For years states have required anyone seeking a driver's license or other official ID to declare themselves either male or female. Gender nonbinary and intersex individuals were left in the position of having to pick one or the other, despite neither accurately representing their identity.
While that problem persists in a number of states, since 2017 there has been fast moving progress in the direction of offering another choice.
The following states have moved to offer a third gender option on their official IDs, allowing their residents to avoid daily hassles that can occur when one is forced to present identification, such as during traffic stops and at the airport, that does not match their identity.
In July 2017, Oregon began issuing driver’s licenses and official state ID cards with "X" as a gender option. The change came after a ruling the year before granting Portland resident Jamie Shupe the right to legally change their gender to nonbinary.
California passed the Gender Recognition Act in the fall of 2017, which included a provision within that law to begin recognizing a third gender option on licenses, which went into effect at the start of 2019. The state defines nonbinary as "an umbrella term for people with gender identities that fall somewhere outside of the traditional conceptions of strictly either female or male."
Maine started offering licenses with an "X" gender marker beginning in June 2018, following a formal complaint. It was filed with the Maine Human Rights Commission by Portland attorney and Equality Maine President Zack Paakkonen, on behalf of Ian-Meredythe Dehne Lindsey, who requested a driver’s license with a nonbinary gender marker the previous year.
In the fall of 2018, Minnesota's Department of Public Safety said it would allow Minnesotans to list "X" as a gender marker instead of just "F" and "M" as part of its adoption of the new Real ID standard. It did not officially announced the update as part of that transition initially.
In May 2019, out Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed two pro-LGBTQ bills into law, one of which made it easier for trans and gender non-conforming Coloradans to update their birth certificates and other official state IDs.
Utah has been issuing licenses with "X" gender markers since 2018, but they have been difficult to obtain. Mel Van De Graaff became the first person issued a nonbinary driver's license in the state, in September of that year.
"Because it’s up to the judge, a lot of nonbinary people just don't try and get their markers changed," De Graaff told NBC News. "A lot of them don’t have the monetary means to do so. I really believe the only reason I got mine granted was because I got an attorney, and attorneys are not cheap."
Beginning in March 2019, Indiana's Bureau of Motor Vehicles announced it would begin issuing driver's licenses with a third gender option.
At first, those seeking that option could provide proof in the form of a certified, amended birth certificate or a signed and dated physician's statement. A state House panel voted 10-3 to allow only a birth certificate as proof.
The Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles announced in June 2019 it would begin offering a third gender option.
"When an ID does not match the gender identity or expression of the holder, the person can be exposed to potentially uncomfortable situations," said DMV Commissioner Wanda Minoli in a statement. “Thanks in large part to the hard work of Vermonters in the LGBTQ community, we saw an opportunity to allow a third gender option for increased safety and inclusion of all Vermonters.”
Republican Gov. Chris Sununu let a bill become law without his signature allowing a third gender option on driver's licenses in July 2019, to take effect January 2020. The year before, Sununu signed a bill adding gender identity to the state's anti-discrimination laws as well as another banning conversion therapy for minors.
In summer 2019, Maryland began allowing citizens to identify as nonbinary on licenses, state IDS, and on their voter registration cards.
“I think that government forms should reflect the diversity of the people that the government is serving and representing, and this is one way of reflecting that,” said Del. Julie Palakovich Carr, who pushed for the change to registration cards.
Arkansas began issuing gender neutral IDs in October 2018.
A spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration said it had been policy at that point for eight years, when it was quietly rolled out at the end of 2010.
Nevada became the latest state to allow a gender "X" marker on identification documents in April 2019.
Alexandra Walden, the public information officer for Nevada’s Department of Motor Vehicles, said the policy update had been in the works for years.
In July 2019, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced a third gender option would become available on licenses as early as October.
"Identity is a fundamental human right," said Washington state's Department of Licensing Director Teresa Berntsen in a statement.
"We, as the Department of Licensing, serve every Washington resident. And the driver’s license or the state-issued ID cards are your primary identification documents. So by us acknowledging there are more than two forms of gender, we are acknowledging basic human rights."
Pennsylvania announced it intended to begin issuing licenses with an "X" gender marker option by 2020.
The change has been "something that's been on our radar and people have been asking for," state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt told CNN.
Illinois approved a law to issue gender neutral licenses and state IDs, which will take effect January 1, 2020, in August 2019. However, when the new licenses and IDs will be available is an open-ended question.
It could take as long as 2024, when the state's contract with the company it works with to make its IDs comes to an end. Officials hope to be able to issue them sooner.
Massachusetts became the 16th state to offer a third gender option on driver’s licenses and ID cards in November 2019. Three options are now available regarding gender: "male," "female," and "nonbinary."
In addition to the above states, individuals living in Washington, D.C. can also choose a third gender option on their licenses.
In the District of Columbia, applicants can self-select the gender marker that best fits them, either "M," "F," or "X," and do not need a provider's signature.