Massachusetts law about gender identity or expression

Laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on gender identity or expression law.

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Table of Contents

Best bets

Gender identity guidance, MCAD, December 2016.
Written to educate the public on gender identity discrimination, the rights of individuals, and evidence that can be submitted to report discrimination. It also explains the obligations under Massachusetts law that employers, housing providers, mortgage service providers, and places of public accommodation must follow.

Gender identity guidance for public accommodations, Mass. Attorney General, September 2016.
Written to help business and other places of public accommodation comply with the law. It includes general information, guidance on the use of restrooms and locker rooms, and what to do if someone is asserting gender identity for an improper purpose.

Guidance for MA public schools creating a safe and supportive school environment, Mass. Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education.
A guide for school administrators, teachers, and parents on topics about gender identity, including what it means, gender transition, names and pronouns, privacy, gender markers on student records, restrooms and locker rooms, physical education classes, athletic activities, and more.

Massachusetts laws

MGL c. 12, § 11I 1/2 Interference with right to access to reproductive and gender-affirming health care services; abusive litigation; civil actions

MGL c. 46, § 13(e) Amending a birth certificate
A person who has completed medical intervention for the purpose of permanent sex reassignment may have their birth record amended. As of July 1, 2015, surgery is no longer a prerequisite to getting a new birth certificate.

MGL c. 76, § 5 No person shall be excluded from or discriminated against in admission to a public school of any town, or in obtaining the advantages, privileges, and courses of study of such public school on account of race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin or sexual orientation.

MGL c. 112, § 275 Bans gay or gender identity conversion therapy for children under 18

A health care provider shall not advertise for or engage in sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts with a patient less than 18 years of age

MGL c. 127, § 32A Housing and treatment of inmates with gender identity that differs from assigned sex at birth

MGL c. 127, § 39A(c) Segregated units - mental health screening; prohibitions on housing in units
The fact that a prisoner is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex or has a gender identity or expression or sexual orientation uncommon in general population shall not be grounds for placement in restrictive housing.

MGL c. 151B Discrimination
Unlawful practices (under section 4) include discrimination in employment, the insurance or bonding business, real estate loans, renting, and credit services.

MGL c. 175, § 108N Disability insurance policies; discrimination based upon race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, pregnancy, gender identity, sexual orientation or marital status prohibited

MGL c. 272, § 92A Advertisement, book, notice or sign relative to discrimination; definition of place of public accommodation, resort or amusement
Specifies that this includes restrooms in relation to gender identity.

MGL c. 272, § 98 Discrimination in admission to, or treatment in, place of public accommodation

St. 2011, c. 199 An act relative to gender identity
Amends a number of laws to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

St. 2016, c. 134 An act relative to transgender anti-discrimination
Gives transgender people the right to use restrooms or locker rooms consistent with their gender identities, and includes language to provide "legal action [against] any person whose assertion of a gender identity is for an improper purpose."

St. 2022, c. 127 An act expanding protections for reproductive and gender-affirming care

Massachusetts regulations

501 CMR 4 Hate crimes

603 CMR 26 Access to equal educational opportunity
Includes anti-discrimination regulations regarding school admission (26.02), curriculum (26.05), athletics (26.06) and more.

950 CMR 131 Alternative address for those engaged in protected health care services
Part of the Address Confidentiality Program. Provides protections for those engaged in the provision, facilitation, or promotion protected health care services, including gender-affirming health care services.

Massachusetts executive orders

Executive Order 592 Advancing workforce diversity, inclusion, equal opportunity, non-discrimination, and affirmative action

City and town bylaws

Amherst, Human rights bylaw, article 3, page 12
"...No person shall be denied any rights guaranteed pursuant to local, Commonwealth, or federal law on the basis of race or color, gender, physical or mental ability, religion, socio-economic status, ethnic or national origin, affectional or sexual preference, Gender Identity or expression, Genetic Information, or age.

Boston, Human rights, chapter XII, § 12-9
Includes in its protections, "Gender identity or expression shall mean and include a person's actual or perceived gender, as well as a person's gender identity, gender-related self-image, gender-related appearance, or gender-related expression whether or not that gender identity, gender-related self-image, gender-related appearance, or gender-related expression is different from that traditionally associated with a person's sex at birth."

Cambridge, Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, plus commission, Title 2, c.2.125
Also, Human Rights Commission, c. 2.76 defines gender identity as, "a person's gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person's physiology or assigned sex at birth."

Northampton, Human rights commission, § A-II-15.0 
Focuses on discrimination “on the basis of race, color, sex, age, religious creed, disability, national origin or ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, family status [having minor children], military status or source of income.”

Somerville, An ordinance securing the rights of individuals seeking gender affirming care and reproductive healthcare

Federal laws and policies

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 USC § 12211 (b)(1) 
"Under this chapter, the term "disability" shall not include...(1) transvestism, transsexualism, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments, or other sexual behavior disorders."

Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII
Prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex.

34 C.F.R. Part 106 Nondiscrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance

"Dear colleague letter," U.S. Dept. of Justice and Dept. of Education, February 22, 2017.
Rescinds requirement for public schools to allow students to use bathrooms appropriate for their gender identity.

Executive Order signed on January 25, 2021 by President Joe Biden.
Enables all qualified Americans to serve in the military.

Selected cases

Web sources

Amend a birth certificate following medical intervention for the purpose of sex reassignment, Mass. Registry of Vital Records and Statistics.
Explains how to amend your birth certificate, with links to forms.

Division of Insurance bulletin 2014-03: Guidance regarding prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity or gender dysphoria including medically necessary transgender surgery and related health care services, June 20, 2014.

Enforcement guidance on harassment in the workplace, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
"Sex-based discrimination under Title VII includes employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity."

Fact sheet: amendment of a birth certificate following completion of sex reassignment [M.G.L. c. 46, §13(e)], Mass. Registry of Vital Records and Statistics.
Summary of the process of amending a birth certificate.

GLSEN: Navigator
LGBTQ+ youth have access to varying levels of support and protections under state laws across the country. These maps provide communities with information on policies, experiences of students, and resources on how to advocate for positive school transformation that benefits all youth, including LGBTQ+ students, in K-12 learning communities.

Guidance for Massachusetts public schools creating a safe and supportive school environment, Mass. Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education.
"This guidance is intended to help school and district administrators take steps to create a culture in which transgender and gender nonconforming students feel safe, supported, and fully included, and to meet each school's obligation to provide equal educational opportunities for all students, in compliance with G.L. c. 76, § 5 and the state regulations."

ID documents center, National Center for Transgender Equality.
"Find out how to get a legal name change where you live and update your name/gender on state and federal IDs and records." Easy to use site provides information for all 50 states plus federal.

Massachusetts allows nonbinary marker on licenses, IDs, Mass. Commission on LGBTQ Youth.
"The 'X' marker is available on both driver’s licenses and non-driver state IDs, and is in full compliance with national REAL ID requirements to allow for domestic air travel and other interactions with the federal government."

Massachusetts birth certificate toolkit, GLAD, 2020.
Step by step directions for changing gender and name on a Massachusetts birth certificate.

Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition
Website includes transgender publications, and information and forms to change your Massachusetts driver's license/state ID card, Social Security card, passport or birth certificate.

Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth
Advises others in state government on effective policies, programs, and resources for LGBTQ youth. The Commission also provides training and technical assistance to schools across the state, organizes the statewide network of Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs), and works to make schools safer for all students.

Pronoun information, UMass Stonewall Center.
A pronoun is a word that is used instead of a noun (such as a person's name) or a noun phrase to refer to individuals. Pronouns can be in the first person singular (I, me) or plural (we, us); second person singular or plural (you); and the third person singular (e.g., she/her, he/him, they/them, ze/zir) or plural (they/them).

Transgender rights, GLAD.
Provides articles on a variety of topics, including education and health care, with specific information on insurance coverage for gender transition treatment (scroll down to the "Healthcare" section).

Types of discrimination in public places, Mass. Commission Against Discrimination.
"All persons, regardless of gender identity, have the right to full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of any place of public accommodation under law."

Workplace practices to recognize gender identity diversity, Commission on LGBTQ Youth.
Guidance for Massachusetts state agencies.

Print sources

"Documenting gender," by Dean Spade. 59 Hasting L.J. 731 (2007-2008).
Outlines policies "that govern the recognition of a change in a person's gender by a state or federal administrative agency." 

Gay, lesbian and transgender clients: a lawyers guide, American Bar Association, 2008.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender family law, West, 2008, with supplement.

Massachusetts employment law, 5th edition, MCLE, loose-leaf.
Chapter 13, Gender identity discrimination.

"The (mis)categorization of sex in Anglo-American cases of transsexual marriage," by John Parsi. 108 Mich. L. Rev.1497 (2010).
The "lack of national uniformity [in changing birth certificates] makes post-operative transsexuals' recognition of their acquired sex complicated at best and impossible at worst."

"Sexual and gender variation in American public law: from malignant to benign to productive," by William N. Eskridge, Jr. 57 UCLA L. Rev. 1333 (2010). 

Sexual orientation, gender identity, and the law in a nutshell, West Academic Publishing, 2022.

Transgender family law: a guide to effective advocacy, AuthorHouse, 2012.

Transgender persons and the law, ABA, 2015.

Transgender persons & the law, MCLE, 2016.

Contact   for Massachusetts law about gender identity or expression

Last updated: April 30, 2024

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