Illinois has become the 15th state to give residents a nonbinary gender option on their identity documents, though they likely won’t be able to do so for a few more years.
On Friday, Illinois Gov. J.B. Prtizker signed House Bill 3534 into law, as the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Hot on the heels of the gender-neutral restroom bill Pritzker signed into law in late July, HB 3534 requires that all state-issued identity documents that designate gender will include a nonbinary gender option alongside male and female.
It is unclear how Illinois will denote its new third gender option, though other states like Arkansas and Oregon allow residents to select “X” if they don’t want to go with either “M” or “F.”
Many are celebrating the news as a victory for nonbinary trans people’s rights to safety and self-determination. Not having a state-issued ID that matches one’s preferred name and gender has been linked to increased risk of violence. Twenty-five percent of respondents to the National Center for Trans Equality’s 2015 survey on trans Americans reported having been verbally harassed for not having an ID that matched their preferred name and gender, and two percent were physically assaulted.
“This is about people having a legal document that demonstrates who they authentically are as a person,” Mike Ziri, public policy director for Equality Illinois, told the Sun-Times. “For nonbinary individuals, this is an issue of safety and security.”
Still, the law does have its critics. Stephanie Skora, the associate executive director of Chicago-based LGBTQ+ center Brave Space Alliance, told the Sun-Times that trans people would be better served by eliminating gender markers from state-issued IDs altogether, thus removing a number of time-consuming bureaucratic steps from the legal transition process.
Intersex activist and filmmaker Pidgeon Pagonis echoed Skora’s sentiments. “This is a major win for nonbinary people that should be celebrated and applauded, but I hope to see us move in a direction where sex and gender markers are removed from all identification,” they told the paper.
For those trans residents of Illinois who plan to make use of their state’s new third gender option, there is an unfortunate roadblock. ID cards with nonbinary gender markers cannot be offered until the state’s Secretary of State’s office updates its issuance system for driver’s licenses and other ID cards, and since Illinois signed a six-year contract with multinational identity solutions company IDEMIA in 2018, the Secretary’s office won’t be able to do so until 2024 — barring some unforeseen workaround.