A debate over assigning gender to Maryland driver's licenses boiled over Thursday as a legislator called a transgender woman "sir."
WASHINGTON — Legislation that would give Maryland residents the option of selecting “unspecified” for their gender on driver’s license applications led to a lively debate Thursday as a delegate on the state house’s transportation committee repeatedly argued with one of the bill’s supporters.
Del. Bill Folden, R-Frederick, said people should be listed on government documents as either male or female.
“I’m not concerned about how they feel about themselves,” Folden said. “The issue is you are born one way or the other.”
Dana Beyer, of Chevy Chase, Maryland, is a transgender rights activist and a Democrat running for the state senate. She is a transgender woman who recoiled when Folden addressed her as “sir” at one point in their debate.
“You really do need to respect peoples’ sense of who they are,” Beyer said. “Sexual development is very complicated. Gender is your sense of yourself as a man or a woman or as neither.”
Under the bill, Maryland drivers would be allowed to have an “X” where their gender would usually be displayed.
The legislation would prohibit the Motor Vehicle Administration from requiring someone to provide proof of their sex. Also, the MVA would not be able to deny an application if the gender provided did not match the gender displayed on other documents associated with the applicant.
If the bill were approved, Folden argued, it would effectively let drivers create a false document.
Beyer took issue with that characterization.
“That’s an insult to trans people because you are challenging who they are,” she replied.
Folden fired back.
“Because you don’t feel that way doesn’t mean that you are still not, physically, a male or female,” he said.
“Yes it does,” Beyer said.
“No, it doesn’t,” Folden replied. “It’s a fact.”
Folden then drew awkward groans from people who were watching in the chamber as he referred to Beyer as “sir.”
“Excuse me?” asked Beyer, who identifies as a woman.
Three states – Oregon California and Washington – along with Washington, D.C., all recently gave drivers the right to have an unspecified gender on licenses.
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