Within the past couple years, 19 states plus Washington D.C. have introduced nonbinary IDs that include the gender-neutral option of “X”, in addition to the binary choices of female (“F”) and male (“M”).
Legal Recognition of Nonbinary Gender in U.S.
Because it is a scientific and medical reality that gender presents as a spectrum, it is difficult to assess a newborn’s sex in a meaningful or medically accurate way based on the current method of sexing: external genitalia.
Today, numerous scientific fields, including biology, endocrinology, physiology, genetics, neuroscience, and reproductive science, have confirmed that sex and gender exist as a spectrum, both for humans and across the animal kingdom.
External genitals are not an accurate marker of sex, because they are one of at least 10 different biological markers of sex.
Currently, sex gets assigned at birth based on external genitalia, but there are at least 10 medically accurate markers of sex (and likely more).
Biological markers of sex include:
- Chromosomes – Types of chromosomal expression.
- Gonads – Organs that produce gametes (testis or ovaries).
- Hormones –Types and level of hormone secretion, which vary within and across the sexes.
- Secondary Sex Characteristics – Features that appear during puberty, but are not involved with reproduction.
- External Genitalia – Genitals visible outside the body.
- Internal Genitalia – Genitals present within the body.
- Skeletal Structure – Sex differences may be seen in the pelvis, jaw bone, brow, and limb length and thickness.
- Gene Expression –Levels and types of gene expression. Genes dictate the proteins made by the body. Known genes that impact sex include DMRT1, SRY (produces Testis-Determining Factor), and Foxl 2.
- Brain Structure – Both brain structure characteristics (including the ratio of white matter to grey matter) and brain activation patterns vary by sex.
- Personal Identity – How a person self-identifies. It is often a result of the other factors interacting, making it a valuable marker.
Also, external genitals are highly variable across our species, frequently present as ambiguous, and can have both male and female sex organs or characteristics present.
Perhaps more importantly, performing sex assignment at birth based on external genitals does not recognize the critical role of a newborn’s mind on what will ultimately become their gender identity.
In a revealing study published May 2018 by the European Society of Endocrinology researchers discovered, “Brain activity and structure in transgender adolescents more closely resembles the typical activation patterns of their desired gender.” That is, people’s brains tend to reflect their true gender identity.
U.S. States Allowing Nonbinary IDs
Within the United States, more than 7,000 people have been issued gender neutral IDs.
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This number is rapidly expanding, because there are now 19 states (and growing) that grant identity documents with nonbinary options, as well as our nation’s capital of Washington, D.C.
At 19 states plus the District of Columbia (DC), this policy change affects close to 40% of the country.
Interestingly, most of the nonbinary ID programs have rolled out in the last 12 to 18 months, making gender neutral IDs a major movement within the United States.
These policies of these U.S. states and district are described below:
Arkansas – Since 2010, residents have been able to choose “X” on their driver’s license or state ID.
California – In early 2018, California introduced nonbinary birth certificates, while gender-neutral driver’s licences were introduced in 2019.
Colorado – In 2018, Colorado became the first state to issue an intersex birth certificate. It started offering a nonbinary option on driver’s licenses and state IDs in late 2018.
Hawaii – In June 2019, Hawaii Govenor David Ige signed House Bill 1165 into law. It adds a new gender option of “X” on its driver’s licenses and state IDs. The roll-out for the state’s gender neutral IDs will occur on July 1, 2020.
Indiana – Beginning March 2019, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles introduced driver’s licenses and state IDs that allow for a third gender option of “X”. Unfortunately, the state’s requirements for documentation of a nonbinary gender remain prohibitive for many individuals.
Illinois – In August 2019, llinois Govenor J.B. Pritzker signed into law a policy to allow for gender-neutral options on state driver’s licenses and ID cards. Unfortunately, the implementation of its policy won’t roll out until 2024 when the state’s current identity validation contract ends.
Maine – In 2018, Maine began offering state IDs to be modified to say: “Gender has been changed to X – Non-binary”. In mid-2019, the gender option of “X” was introduced for the state driver’s license.
Maryland – Maryland has offered gender neutral (“X”) driver’s licenses and state ID cards since October of 2019.
Massachusetts – In November 2019, the MA Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) introduced gender-neutral IDs with the option to choose “F”, “M” or “X”.
Minnesota – In October 2018, Minnesota introduced the option to choose “X” on state IDs. To deal with contention around the issue, Minnesota’s department of Drivers and Vehicles Services stated it was a “business decision” to offer a third option [“X”] to better serve all Minnesotans.
New Hamshire – In July 2019, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu allowed HB 669 to pass (without his signature), allowing for third-gender options on state IDs and driver’s licenses to roll-out in January 2020.
Nevada – In April 2019, Nevada began allowing residents to choose the gender “X” on state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards. The Nevada Department of Health and Human Services began allowing people to change the gender on their birth certificate as early as 2016.
New York – In January 2019, New York City introduced “X” as an option for birth certificates. The state is also considering adding “Nonbinary” on its driver’s license.
Ohio – While its state IDs are binary (male/female), Ohio allowed an intersex person to have “hermaphrodite” designated as their gender on their birth certificate in 2012.
Oregon – In June 2017, Oregon introduced “X” as a gender option for nonbinary and unspecified people on its driver’s license and state IDs.
Pennsylvania – Beginning August 2019, the state of Pennsylvania began offering driver’s licences and state IDs with an “X” gender marker.
Utah – In September 2018, Utah issued its first nonbinary state ID by court order. Utah has yet to introduce this option on a state-wide basis.
Virginia – On March 31, 2020, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed Senate Bill 246 into law, requiring the VA Department of Motor Vehicles to begin offering a nonbinary option (“X”) on state IDs and driver’s licenses. Virginia’s gender neutral markers will roll-out on July 1, 2020.
Washington – In early 2018, Washington state introduced nonbinary birth certificates
Washington D.C. – As announced by Mayor Bowser in June 2017, our nation’s capital supports the gender-neutral option of “X” on driver’s licences and ID Cards.
The Rising Trend of Nonbinary IDs
While it will take time, I am confident that other states and countries will also acknowledge a sex and gender spectrum, because science (and society) are progressing.
Has your state introduced nonbinary IDs yet? Let me know in the comments below.
Up Next: The Gender Spectrum: A Scientist Explains Why Gender Isn’t Binary
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