Effective July 3, 2017, the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles is providing a third, non-specified gender marker on state IDs. Oregon and Washington DC are the first jurisdictions in the country to provide a third option on IDs, which means many public and private systems will be working to catch up with this policy change. 

We know that for many transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming Oregonians, the process of updating their IDs can be a difficult one. Without knowing the full implications of the new gender marker, many people interested in updating IDs remain hesitant to take advantage of the new policy.

We’ve partnered with the National Center for Transgender Equality and local community leaders to address some of the most common questions regarding the change. Hopefully, this FAQ will help anyone interested in a non-binary ID decide if it is the right choice for their particular situation. If you have additional questions we haven’t addressed in this post, please feel free to reach out to us and we’ll try to find the answers for you.

What is a gender-neutral ID?

Until now, state IDs in the US have only given two options for gender: “M” (male) or “F” (female). The new policy from the Oregon DMV would allow people to select a third, gender-neutral marker: “X” for “unspecified.” This provides a new option to people with different or no gender identities, or those who simply prefer not to have a gender listed on their ID.

Why do we need a gender-neutral option for identification documents?

In cultures throughout human history, there have been people with gender identities that are not male or female.

Being able to update their IDs to better reflect their gender identity can be helpful for several reasons. Not only does it give a marginalized population a way to control how they present themselves to others, but it also offers official recognition that their experiences are real, important, and valid.

Being able to present an ID that feels more accurate is important for many non-binary people socially, but it also helps them to advocate for official recognition of their gender in legal settings, employment, healthcare, and other contexts.

The existence of a gender-neutral marker can be important for other reasons as well. For people who simply want a feeling of increased privacy on their documents, it offers an alternative option where none existed before.

Who can apply for a gender-neutral ID in Oregon?

People of any gender who do not want to have male or female listed on their IDs may apply for the new gender marker.

Transgender men and women who wish to change their state ID to “F” or “M” may still do so – the third gender marker is simply another option that allows Oregonians greater flexibility in how they present themselves.

How can I update my ID to the new gender-neutral marker?

It’s as simple as going to your local DMV and requesting a replacement ID. If your ID is within one year of its renewal date, you may renew it at the normal rate. However, if you wish to request a new ID more than a year out, you will have to pay a replacement fee instead. Simply select “X” on the form when you request your updated ID.

Do I need a letter from my doctor or other provider to apply?

In short, no. Part of what makes this shift in policy so exciting is the fact that the Oregon DMV has chosen to make the process of requesting a gender change incredibly simple. Instead of requiring people deal with multiple barriers and have a special form signed, Oregonians can simply fill out a form for themselves to request a new ID.

By allowing people to self-identify, institutional barriers to medical care or legal aid will no longer hold anyone back from being able to receive accurate identification.

What if my new ID no longer matches the gender marker on my other IDs and documents?

Unfortunately, for now, anyone updating their ID to the X marker may find themselves in a tricky situation. It’s not currently possible to ask for an “X” marker on a U.S. passport, and other records such as birth certificates may conflict with a gender-neutral ID.

If you’re in this situation, it’s good to be prepared for confusion or scrutiny when interacting with officials or applying for services. You may find yourself needing to explain what the new gender marker means and why you’ve chosen to update your identification.

Legally speaking, however, NCTE has advised us that possessing mismatched identity documentation is not against the law, but can create headaches for you in navigating systems.  It may be important for you to carry other forms of ID so officials can verify your identity if needed.

While it might be more inconvenient for a time while other states and the federal government adapt to the shift, you shouldn’t be denied services or treated differently because of your ID marker. If you encounter issues, it can be treated as a case of sex discrimination. We can help connect you to the appropriate resources to file a report if this occurs – please contact us with the details.

Does the TSA recognize the new gender-neutral IDs?

Unfortunately, we’ve been unable to receive guidance from the TSA on how they plan to process IDs with gender neutral markers. Despite that fact that the “X” marker is issued in multiple countries and is considered part of an international standard, the agency does not yet have an official policy. We will continue to push the TSA to update their policies on this issue.

What we can tell you is that airlines are currently required to collect name and gender information before each flight, and for the moment, they only offer M or F options on their forms and online purchasing. If possible, you should try to bring an ID to the airport with a gender marker that matches the one you submitted to the airline. If you update your state ID, but you have a passport that still has M or F listed, you’ll want to take it to the airport with you. Longer-term, we are working with local and national partners to advocate for changes with the airlines. 

What can I do to make traveling through airport security easier?

We realize that passports can be out of reach for many community members financially, but fortunately there are other options that will allow you to pass through airport security. In any situation where you may have to present mismatched ID, NCTE advises planning extra time to allow TSA officials to verify your identity. If possible, bring additional identification or documentation. If you travel frequently, applying for TSA PreCheck can make the process significantly less stressful and less intrusive.

Basic Rights Oregon is currently in the process of reaching out to the Port of Portland to learn how they plan to handle travelers with gender-neutral IDs going forward. This document will be updated with the latest information as we know more.

Is the new gender-neutral ID compliant with federal and international laws?

Yes. While the REAL ID act requires gender to be listed on identification cards and driver’s licenses, it doesn’t specify what the gender options need to be. The Department of Homeland Security has specifically stated that this is left up to the discretion of individual states.

The ID also follows international aviation standards – the International Civil Aviation Association (ICAO), an agency of the United Nations, uses an internationally recognized passport format that allows for M, F, or X gender markers.

Will my new ID cause issues accessing the healthcare I need?

At Basic Rights Oregon, one of our ongoing areas of concern has been working to ensure that no Oregonians can be discriminated against in a healthcare setting due to their gender identity or orientation.

Basic Rights Oregon is part of Oregon Trans Health Coalition, which includes health care providers and community leaders from around the state. We are working behind the scenes to shift healthcare systems throughout Oregon. The coalition is exploring integration of the new ID marker into their systems, and working with insurers to align systems.

That being said, we realize there is still work to be done in this area. If your insurance tries to deny coverage for any services you need, there are systems in place to appeal the decision or file a report of discrimination. Please reach out to us if you encounter any trouble from your physician or insurance provider so we can help connect you to the appropriate resources.

Will a non-binary ID affect my ability to access housing, financial institutions, or employment?

Legally speaking, no, this shouldn’t be an issue. Our counterparts at the NCTE tell us that background and credit checks that use your social security number have not been connected to gender for many years. You shouldn’t encounter issues filing taxes or passing a background check due to a legal gender change, but if you do, please reach out to Basic Rights Oregon and let us know.

My question isn’t on this list!

We’ve tried to address the most common questions non-binary Oregonians are asking about the new IDs, but we understand everyone’s situation is different. If you have a question we haven’t addressed, let us know and we’ll find out what we can.