One Letter Makes a World of Difference

January 1, 2019, marks not only the beginning of a new year, but the beginning of California residents being able to select a nonbinary option on their driver’s licenses. California is one of six states, plus Washington D.C., that now allow residents to select “M,” “F,” or “X” to mark their sex on a driver’s license. Commonly referred to as a “gender marker,” this simple letter can make a world of difference for transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming people across the country.

People use their driver’s licenses almost every day and in many areas of daily life, from showing ID when using a credit card at the grocery store, movie theater, or restaurant, to accessing their bank account, getting medical prescriptions, or trying to use public services such as getting a library card or bus pass.  Watch “Movie Theater,” an ad from MAP depicting how transgender people can experience discrimination, harassment and denial of equal treatment in places of public accommodation.

Many transgender people choose to update the gender marker on their identity documents so that it matches their gender identity. may also wish to update their gender marker to something that is neither “M” nor “F.” Most people know from a very young age that they are either male or female. But that is not true for everyone. Gender nonbinary describes a person who doesn’t fit into either male or female gender categories.

However, many states have not yet updated their policy or process that allows people to update the gender marker on their driver’s license. This makes it significantly challenging for transgender and nonbinary people to access identification that matches their gender identity and protects their safety.

MAP tracks these laws in our Identity Documents and Policies Map, which is based on the research conducted and compiled by the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), available here.

As the new legislative session starts in many states, it’s important that more states continue to update their driver’s license laws, by both simplifying the process of gender marker changes and expanding the options to include nonbinary individuals.

For more information, please see the National Center for Transgender Equality’s Identity Documents Center.