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Oregon Is First in Nation to Approve Third Gender for State IDs

Oregon law

Oregon authorities OK'd the move after courts recognized some residents' nonbinary gender identity.

Oregon has further upped its progressive cred by becoming the first state in the nation to approve a third gender marker on driver's licenses and other identity documents.

The Oregon Transportation Commission, which governs the state's transportation policy, approved the change Thursday, according to LGBT group Basic Rights Oregon, which supported the move. Beginning July 1, Oregonians will be able to choose X, for unspecified gender, in addition to M and F, when obtaining IDs from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The commission began considering the change after a state court last year legally recognized Jamie Shupe's nonbinary gender, making Shupe the first person in the nation to gain this status legally. Since then several other Oregon residents have won such recognition, as have some in neighboring California.

"I've trembled with the fear of failure and cried tears until I had no more tears to cry, because of the magnitude of what's been at stake -- and now won," Shupe told NBC News after the commission's vote. "But in the end, the huge legal and nonbinary civil rights battle that I expected to unfold going into this never came to pass, simply because this was always the right thing to do all along."

The Transportation Commission convened an advisory group on the third gender option and held public hearings on it, in which the people speaking in favor of it far outnumbered those opposed, although one of the opponents called it "political correctness gone haywire."

Although the change did not require action by the state legislature or Gov. Kate Brown, the governor was quick to praise it. "We must proactively break down the barriers of institutional bias," said Brown, who is bisexual, in the NBC report. She added that it is an important move toward creating "a society that upholds the rights, liberties, and dignity of each of its people." Just last month, Brown signed a bill into law making it easier and cheaper for Oregonians to revise the gender marker on their birth certificate -- filling out a form instead of posting a public notice and going to court.

Praise also came from Nancy Haque, co-executive director of Basic Rights Oregon. "It's exciting to see Oregon's Department of Motor Vehicles adopt this change," she said in a press release." We know gender is a spectrum and some people don't identify as male or female. Our lives are so gendered, which is why it's important that driver licenses and other forms of IDs recognize people who are non-binary. Removing barriers for people is critical to helping all of us live healthy, productive lives."

While Oregon is the first U.S. state to offer a third gender option, there is precedent for it around the world. Australia and New Zealand offer the option on passports, and India on passports and voter registration cards. The International Civil Aviation Organization, which develops passport standards, has recommended an "X for unspecified" option since 1996, according to NBC.

"The X is in use internationally, and in fact it's a standard recommended by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators," Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman David House told the network.

Now California is considering making such a move legislatively. It passed the state Senate May 31 and awaits action in the Assembly. California would be the first state to establish a third gender option through legislation.

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