In the majority of U.S. states, driver's licenses and ID cards only allow for residents to mark themselves as "male" or "female." But as non-binary individuals become more visible, more and more states are beginning to recognize a third gender on identification documents. The states issuing IDs with a third gender option are leading the way toward a national, federally recognized third gender option.
Arkansas (yes, Arkansas!) is believed to be the first state to offer a third gender option on state drivers' licenses, allowing residents to choose between M for "male", F for "female", or "X." Arkansas' policy on non-binary IDs has been in place since 2010, according to HuffPost, when the state's assistant commissioner of operations and administration directed state workers to "allow a licensee to change their gender as requested, no questions asked, no documentation required." This non-binary ID policy seemingly went unreported until 2018, when two transgender residents told INTO they'd successfully obtained gender-neutral ID cards. So for seven years, Arkansas quietly remained the only state to issue gender-neutral ID cards.
Then, in June 2017, Oregon began offering a third-gender option on state-issued identification, via an "X" gender marker for "not specified." According to NBC News, the state moved to craft a policy regarding gender-neutral identification cards after a local judge granted Portland resident Jamie Shupe's request to be legally recognized as non-binary. Residents in Oregon can also obtain non-binary birth certificates, according to Reuters.
Similar policies regarding a third gender option on state-issued ID cards have since been implemented in California, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Utah, and Washington D.C., according to the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ policy tracker.
Earlier this year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a third-gender option on all city-issued identification cards in an effort "to further our commitment to justice and access for all transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming New Yorkers," according to Out. A bill geared at putting a third gender option on state-issued driver's licenses also was introduced in the New York state Senate in January, Reuters reported.
Maine is scheduled to debut new licenses and IDs printed with a third gender option in July, according to CBS News. Beginning in June 2018, the state introduced stickers that read "gender has been changed to X-non-binary" as a temporary solution for those seeking a gender-neutral ID. Vermont is also preparing to roll out a third gender option on state-issued driver's licenses and ID cards this summer, according to the state's Department of Motor Vehicles.
For its part, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a bill earlier this month that would add a non-binary gender option to state-issued driver's licenses and ID cards, according to the Illinois Eagle. Illinois House Bill 3534, "Gender Designations," still needs to be passed by the state's Senate and signed into law by the governor, however.
Washington state has adopted policies implementing a third-gender option for state-issued birth certificates but has yet to roll out an official policy regarding gender-neutral driver's licenses or ID cards, according to Seattle Weekly. Although birth certificates are often used to obtain other forms of identification, the paper reported it was unclear whether other Washington state agencies would follow suit.
While the list of states offering gender-neutral ID cards has grown significantly in the last three years, there's still a long ways to go until all 50 states recognize a third gender option. As more and more states opt to offer gender neutral driver's licenses and state-issued ID cards, some 2020 presidential candidates, including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris, have promised to support the federal recognition of a third gender option on identification documents if elected. Such a step would dramatically move the needle forward.