Michigan may add 3rd gender option to driver licenses for nonbinary residents

Photo by Zackary Drucker, The Gender Spectrum Collection

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is considering adding a third gender option to driver licenses for nonbinary residents who don’t identify as male or female.

“We have heard the call from individuals and communities across the state seeking a sex-designation that matches their reality,” Benson said in a statement.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, May 18, 2019 | Andrew Roth

In November, Benson announced a policy revision that would allow individuals to change their gender identity on driver licenses or identification cards without providing birth certificate, passport or court order. This process requires people to fill out a form, go to a branch office to have their photo taken, and pay the $9 correction fee for a driver license or $10 for a state ID. 

SOS spokesman Jake Rollow said the possible third gender option update is dependent on the department’s technology upgrades expected in the upcoming year. 

“The Michigan Department of State is exploring if our technology upgrade slated for 2021 will have the capacity to add a third sex designation for driver’s licenses and state identification cards,” Rollow said. 

Benson unveils transgender-friendly policy for state IDs

According to the Movement Advancement Project, an LGBTQ policy group, 14 other states and Washington, D.C., already include a gender neutral option on state issued IDs. 

Erin Knott, executive director of Equality Michigan, said this would be “one more step to show that all Michiganders are valued and accepted.” 

Data from a 2015 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality, show that identity documents create barriers for transgender individuals in Michigan.

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According to the survey, a majority of respondents — 81%— report that none of their IDs had the name and gender they preferred. 

One-third of respondents with a state ID that had a name or gender that did not match their gender presentation reported physical harassment, verbal harassment or reported being denied benefits or service.

“I applaud Secretary Benson for continuing to champion the rights of the LGBTQ community in Michigan,” Knott said. 

Allison Donahue
Allison Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.