Carrying Our Genders In Our Wallets
My non-binary identity cannot be reduced to a single letter on a piece of plastic.
Recently, the California Department of Motor Vehicles sent me a notice that my state ID card was up for renewal. I was eligible to renew online, but if I wanted to upgrade to a Real ID, I had to visit a DMV office in person. I stalled on making the decision. I knew that a Real ID or passport would soon be required for boarding airplanes in the U.S., but I am not a frequent flyer, and am aware of the security and privacy concerns expressed by many about this new form of identification.
Ultimately, I decided to upgrade, and just in time too, as there was a backlog of more than two months for DMV appointments in the San Francisco Bay Area. I began filling out the online application offered to streamline the process. On the “Basics” page, I stopped at a question that most people would answer without thought or hesitation: “What is your sex?”
Five years ago, I changed my legally-recognized sex from female to male, and changed all of my identification cards accordingly. However, my gender is actually non-binary; I identify as an agender trans male, not a man. The distinction might seem confusing or subtle — or even downright ridiculous to many — but it is important to me. (Note that “sex” and “gender” are used interchangeably in the above DMV screenshot — as well as in many other places — which doesn’t help matters.)
I am glad that California now offers the option to select a category of female, male, or non-binary on driver’s licenses and state IDs, without requiring a court order, doctor’s note, or any further documentation than a self-certification on the appropriate DMV form. However, I have been reluctant to change my own ID again for a number of reasons.
For one thing, changing the marker on my state ID card would put that official document out of sync with how I am categorized by the federal government. I am currently listed as male with the Social Security Administration and on my U.S. passport, and I have no option to change to non-binary for either of these. The United States is behind a number of other countries in this regard; Australia, Canada, and New Zealand all allow non-binary designations on passports, and several…