According to multiple reports, Oregon became on Thursday the first state in the U.S. to allow non-binary people to identify as such on state IDs, driver's licenses and permits, awarding a massive civil rights victory to non-binary people and LGBTQ activists.
As of July 1, residents of Oregon will be able to eschew the gender binary on state-issued forms of identification by marking the place where they previously would have had to use an "M" for "Male" or "F" for Female" with an "X", according to a statement from Lambda Legal, a civil rights group that fights for the rights of LGBTQ people in America.
David House, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles, told the Guardian the DMV made its decision after Jamie Shupe, a non-binary Oregon resident, became the first person in the U.S. to have their gender legally recognized as non-binary.
According to House, "there was very little opposition" to allowing non-binary residents to use an "X" on DMV-issued forms of ID.
“This change in ID is a huge piece of validation for me,” J Gibbons, a 26-year-old non-binary person told the Guardian. “The state of Oregon sees me for who I am. I don’t even think ‘excitement’ can capture all of my emotions about this change.”
In a statement issued Thursday after Oregon made its decision, Lambda Legal explained why giving non-binary people the legal means to identify themselves as such on state ID is so much more than ink on paper.
"In national surveys, people who have to present ID that does not match their gender identity or expression frequently report being harassed and are sometimes attacked or assaulted," Hayley Gorenberg, Lambda's Deputy Legal Director, said, "Encounters with police, hospital staff, employers, airport staff, bank tellers — really anyone checking identification in the ordinary course of life — often take on threatening dimensions when our ID misrepresents our gender."
According to a 2015 study, 68% of transgender adults do not own a form of ID with the gender identification they prefer.
"[This] can create a lot of barriers going through everyday life," Arli Christian, state policy counsel for the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a phone call, "We found that nearly one-third of transgender people who showed an ID that did not match their gender presentation were verbally harassed, denied benefits or services, asked to leave an establishment or even assaulted."
June 15, 2017, 6:55 p.m.: This story has been updated.