By: Avery Cordingley
15 January 2020
In 2010, Arkansas became the first state to allow for an “X” gender designation on one’s license or state-issued ID. At the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, staff were instructed via an internal email that the department’s official policy was “to allow a licensee to change their gender as requested, no questions asked, no documentation required.” It wasn’t until 2018, however, that a resident took the state up on the offer to be legally recognized as non-binary on their state ID. Then Director of Communications Scott Hardin confirmed that the state’s stance had been on the books for eight years, despite having been enacted without any fanfare.
While Arkansas’ policies on gender markers have always been a bit murky, other states have, of late, been quite clear on the matter. In 2016, Oregon made headlines nationwide when a circuit court judge ruled that Jamie Shupe may change their legal gender designation to non-binary, becoming the first American citizen to obtain such a designation. At the time of the ruling, no policies were in place with the Oregon DMV or the State to put Shupe’s gender change to paper, but by 2019, any Oregon resident may change their gender marker to M, F, or X without being required to submit any proof of gender.
Oregon and Arkansas are no longer alone in allowing for an “X” on one’s license. 15 states and the District of Columbia currently allow for a non-binary “X” designation on a state ID or driver’s license. Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Hawaii will soon follow in 2020, Illinois in 2024. (National Center for Transgender Equality). A further four states allow for an “X” on one’s birth certificate (Senate and General Assembly of NJ, Chapter 58). The states all differ in how easily residents can update their documents. Some allow for a self-stated gender designation, several require doctor’s notes or other proof of one’s gender identity, while a couple go so far as to require the person to petition a judge for permission to have an “X” on their paperwork.
Wisconsin joins the majority of US states in having no provision to allow for a third gender option on its licenses or state IDs, and no announcements about a move toward such a change. Despite this, the state has made steps over the past decade toward easing the requirements for changing the gender marker on one’s documents. In Wisconsin, a person wishing to change their gender marker on their driver’s license or other state-issued ID only needs certification from a medical or mental health professional, rather than having to show proof of surgical treatment. Wisconsin does not have a specific form the applicant needs to have filled out, and will instead need to request a note or letter from their provider. This can further simplify the process for many applicants since any health provider will suffice for this letter; some states only accept this certification from a limited range of providers.
While Wisconsin does not currently have anything in the works to begin allowing for a third gender option on licenses or state IDs, recent nationwide trends shed a positive light on the matter. Since Oregon’s court case made headlines five years ago, state after state has made the move to add a third gender option with increasing rapidity. More states could amend policies of their own accord, or with shifts in government, or the courts could drive the change as residents bring suit against states.
In summary, while currently Wisconsin has no policy allowing for a third gender on licenses and state IDs, the momentum across the country is building. It is not out of the realm of possibility for policies to shift dramatically within the next few years. A decade ago, no states had policies legally recognizing a third gender, and now, over twenty states recognize a third gender in some capacity. In time, that number is likely to increase, and, optimistically, become the standard nationwide.
AAMVA. “Resource Guide on Gender Designation on Driver’s Licenses and Identification Cards.” American Association of Motor Vehicle Administration, September 2016. file:///C:/Users/Avery/Downloads/ResourceGuideOnGenderDesignationOnDLID_September2016.pdf.
“How Trans Friendly Is the Driver’s License Gender Change Policy in Your State?” National Center for Transgender Equality, n.d. https://transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/id/Drivers%20License%20Grades%20Nov%202019.docx.pdf.
New Mexico Department of Health. “New Mexico Becomes Fourth State to Allow Gender-Neutral Sex Designation on Birth Certificates,” October 19, 2019. https://nmhealth.org/news/information/2019/10/?view=810.
O’Hara, Mary Emily. “‘Nonbinary’ Is Now a Legal Gender, Oregon Court Rules.” The Daily Dot, June 10, 2016. https://www.dailydot.com/irl/oregon-court-rules-non-binary-gender-legal/.
Intersex and Genderqueer Recognition Project. “Resources: Non-Binary Gender. Intersex.,” October 14, 2019. https://www.intersexrecognition.org/resources.
Senate and General Assembly of NJ. Chapter 58 (Corrected Copy), Pub. L. No. P.L. 1984, § 1, 191 (2018).
Sosin, Kate, and Nico Lang. “Arkansas — Yes, Arkansas — Quietly Begins Issuing Gender-Neutral IDs to Non-Binary People.” Into, October 16, 2018. https://www.intomore.com/impact/arkansas-yes-arkansas-quietly-begins-issuing-gender-neutral-ids-to-non-binary-people.
———. “Utah among Growing Number of States Issuing Gender-Neutral IDs.” NBC News, March 18, 2019. https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/utah-among-growing-number-states-issuing-gender-neutral-ids-n984326.