Columnist Sen. Jo Comerford: Listen to Sammie

Posted: 09/21/2021 10:02:20 AM Every now and then there is a lightning bolt. A clear call to action. A courageous and galvaniz...



Posted: 09/21/2021 10:02:20 AM

Every now and then there is a lightning bolt. A clear call to action. A courageous and galvanizing force capable of moving mountains. (Or legislatures.)

Enter Sammie, 10, a human miracle. Sammie gave testimony in support of a bill that I introduced, S.2282, an act relating to gender identity on Massachusetts identification. This bill will be put to a vote in the Senate on Thursday, September 23.

S.2282 would allow someone to choose a non-binary option on driver’s licenses and other identity cards, codifying current practice. It also provides for similar options regarding birth certificates and directs the state to develop a plan for a non-binary option on all state forms and documents.

The the designation X appeared as a standard gender-neutral designation on ID cards and state records, and is available on driver’s licenses of at least 20 states (such as Massachusetts). Fourteen states allow an X designation on birth certificates. An X marker is also consistent with sex designation standards for internationally recognized identity documents and passports, as established by the International Civil Aviation Association. And more recently, the Biden administration announced that it strives to enable individuals to identify their own sex, including non-binary ones, on American passports.

It is real international and national progress. The Commonwealth must listen to Sammie and catch up:

“My name is Sammie. I live with my family – my mom, dad, younger brother and 10 pets plus a bunch of snails: a dog, a bearded dragon, five fish, a frog, and two guinea pigs. I just turned 10.

When I was born people thought I was a boy. But I am not. For a while when I started wanting to wear dresses and skirts and picking out pink and purple clothes, my parents were confused. For a little while we said I was a transgender girl. But I knew that wasn’t fair either. But it was the only language we knew – we immediately assumed that if I wasn’t a boy, I had to be a trans girl. So I told my parents that I was not a girl.

Then my parents and I searched the internet for gender words together. There were hundreds of them. We slowly scrolled down. When we got to “non-binary” and the definition – “gender identities that are neither male nor female” – I said, “that’s me! It was around my fifth birthday. In fact, on my fifth birthday, I was wearing a big dress with pink flowers and underneath I was wearing a “boy” swimsuit. (My party was on a beach.)

Some people like me, on their birth certificates and other important forms, would be put in the “male” or “boy” or “male” box. But even though I’m a man I’m not a boy and these boxes are fake. Whenever I have to choose between two genres, I have nowhere to be. It makes me feel invisible.

It happens to me all the time. There are several times that I am invisible – several times a day.

For example, in my school, when I was in second grade, we started using a math program called Reflex Math. We do it on iPad. When we got started, we had to create an avatar, and the first step was to choose “boy” or “girl”.

I have to choose to be someone I’m not if I want to participate. And every time, it reminds me that I don’t belong.

But I do belong, and the world continues to insist that I not.

If you’re still not convinced that it would be good to have more choices for people like me to express my gender, then think about this: what if you had to choose one of the two genres and you didn’t identify with any of them? What would you do? Would you like to lie?

Why would you not support this bill? What is wrong? Does this take away someone else’s rights?

If enough people don’t understand gender identity then people like me will be discriminated against and people will be mean. If the law protects people like me so that they can speak out like everyone else, then it will become safer for all of us. Then I won’t have to explain every time I meet someone in public and they use the wrong pronoun for me and I have to explain or not say anything at all which hurts me. If the law changes, then people will learn and those times when I have the wrong gender will not happen as much. Also, people who didn’t know this existed and who struggle or question their gender identity will know that they are not alone, that there are other people like me and like them, and so they will not be so sad.

With the support of loving parents, Sammie has the right to identify with herself. Sammie has the right to be seen. Sammie has the right to live without fear. And the legislature must ensure that all of our constituents have access to identity documents with non-binary gender markers as beautifully diverse as they are.

The House has two steadfast champions on this issue, Representatives Mindy Domb of Amherst and Marjorie Decker of Cambridge. I am also personally grateful for the commitment of Senate Speaker Karen Spilka and a large community of constituency advocates.

Let’s not keep Sammie waiting any longer.

Jo Comerford represents 160,000 people living in 24 towns and villages in the District of Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester in the Massachusetts Legislature.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Columnist Sen. Jo Comerford: Listen to Sammie
Columnist Sen. Jo Comerford: Listen to Sammie
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