Why I support the trans bill in Massachusetts.

The revised trans’ rights bill was voted on last night and passed the House 95-58. That’s good! YAY! Look at me, I’m supporting! Now it has to pass the Senate (oooh, it PASSED!). And then His Excellency Governor Deval Patrick will sign it into law. He has already committed himself to doing the honors.

Now, I finally got my hands on a copy of the REVISED bill. Thanks, Cathy Brennan! And now you have a copy of it too. Enjoy!

Guess what? The “gender identity” definition looks just like Connecticut’s! (<<see analysis in link)

“Gender identity” shall mean 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. Gender-related identity may be shown by providing evidence including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of the gender-related identity, consistent and uniform assertion of the gender-related identity or any other evidence that the gender-related identity is sincerely held, as part of a person’s core identity; provided however, gender-related identity shall not be asserted for any improper purpose.

Please note that this is somewhat more restrictive than what was originally proposed. I do not like this Connecticut-version much better (because it still does not require objective evidence of a “gender identity”), but it’s a nod towards two of my primary concerns in regard to overbroad definitions of “gender identity;” namely, lack of proof and fraud by sex offenders or other males who would take advantage of this legislation to prey on females by invading female-only space.

The main reason I support this bill, however, is because it presents minimal risk to female rights and safety. Our feminist legal critique has focused on the public accommodations problem of “gender identity” legislation. The revised MA bill does not present a conflict in regard to sex-segregated public accommodations and male-bodied intrusions into these female-only spaces.

The bill applies, specifically, to contexts in which discrimination can have life-altering consequences. Contexts wherein discrimination has the power to change the course of your life and limit your economic opportunities– such as being fired or not hired for a job, or being evicted and/or denied housing. These are critically important institutionalized decisions with far-reaching personal consequences. I don’t really fancy myself a writer (I’m more of a conceptual theorist) and I’m short on time for detailed explanation, so I’ve made a little chart to summarize the distinction:

CONTEXT of anti-discrimination protection

Practical social CONSEQUENCE of legal protection


Economic stability and mobility


Prevention of homelessness


Property ownership

Public accommodations

Embarrassment or temporary discomfort

The long-term CONSEQUENCES of being denied access to the opposite sex’s bathroom in a public place is really NOT THE SAME AT ALL as being denied a job or housing or a mortgage.

Feminist legal advocates have been chipping away, one tiny little step at a time, taking whatever legal progress or protections we can get, when we can get them. Property ownership. The vote. Birth control. Serving on juries. Abortion. Marital rape. Equal pay….we don’t exactly have equal pay yet (see Lilly Ledbetter). Nor do women have the legal protection of a constitutional Equal Rights Amendment. We always have more work to do. Women. know. this.


  1. I support this definition of gender identity as a reasonable compromise to ensure that nontrans people cannot take advantage of an overbroad definition of gender identity (that is, the first sentence in the definition above) that would allow said nontrans people unfettered access into female-only space.

    I hope the Maryland General Assembly can pass a comprehensive gender identity anti-discrimination bill in 2012 (including public accommodations) that has a definition similar to this.

    Congratulations to Massachusetts folx on their victory!

  2. […] Massachusetts State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz introduced Senate Bill 735, which would allow gender identity to override sex for all public accommodations, including “a rest room… bathhouse, seashore facilities or swimming pool.” Current Massachusetts law allows sex-specific spaces for  “rest room(s), bathhouse(s) or seashore (facilities) as may be segregated on the basis of sex. You can read about the issues with this legislation here. […]

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