Metro Weekly

D.C. bill will allow residents to choose non-binary gender on driver’s licenses

Bill would allow genderfluid or non-binary people to select "X" for their gender instead of male or female

Brianne Nadeau – Photo: Facebook.

A proposed D.C. Council bill would allow District residents to select a non-binary gender option on their driver’s licenses, learner’s permits, or resident ID cards issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

If the bill were passed into law, applicants for various forms of identification who identify as genderfluid or outside of the gender binary would be allowed to choose “X” for their gender marker, instead of M or F.

“The District has always sought to be a safe and welcoming place for our LGBTQ community, and today we are continuing to deliver on that legacy,” the bill’s sponsor, Councilmember Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), said in a statement. “Gender is a spectrum and some of our residents do not identify as male or female. Current licenses force residents to conform to genders that don’t accurately reflect their identity. This has not only a practical impact but also a deeply negative emotional and mental health impact. This bill changes District identification documents so they can accurately reflect the needs of our residents.”

The measure was co-introduced by Councilmembers David Grosso (I-At-Large), Robert C. White, Jr. (D-At-Large), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Elissa Silverman (I-At-Large), and Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), guaranteeing it at least 6 votes on the 13-member council.

Earlier this month, Oregon became the first state in the nation to allow more than two gender options on identity documents, following a court judgment in favor of a non-binary resident. The California State Senate passed a similar bill earlier this year. Currently, countries like Canada, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Australia, and New Zealand recognize non-binary genders on identification documents. 

“It is important to have different ID options that respect gender diversity and do not feel oppressive to those of us who do not conform to the binary,” Dr. Zelaika Hepworth Clarke, a non-binary resident and social worker at The DC Center for the LGBT Community, where she works with community members that identify as neither male nor female.

Should the bill pass the Council, and be signed into law by Mayor Muriel Bowser, it would then have to undergo a congressional 30-day review period. While Congress has traditionally kept out of D.C. affairs, current Republican leadership could choose to halt the bill from going into effect or attempt to use the bill as a campaign issue to gin up support from social conservatives.

Some GOP lawmakers are opposed to any proposals that deviate from traditional, binary ideas of gender. Others have cited national security concerns, as did New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did when he vetoed an unrelated bill that would have allowed transgender New Jersey residents to amend the gender on their birth certificates to match their gender identity.

“Every person deserves to have their identities affirmed and respected by their governments,” said Xavier Persad, legislative counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, which is supporting the bill. “Ensuring that identity documents reflect the broader diversity of gender identities is a matter of both principle and public health. We thank Councilmember Nadeau for her leadership on this important bill and we urge the Council of the District of Columbia to continue their role at the forefront of the fight for equality by adopting this measure.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com