WASHINGTON — Nic Sakurai was among the first people outside the Benning Road Department of Motor Vehicle office in Washington on Tuesday morning at 7:15.
Sakurai had created a Facebook event and invited others to join the historic day: They would become the first people in the United States to choose X as their gender marker instead of male or female on driver’s licenses and identification cards.
The X signifies gender neutral, the preferred designation for people like Sakurai who don’t identify as male or female.
They may use different words to describe how they identify, such as gender nonconforming, gender fluid, gender nonbinary or agender, as Sakurai prefers. Whatever the case, “male” and “female” and “he” and “she” don’t fit how they see themselves.
“I don’t feel that sense of gender as something that is part of my core innate experience,” said Sakurai, who uses the pronoun “they.”
“I’m glad to finally have an ID that actually matches who I am.”
LGBTQ advocates say letting people self-identify reduces the risk of harassment and discrimination they experience when their physical appearance does not match the gender on their ID.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the change last week, after a similar policy from the state of Oregon. The change had been in the works for months as part of an effort to make the District of Columbia’s gender identity policies more inclusive, her office said.
“The safety and well-being of all Washingtonians is my top priority, and whenever we are presented with an opportunity to improve the lives of residents and better align our policies with D.C. values, I will take it,” she said.
Any District of Columbia resident can choose gender neutral. But the D.C. DMV said it expected the change to have the most immediate benefit for transgender and gender nonconforming people.
“The new gender neutral identifier offers gender nonbinary District residents a gender designation that affirms who they are,” said Sheila Alexander-Reid, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs. “The implementation of a gender neutral identifier is consistent with our D.C. values of inclusion and respect.”
The state of Oregon announced earlier this month, before D.C., that it would offer a gender neutral marker on state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards starting July 1. But Washington was the first jurisdiction to make them available.
“We are thrilled to see D.C. and Oregon leading the way in advancing policies that allow for transgender people, including those who are nonbinary, to have accurate identification that helps them function in their day-to-day lives,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.
“This is a tremendous first step that acknowledges the experiences and humanity of our nonbinary community members. The District has set the new gold standard for access to accurate gender markers on identification documents in the United States.”
The transgender equality center and Washington-based health center Whitman-Walker Health assisted the DMV in implementing the change.
National Center for Transgender Equality media relations manager Jay Wu showed up early at the DMV, too, not only for work but also to apply for a new ID.
“Before today I was walking around with an inaccurate gender marker. This is more accurate because I identify as nonbinary,” said Wu, who uses the pronouns “they.”
Similar policies exist in Canada, India, Bangladesh, Australia, New Zealand and Nepal.