Several Lane County residents are planning a trip to an Oregon Driver and Motor Vehicle Services office on Monday, the first day they can request an Oregon driver’s license with the gender marker X, meaning “gender nonspecified.”
Under a rule approved June 15 by the Oregon Transportation Commission, residents who do not identify as either male or female — M or F on the application paperwork — will have a third option for their license.
The rule is in response to a court ruling that allowed Jamie Shupe, 52, of Portland to declare nonbinary status on their birth certificate. The DMV said, “In order to comply with the order, DMV needed about a year to implement the change. Time was required to study state laws, update computer systems, work with business partners such as law enforcement and courts, and change administrative rules.”
All that is done, and now X can be used to mark the gender.
Aimed at adapting to changing societal understanding of gender, the DMV rule goes deeper than simply adding an X, however.
In addition to allowing for a nonbinary option, the DMV has simplified what had been a long and expensive road changing gender identification on Oregon licenses, DMV spokeswoman Lauren Mulligan said.
For a transgender person to change the M on a driver’s license to F, or vice versa, license holders either had to present a birth certificate that was changed by a court order, or a gender designation form signed by a medical provider confirming that the person has gone through and completed some form of gender reassignment.
But as of July 3, Mulligan said, all that will be required is a nonprovider attestation — a fancy term meaning the individual has to state in person that they identify as M, F or X.
“It feels pretty empowering that there aren’t these gatekeepers who validate your existence anymore,” said Oblio Stroyman, executive director of Trans*Ponder, a Eugene transgender activist group.
With the rule change and Oregon House Bill 2673 — legislation that will make it easier to change the gender designation on Oregon birth certificates — legal sex designation changes in Oregon soon will be drastically simplified. The bill became law on May 30.
“In a myriad of ways, Oregon is creating protections to care for its LGBTQ people,” Stroyman said.
The rule is similar to administrative and legislative changes taking place across the nation.
In California, The Gender Recognition Act, which also allows for a third gender option on state IDs, is awaiting the signature of Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.
Wednesday, the District of Columbia began issuing gender-neutral driver’s licenses. Oregon announced its rule change before D.C. did, but the nation’s capital was the first to make the licenses available.
The new laws reflect a changing dialogue about gender and gender fluidity. More people are simply asserting that their gender identity is different from their physical gender currently or at birth. More people are requesting preferred pronouns. A person can specify whether they want to be referred to as he, she or they, for example. From Netflix to the Kardashians, transgender men and women, and now nonbinary people, are gaining more attention and representation.
Eugene has become more accepting. The city hosted its first Queer & Trans Pride March on June 25.
“People often ask, ‘Are there more trans or gender diverse people now than there ever were?’ ” said Stroyman, who is nonbinary. “It’s hard to say. It’s not a new phenomenon; it’s just that people feel more safe and comfortable.”
Different genders, IDs
The changes mean some governmental administrative adjustments, and raise questions, even among nonbinary people.
An Oregon resident now can legally have a different gender on their driver’s license than on their birth certificate, Social Security card and passport. Stroyman said this could cause problems.
For example, most employers in the state require two forms of ID from potential employees. If the gender doesn’t match on the different identifications, Stroyman said an employer might discriminate against that individual.
“There’s a lot of fear about what that (X) marker will mean,” Stroyman said. “If you’re in the job field and your license and your Social Security don’t match, and somebody happens to notice you … it outs you.”
According to Jonathan Modie, spokesman for the Oregon Health Authority, the agency is updating rules for how a person can change the gender on their Oregon birth certificate.
Modie said that when HB 2673 goes into effect, a person legally can have their name and gender changed through a formal attestation. An applicant would fill out a form that goes directly to the Oregon Health Authority’s vital records department.
The rule-making process hasn’t begun for implementing the law, so it is unclear what the form will include, but Modie said that the law requires only an affirmation from the person seeking a to specify their gender.
Stroyman said that while several nonbinary Eugene residents already are planning a trip to the DMV next week, some others are hesitant about changing their IDs because of international travel and the fear that different genders on different IDs will expose them to mistreatment.
There is no nonbinary option on United States passports, and the process to change from male to female requires a medical certification “that indicates you are in the process of or have had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition,” according to the U.S. Passports and International Travel website.
Stroyman, who advocated for the rule change at a DMV hearing in May, said he will not be headed to the DMV on Monday, for safety reasons and the political climate.
But Stroyman said it’s important that people who want their licenses to match their gender identity can have that now.
“Having the state validate that people’s identity exists is a huge deal,” Stroyman said. “We’re removing barriers for marginalized folks that are financial, emotional, and certainly barriers to safety, and it’s important to remember that it isn’t hurting anyone else.”
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“In a myriad of ways, Oregon is creating protections to care for its LGBTQ people.”
— Oblio Stroyman, Trans*Ponder executive director