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Mark your calendars, Vermonters.
This week, the Green Mountain State announced it will begin issuing gender-neutral IDs and driver's licenses to transgender, intersex, and nonbinary people this summer. Residents will soon be able choose between "M," "F," or "X" on their identification.
After announcing plans to roll out a third gender option last year, the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles finally confirmed the changes Wednesday.
"When an ID does not match the gender identity or expression of the holder, the person can be exposed to potentially uncomfortable situations," DMV Commissioner Wanda Minoli said in a statement. "Thanks in large part to the hard work of Vermonters in the LGBTQ community, we saw an opportunity to allow a third gender option for increased safety and inclusion of all Vermonters."
The Vermont DMV clarified that individuals seeking nonbinary licenses must list their gender as "other" on their applications.
In a press release, Republican Gov. Phil Scott added that the new ID policy "is consistent with our Vermont values of inclusion and acceptance." He claimed that "obtaining a driver's license that correctly reflects who you are is something [many of us] may take for granted."
Trans and nonbinary people across the U.S. applauded Vermont for recognizing the lived realities of individuals who identify outside the binary.
"I don't even have words for how exciting this is," Gustavo Mercado Muniz, the transgender program coordinator at Vermont Pride Center, told The Advocate in a phone interview. "It increases our representation on a legal level, and it gives a validity to our gender identity in a way that a lot of us didn't even know was an option until very recently."
Shawn Meerkamper, senior staff attorney for the Transgender Law Center, told The Advocate that the announcement is part of "a real shift across the country of state after state finally recognizing that gender is more complicated than just 'male' or 'female.'"
"It's great that Vermont has joined the growing ranks of states pushing back on forms and practices that erase the existence of nonbinary people," Meerkamper said.
The update will make Vermont one of at least eight states, along with Washington, D.C., that allow residents to print something other than "male" or "female" on their IDs. Others include Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, and Oregon. Earlier this week Vice President Mike Pence's home state of Indiana became the latest to join the growing list.
While this week's announcement is another important step in the right direction, LGBTQ advocates stressed that many individuals may struggle to meet the requirements necessary to receive the new IDs.
Gillian Branstetter, media relations manager for the National Center for Transgender Equality, urged the Vermont DMV to "remove the requirement to submit medical information to update the gender marker, as recommended by the American Medical Association and other medical experts."
According to NCTE's 2015 U.S. Trans Survey, just 8 percent of trans Vermonters say they have updated all forms of identification to match their preferred name and gender. Of those who had not corrected their identity documents, many claimed the process was costly and burdensome.
Twenty-seven percent said they could not afford to have a doctor sign off on the changes.
Being able to access appropriate identification is critical for trans and nonbinary people, as the organization's research shows. A quarter of survey respondents from Vermont say they have been "verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave, or assaulted" as a result of showing ID that didn't match their sense of self.
A.C. Dumlao, program manager for the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, told The Advocate that such harassment limits the ability of trans and nonbinary people to "fully participate in society and causes problems at every turn."
"Having an accurate ID is a basic part of everyday life," Dumlao said.
The Vermont DMV did not set an exact date on which the new IDs will be available. This story will be updated should that information be made public.
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