In news that's perfect for Pride Month, another state has joined Oregon, California, and Washington, D.C. in allowing nonbinary residents to recognize their gender on driver's licenses. By placing a sticker that reads "gender has been changed to: X – Non-binary" on the back of cards, Maine driver's licenses offer a gender-neutral option now. Beginning next summer, that "X" will appear directly on the card, the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles announced Monday.
The change came about after an attorney filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission on behalf of a South Portland resident, Ian-Meredythe Dehne Lindsey, who was denied a gender-neutral license in 2017. The commission then invited Dehne Lindsey to participate in mediation, which eventually led to Maine's new license design, The Portland Press Herald reports.
Until a full redesign is complete, Maine driver's licenses will still display either an “M” or “F” on the front, with a sticker on the back clarifying that the person identifies as nonbinary. But Dehne Lindsey and their attorney are still excited about the move.
“Having the sticker validates my existence,” Dehne Lindsey told The Portland Press Herald on Monday. “It was extremely important for me and for non-binary individuals in general. It shows that we’re human beings and worthy of being recognized.”
The 33-year-old office worker, actor, and activist hated having to choose between male or female on their state ID, telling The Portland Press Herald the decision made them feel invisible.
“I would pick ‘female’ and just die a little bit inside,” Dehne Lindsey said. “I would spend 15 to 20 minutes agonizing over it.”
Oregon became the first state to officially recognize gender-neutral driver's licenses in 2017. After Jamie Shupe, an Army veteran who identifies as nonbinary, fought for the right to legally be identified as non-binary in 2016, the state went a step further to add an "X" gender classification to driver's licenses.
Following in Oregon's footsteps, California passed the Gender Recognition Act in October, which made it easer for nonbinary and transgender folks to obtain state-issued documents reflecting their gender identity. LGBTQ advocates applauded the move, while also pushing for the same inclusion to bleed into all aspects of life.
“With this simple change, California has made daily life much safer and easier for many gender nonbinary and transgender people,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center, in a statement released at the time. “We’re asked for identification everywhere from banks to bars to airports, and it can be devastating and even dangerous for nonbinary and transgender people to navigate life with an I.D. that doesn’t reflect who they truly are.”
Maine's redesigned licenses that will recognize nonbinary residents without a sticker will be available in July 2019, and local LGBTQ organizations are thrilled. In order to get the temporary sticker, Maine residents can submit a gender designation form with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
“This change represents the next major step towards full legal recognition of the lives of transgender Mainers,” said Quinn Gormley, executive director of MaineTransNet, in a statement. “Affirming and accurate IDs help to break down significant barriers to housing, employment and education faced by many transgender people.”
Zack Paakkonen, Board President of EqualityMaine and the Maine attorney who filed the initial complain on behalf of Dehne Lindsey, also praised the agreement reached with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
“We know gender is a spectrum and some people don’t identify as male or female,” Paakkonen said in a statement. “It’s important that driver’s licenses and other forms of ID recognize people who are non-binary. Removing barriers for people is critical to helping all of us live healthy, productive lives.”