Thanks to a new policy by Mayor Muriel Bowser, Washington D.C. issued the first gender-neutral driver's license in the nation on Tuesday. The new licenses allow D.C. residents to choose a third option for gender identity, "X," enabling gender nonconforming or nonbinary people to select a marker that aligns with their gender identities. This means that those who do not identify with binary gender categories of male or female can finally have an identification card that represents who they truly are.
For government officials, the decision to expand gender identity options represents a way to consider a community whose concerns have come to the fore recently. The move comes after, in the past year, a number of court orders that have legally designated individuals as gender nonbinary.
“Washington, DC has long been a leader in LGBTQ rights and gender issues, and this change is the most recent example of our city’s commitment to inclusivity,” Mayor Bowser said in a statement. “The safety and well-being of all Washingtonians is my top priority, and whenever we are presented with an opportunity to improve the lives of residents and better align our policies with DC values, I will take it. I hope to see other jurisdictions follow in our footsteps.”
The Department of Motor Vehicles also noted that D.C.'s new gender-neutral license was a sign of respect for diverse gender identities. "It's saying that we respect the rights of all individuals. And all individuals deserve the right to say who they are," said Lucinda Babers, director of the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, according to NBC Washington.
Advocacy groups praised the new policy, because for gender nonbinary individuals, the city's decision to create a gender-neutral identification option enables the gender non-conforming to come a step closer to being fully recognized in their most authentic identities.
"This is a tremendous first step that acknowledges the experiences and humanity of our nonbinary community members," said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), according to CNN. "The District has set the new gold standard for access to accurate gender markers on identification documents in the United States." The NCTE helped advise the D.C. local government on how best to implement its new policy.
Among the first to get driver's license with the new gender designation was Jay Wu, media relations manager at the NCTE. "Before today I was walking around with an inaccurate gender marker. This is more accurate because I identify as nonbinary," Wu told CNN. "It's just going to help everyone come to a place where we respect everyone, regardless of their gender," Wu said, according to NBC Washington. Bustle reached out to Wu and the NCTE, but they did not immediately return request for comment.
D.C. is the first jurisdiction to make such license available, but Oregon is likely to become the first state in the country to do so. It announced earlier this month that it would make gender-neutral licenses available beginning July.
Nic Sakurai, an instructor at American University's education school, was also among the first to receive one of the new licenses. Sakurai, who uses they/them pronouns and identifies as agender, said that they were very happy to have a license that recognized their gender identity. They told CNN, "I'm glad to finally have an ID that actually matches who I am."