WASHINGTON — The State of Washington will let residents choose from three genders when getting their driver's license in the near future.
Besides being able to identify as Male and Female on their driver's license, residents can now choose to identify as Gender 'X'. The 'X' option is a gender that does not classify as Male or Female. State officials say the move is a step forward for inclusion rights.
The Washington State Department of Licensing recommended the change earlier this year. The new gender option is also available on instruction permits and state-issued Identification Cards. In the State of Washington, the 'X' option now appears on a state-issued birth certificate when requested by parents. The change was made by the Washington State Department of Health in 2017. The Department of Health has processed 518 requests for gender changes since January 2018, with 59 requests for a gender 'X' classification.
Elayne Wylie, co-executive director of Gender Justice League, thinks the move by state officials is a step in the right direction.
“It’s imperative of our government to include as many people as possible so that people actually feel like they’re part of society, and that they’re seen and heard,” Wylie said.
Teresa Berntsen took the role of Director for the state's Department of Licensing in 2018. Residents who were frustrated that the state agency did not offer a nonbinary option, which prompted the change. According to state officials, residents whose birth certificates identified their gender as 'X' were turned away from the Department of Licensing.
“Identity is a fundamental human right,” Berntsen said. “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.”
After Berntsen directed DOL staff to look into the rule, the agency said staff discovered that the DOL has the ability to propose the change. The change will not be implemented until the Department of Licensing holds public hearings on the issue sometime in August, with officials hoping the public hearings will give those who choose to identify as a nonbinary option the opportunity to explain why the change is needed.
After the public hearings, DOL staff will examine public hearing testimony, emails and phone calls to determine if the change to the proposed rule language is necessary. The gender 'X' option could be implemented by the Washington State Department of Licensing as soon as October, officials said.