Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said Michigan driver’s licenses could have a gender-neutral option after her office completes a technology overhaul in 2021.
“We have heard the call from individuals and communities across the state seeking a sex-designation that matches their reality,” Benson said in a statement provided to MLive.
A spokesperson from her office said they haven’t decided what the third gender option would be called, but at least 14 other states already have gender-neutral IDs, most of which allow residents to select “X” instead of “M” or “F.”
Minnesota, for instance, added a gender-neutral option to its IDs after rolling out its REAL ID-compliant driver’s license system in 2018. The Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services Division said “gender identification is a self-descriptor like eye color, height, and weight.”
The federal government allows for gender-neutral driver’s licenses under the REAL ID Act passed in 2005.
Erin Knott, executive director of Equality Michigan, celebrated Benson’s announcement in a statement provided to Michigan Radio Tuesday.
“This impacts the transgender community as well as individuals that identify as non-binary or gender non-confirming,” said Knott. “This would remove having to designate or pick one of the two options and go to a gender neutral option of ‘X.’ It’s saying that all Michiganders, including members of the transgender community, deserve to live with dignity and respect.”
In November, Benson revised the state policy for changing the sex-indicator on a driver’s license or ID card to make it “easier for transgender people to obtain identification.” Under the new policy, people seeking to change the sex designation on an ID only need to fill out a form and pay a small fee. The old policy required Michiganders to present a birth certificate, passport or court order.
Her office claimed that studies show “that nearly 81 percent of the transgender population in Michigan lacks proper identification.”
“One of my goals is to reduce barriers for marginalized communities to participate fully in our society. The transgender community has faced both marginalization and violence without proper identification,” Benson said at the time. “This change returns to a policy that was in place before the issue was politicized, and that was utilized by both a Republican and Democrat secretary of state.”
Lilianna Angel Reyes, executive director of the Trans Sistas of Color Project, said “having a state identification that reflects how we see ourselves reduces trauma and stress when having to show your ID.”
“It validates who we are, especially in a world where people and systems constantly devalue our identity,” Reyes added.
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