But the current crop of gender-neutral license bills, if signed into law, would amount to the first wave of legal recognition for nonbinary identities, legal experts said. “We didn’t want this to be just an administrative change,” said Jen Jenkins (they/them), a law student at the University of Hawaii who provided research for the bill passed by Hawaii’s Legislature last month. “We want it to last.”
In some states, the bills have been introduced at the urging of parents who know that social affirmation can reduce the elevated risk of suicide and depression for gender-nonconforming children.
“The gist was, their kids didn’t feel the IDs available to them reflected who they were,” said Gerri Cannon (she/her), a state representative who sponsored ID bills in New Hampshire after receiving calls from concerned parents.
Nonbinary teens themselves have also petitioned for a third gender on state identity documents.
Ed Luiggi (they/them), 17, president of an after-school club for gender nonconforming students, skipped school to testify before the Maryland Senate’s Judicial Proceedings Committee in Annapolis earlier this year. “My heart was racing and I was sweating a bit,” they said. It was at the same hearing that Lisa Reff (she/her), a lawyer, read the statement that her 15-year-old, Kayden, had labored to make relatable: “I wanted it to be down-to-earth but I also wanted it to sound proper,” Kayden said in a text.
And the Massachusetts bill originated with a letter written by El Martinez to their state representatives: “I am planning to take driving lessons in the fall and I would be ecstatic to have a more neutral option,” it read. And this time around, El has sought to assure lawmakers that the “X” would encompass all nonconforming genders. “The ‘X,’” El told members of the Legislature’s transportation committee in late March, “is a symbol.”
In Hawaii and Colorado, gender-neutral license bills have recently reached the desks of their respective governors. Maryland’s will become law, the state’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, said last week, without his signature, effective Oct. 1.
Similar measures are still under consideration in New Hampshire, New York and Connecticut. The Massachusetts bill has passed the Senate. It is now under review in the House.