lives in the way they feel most comfortable,” Spilka said in the release. “For those who do not fit neatly into the traditional categories of ‘male’ or ‘female,’ a non-binary option is a simple way to ensure their ID matches their true-lived gender identity.”
The bill passed the Senate 36-1 and local reactions to it, gleaned via Facebook Messenger, varied widely.
For Ashay Patel, 21, of Plainville, the issue is about equality.
“I think the state ought to accommodate all its people equally,” he said via Facebook Messenger. “As part of this, I feel that the state should accommodate non-binary people and provide them IDs in accordance with their gender identities.”
But Attleboro resident Chris Thornhill, 52, said he was in disbelief the bill passed so overwhelmingly.
“I’m old school, and believe we are born male or female,” said Thornhill, again via Facebook Messenger. “We should use what is printed on our birth certificates. I don’t care for the degradation of society moving more and more away from our religious roots, whatever they may be.”
Douglas Fayle, 63, of Wrentham, said that although he had some other concerns with transgender issues, he was supportive of the bill.
“This 67-year-old Libertarian has no issue at all with this,” Fayle said. “I can’t see an impact, positive or negative, with this legislation. Live and let live. You be nice to me, and I’ll be nice to you.”
Mason J. Dunn, 32, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, said, “All of this is working towards progress.”
While excited about the bill’s Senate passage, Dunn said that the Registry of Motor Vehicles was already taking steps to offer a non-binary option on driver’s licenses.
Dunn has been advocating for a non-binary option with the RMV for over a year and doing research for implementation, among other things, for four years.
Despite the fact that he expects to see a non-binary gender option for driver’s licenses in the near future, Dunn still says the legislation would serve a crucial role.
“It will hopefully solidify, in law, that it won’t be changed,” Dunn said.
The Attleboro chapter of PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, also feels strongly about the bill’s passage.
“We are all people,” Charlie Oliver, 70, of Attleboro, an officer in the chapter, said via email. “Some of us are different from others. We all deserve affirmation and equal treatment under the law. That is what we believe.”
Oliver stressed that gender was much more complex than simply male or female.
“We believe that one’s gender is comprised of how we act, how we look and how we feel,” Oliver said. “It is not a choice we make — it is who we are. And we feel that people should be able to express and live as who they are without discrimination or intolerance.”
The bill now moves to the House and, if passed, to the governor for his signature. The current legislative session ends July 31.