Coinciding with the LGBTQIA+ community’s Pride Month, Oregon’s Department of Motor Vehicles has recently announced a new policy change that will allow non-binary drivers to choose a third gender on their state-mandated licenses.
The law previously required drivers to define their sex between the two binary genders, male and female. Oregon’s Transportation Commission approved for the new gender option to be available beginning in July of 2017.
In light of this news, it is always important to remind of the differences between sex and gender. Sex is a biological definition of a person’s identity that is based upon their chromosomes: “XX” for female and “XY” for male. Oppositely, gender isn’t dictated by biology; rather, it is a social construct, or according to Trans Student Educational Resources, one’s “internal sense” to define their identity. Though much of Western culture has adopted a binary gender system based upon biology, the concept of gender itself and to the individual is in no way limited to the preexisting systems of sexes assigned at birth that several societies have created.
Because of this understanding, an Oregon judge stated that a person can identify as non-binary–meaning their gender is neither male nor female, as part of the “binary” genders–and resultantly, the new law for a third gender option “X” on driver’s licenses has been introduced to extend the ruling on a statewide level.
Oregon joins many other nations including Australia, Germany, India, Pakistan and New Zealand in establishing a governmental acknowledgment of the public’s diverse gender identity; in fact, Oregon has as many as 20,000 self-identified non-binary residents.
While this third gender option is still unspecific and does not fully represent the vast variety of non-binary gender identities that exist, it is a progressive step toward meaningful representation for non-binary people in the United States. However, we should allow the perspectives of non-binary individuals to guide the acceptance and reaction to this law, and so far, it appears to have been met with praise.
“This change in ID is a huge piece of validation for me,” J Gibbons, a non-binary transgender Oregon resident who uses “they” pronouns, said to The Guardian in an interview. “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.”