3rd gender option on state identifications could ‘change lives’

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There could be a big change heading to your local Secretary of State office in 2021. A change the department says, “could be life changing.”

The department says by that time they hope to be able to offer Michiganders a third, non-binary gender option on driver’s licenses and state ID cards.

“We’ve done this because we’ve heard from communities and individuals across the state who would like to be able to reflect their sex on their driver’s license and feel that the two options don’t offer that currently,” Jake Rollow, Director of Communication at the Secretary of State said. “We are in the very preliminary stages of exploring whether or not this would be feasible in 2021.”

In 2019, Secretary Jocelyn Benson revised the policy by which people could more simply change the sex marker on their driver’s license. That change reverted to a previous, streamlined policy, the office believes it’s simpler and less political.

“It’s the policy that had been in place under both Republican and Democrat Secretary of State,” Rollow said. “It just required folks to fill out a form and then the change would be made.”

To some it may just seem like a letter on a plastic card. Your sex, on your driver’s license, but to others, like the folks at the Grand Rapids Pride Center it means validation and potentially something even more.

“Having to check Male or Female on the license… makes me I feel inauthentic, and it makes me feel as though I’m not conveying who I really am,” Leslie Boker, Proud to be Healthy Coordinator for the Grand Rapids Pride Center said. “Being misgendered is damaging, and it’s especially damaging over and over and over time.”

Boker identifies themself as nonbinary, a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively male or female. The state hopes to avoid misgendering on drivers’ licenses and state ID cards soon by offering an X for nonbinary Michiganders, instead of the traditional M or F.

“When people can’t put what the sex that they live with on their driver’s license or state identification, that leads to confusion as well as harassment and all sorts of other problems for those members of our society,” Rollow said. “There are people who, for whom this would change their lives in a significant way, and so they are thrilled that this is a potential opportunity for down the road.”

Fourteen other states and the District of Columbia already offer gender-neutral identifications. Michigan’s decision to do so, will be made possible only by pending upgrades to the state’s mainframe technology.

Those upgrades, Boker says will change their life.

“I always wondered if that was an option, if X was an option for me, would I do it?” Boker said. “Now I know I want to be the first in line.”