ELLSWORTH — Maine residents who identify as neither male nor female will soon be able to choose a non-binary gender option when applying for a driver’s license or state identification card, according to a press release issued by the Maine Secretary of State’s Office on Monday.
Before the change goes into effect in 2019, the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) will issue stickers reading “Gender has been changed to X – Non-binary.”
According to a press release from the ACLU of Maine, the change came about after Ian-Meredythe Dehne Lindsey, a resident of South Portland, was denied a license with a non-binary gender marker last year due to “computer system limitations.”
Lindsey’s attorney, Zack Paakkonen, filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission, which helped craft an agreement to offer the non-binary designation.
“Words cannot adequately express the relief I feel, and how happy I am, that my ID will now reflect such an integral part of my identity and who I am,” Lindsey said.
Maine will become the first state in New England and the third nationwide to offer such a designation, including Oregon and California, which will implement a similar ruling in 2019. Washington, D.C., also offers a non-binary option for driver’s licenses.
“It’s exciting to see Maine’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles adopt this change,” said Paakkonen, who is also board president of EqualityMaine.
“We know gender is a spectrum and some people don’t identify as male or female. It’s important that driver’s licenses and other forms of IDs recognize people who are non-binary.”
The stickers will be offered for free to residents who fill out a “Gender Designation” form, available on the BMV website. The form requires the signature of a licensed professional, such as a physician, therapist or social worker, who must attest that the person’s gender identity “can reasonably be expected to continue as such in the foreseeable future.”
Several advocacy organizations praised the decision in statements, calling it a “next major step towards full legal recognition of the lives of transgender Mainers,” according to Quinn Gormley, executive director of MaineTransNet.
“Affirming and accurate IDs help to break down significant barriers to housing, employment, and education faced by many transgender people,” Gormley said.
“Identity documents play a substantial role in how we all navigate the world,” said Mary Bonauto, Civil Rights Project director for GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). “Without an ID that matches who you are, trouble is sure to follow.”
Trouble has certainly followed for Navy veteran Dana Zzyym, who was denied a passport in 2014 after (Zzyym uses the pronouns “they/theirs/them”) writing “intersex” on a passport application. Zzyym was born with ambiguous sex characteristics, according to Lambda Legal, the group representing the Colorado resident.
Lambda Legal reopened the case last year after the State Department continued to deny Zzyym a passport, despite a birth certificate listing Zzyym’s sex as “unknown,” a 2016 ruling in Zzyym’s favor and confirmation of intersex gender identity from doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations agency that sets forth international travel document standards, recognizes the “X” designation. Several countries, including Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Denmark, Germany, India, Malta, Nepal, New Zealand and Pakistan, offer an additional gender marker other than “M” or “F.”
“Transgender and gender nonconforming people, like all people, deserve to live their lives without the government compromising their privacy, safety, autonomy, dignity, or equality,” said Oamshri Amarasingham, advocacy director for the ACLU of Maine.