In a statement made to The 19th released on Friday, White House Spokesperson Matt Hill hinted that a gender-neutral “X” marker option for federal IDs such as passports and social security documents may be in the works.
“President Biden remains committed to advancing state and federal efforts that allow transgender and non-binary Americans to update their identification documents to accurately reflect their gender identity,” Hill told The 19th reporter Kate Sosin, “especially as transgender and non-binary people continue to face harassment or are denied access to services because their identifications documents don’t affirm their identity.”
Although Hill didn’t share a timeline, Sosin notes that the Biden administration has been engaged in recent discussions with the ACLU regarding the potential rollout. ACLU campaign strategist Arli Christian is advocating for an “X” marker option on federal documents within Biden’s first 100 days in office. As of February 20, Biden will have completed a full month of his first term.
Biden’s promise of gender inclusivity and more secure federal rights for LGBTQ+ Americans is long in the making. While the Biden administration has gone full steam ahead on big-ticket items like reversing the transgender military ban and appointing queer and trans officials like Dr. Rachel Levine to visible public office, progress on an item that might be considered less of an urgent priority may have stalled in light of the weather emergency in Texas and the deepening crisis of pandemic unemployment.
Elsewhere, the idea of a gender-neutral marker is picking up speed. In 2019, Iceland passed a similar proposition that allowed citizens to use the “X” gender marker, along with allowing folks under 18 the ability to change their marker without having to consult a parent or guardian. In January of this year, Australia announced that their 2021 census will include nonbinary identities for the first time in the country’s history.
In America, identification documents hold serious real-world consequences for many. For the 46% of trans Americans who lack a form of ID that displays their correct gender, however, the issue is more urgent than ever. Although fewer than 10 states currently require “proof of surgery” to change a gender marker on one’s ID, those that do, such as Alabama, require queer and trans individuals to jump through several gatekeeping hoops to update their documentation.
Elsewhere, in states like Florida, Arizona, and Utah, trans folks must navigate a complex bureaucratic system in order to get their marker changed. Even then, there’s no guarantee that other, more rigid states in the country will accept an “X” marker as law. There’s also the problem of voting: Last year, UCLA estimated that 42% of trans voters were kept out of the polls by state-specific voting criteria for IDs.
Biden did make it a Day 1 priority to include gender-inclusive options on the updated White House website, in a sharp and symbolic rebuke to the Trump administration’s famous erasure of trans identities early on in his term. Trans, nonbinary, and intersex activists, however, still feel that an “X” marker is only the first step in the move toward self-identification on federally-recognized documents.
Published:Feb 19, 2021 at 12:00 PM