DOVE's In Support of Providing For Gender Neutral Designation on State Documents & Identifications



TESTIMONY OF DOVE (Domestic Violence Ended), Inc. IN SUPPORT OF

H. 3664 An Act providing for a gender neutral designation

on state documents and identifications

Dear Chairperson Pacheco, Chairperson Gregoire, and members of the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight:

Thank you for bringing to the attention of the Massachusetts House of Representatives the Act providing for a gender neutral designation on state documents and identifications. This legislation would enable non-binary people to obtain identification that accurately reflects their gender identity. House 3664 is in line with the 2016 passage of the Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination, and will take the necessary next step of fostering greater safety and equality for non-binary people who identify as neither male nor female.[1] DOVE, Inc. fully supports passage of House 3644.

My name is Sarah Karerat, and I am the LGBQ/T Advocacy & Outreach Coordinator at DOVE (Domestic Violence Ended), Inc., a multi-service organization providing comprehensive direct services and support for victims of dating and domestic violence of all genders. Our efforts address the isolation and vulnerability faced by survivors of domestic violence and the enormous emotional, psychological, and financial toll violence takes on victims, their children, and the community. The comments below draw from our observations of the lived experiences of the survivors with whom we have worked.

Passing House 3644 is an integral step in recognizing and welcoming the ways in which people live beyond the traditional gender binary. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines “sex” in the Affordable Care Act to include “gender identity,” referring to “an individual’s internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female, and which may be different from an individual’s sex assigned at birth.”[2] The National Center for Transgender Equality notes: “People whose gender is not male or female use many different terms to describe themselves, with non-binary being one of the most common. Other terms include genderqueer, agender, bi-gender, and more.”[3] Importantly, 35% of the 28,000 individuals across the United States who responded to the 2015 US Transgender Survey identified as non-binary or genderqueer.[4] This survey also detailed the experiences of transgender and non-binary respondents from Massachusetts specifically, and noted that 61% reported that none of their identity documents corresponded with their gender identity.[5] Having identification documents that reflect one’s true identity enables non-binary people to publicly represent themselves in a way that corresponds with their internal sense of self. Furthermore, of the 1,195 transgender and non-binary individuals from Massachusetts surveyed in the 2015 US Transgender Survey, nearly one-third (32%) who have shown identification documents with a name or gender marker that did not correspond with their presentation reported having negative experiences, such as harassment, denial of services, and/or being attacked.[6]

In DOVE’s work, we have seen astonishingly high rates of domestic abuse experienced in the transgender and non-binary communities, with the lifetime prevalence of domestic violence for transgender and non-binary individuals at 54%.[7] In every abusive relationship, the means and impact of abuse are shaped by the identities which a survivor embodies, and this holds true for survivors in the non-binary community. Creating wider acceptance for and affirmation of non-binary individuals through identification that corresponds with one’s true gender identity allows greater potential for autonomy rather than violence. By reducing the harm of oppression on non-binary people, we leave less room for abusers to use their identity against them in isolation, threatening to “out” them, or other forms of harm.

Fourteen states – including New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont – and the District of Columbia have already passed laws or regulations enabling people to choose a neutral gender marker on their identity documents. It is DOVE’s hope that Massachusetts will join them by passing House 3644 as we do our part to bring about greater respect and dignity for non-binary people throughout the state.


Sue Chandler, MPH, MSW Sarah Karerat

Executive Director LGBQ/T Advocacy & Outreach Coordinator

[1] An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination, S.735, Sess. of 2016 (Mass. 2011). [2] “Definitions,” Code of Federal Regulations, title 45: 561-563, [3] “Understanding Non-Binary People: How to Be Respectful and Supportive,” National Center for Transgender Equality, last modified October 5, 2018, [4] S.E. James et. al, “The Report of the 2015 US Transgender Survey” (Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality, 2016), 45. [5] “2015 US Transgender Survey: Massachusetts State Report” (Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality, 2017), 3. [6] “2015 US Transgender Survey: Massachusetts State Report.” [7] James et. al, “The Report of the 2015 US Transgender Survey,” 15.

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