Massachusetts has officially became the 16th state to offer trans, nonbinary, and intersex residents a nonbinary option on their driver’s licenses and state ID cards.
The new gender designation was rolled out Tuesday, according to a spokesperson for the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Terry McCormack, the deputy communications director and digital director for Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, claims the state “will now recognize three gender designation options: ‘male,’ ‘female,’ and ‘nonbinary.’”
“These options are available for new credential issuance, renewals, and amendments of licenses and ID,” McCormack told LGBTQ+ news site NewNowNext.
That means that anyone in Massahcusetts who needs an ID can get the new gender marker whether they’re getting their first ID, renewing one, or they want to update their current one to show a different gender.
The change was implemented without legislative approval. However, a separate proposal introduced by Massachusetts State Representative Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge) would require that all government documents which inquire about an individual’s gender have a third option other than “male” and “female.”
Decker says the RMV’s decision is a welcome change to the state’s existing laws.
“I think it’s great news and I look forward to making that consistent for all state documents,” she told the Boston Globe on Tuesday. “It shouldn’t be hard.”
Local residents applauded the rollout of nonbinary IDs in Massachusetts, saying it lets them be seen for who they truly are. According to estimates, up to 35 percent of trans people do not identify as exclusively male or female.
“Seeing the ‘X’ gender marker for IDs [gives] me hope that I will be able to update my birth certificate soon, too, and fill out our marriage license with an accurate representation of my gender identity and who I am,” Boston resident Ryley Sage Copans told NewNowNext.
That experience is all too common, as the vast majority of trans people in the U.S. lack accurate IDs or documentation. In many states, trans and nonbinary individuals need either a doctor’s note or to have completed surgery in order to get updated documents, while Tennessee and Ohio do not allow transgender people to correct their birth certificate at all.
According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, only about 11 percent of trans people had their accurate name and gender on all of their documentation.
Many states have updated their ID policies in the four years since that survey was conducted, so that number is likely significantly higher today. Still, when trans people don’t have correct IDs, it can lead to issues with doctors, housing, employment, and even police. Not having updated documentation can also expose trans people to being outed, which can lead to discrimination and violence.
The other states that offer gender-neutral options on IDs include Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Vermont. Washington, D.C. also had a third gender marker option as well.