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Third Gender Option Important for People who Identify as "Non-Binary"

October 08, 2018 05:52 PM

(ABC 6 News) - When Minnesota launched its “Real I-D” last week, one new feature on the driver’s license was rolled out much more quietly.

For the first time, licenses carry a third gender option, and it’s making a difference for those who identify as “non-binary."

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Jessi Heath officially came out as transgender in 2015.

"For myself growing up as a boy, I never identified as a boy," she said. "I was a girl, but people always thought I was a boy." 

With that realization came relief, but also suffering.

"There are absolutely traumatizing parts of it," Heath said.

Part of that trauma, which people wouldn’t necessarily think about, came from not having a legal way to reflect her identity on her driver’s license.

"That was terrible,” Heath said.

The first year she came out as a transgender woman, her license still said male.

"Going to places where I had to show my identification was always awkward," she said. "I feel like awkward is the best way put it; with people not believing (you), if your photo doesn't match your license or if it looks like you're presenting as a woman but your license says male."

After many months, and a long process that included getting a letter from a physician stating that she had begun transitioning, she was able to change her gender on her license from “M” to “F."

"I was very excited to change my driver's license so it matched who I am," Heath said. "It was a very special moment and it is for a lot of transgender people."

Until last week, there was no option for non-binary people in Minnesota to reflect their gender on their driver’s license.

The Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services Division released a statement, a portion of which reads, “Gender identification is a self-descriptor like eye color, height and weight. Licenses will either have an M, F or X noted in the gender section.”

The statement goes on to say, “It was a business decision to offer a third option to better serve all Minnesotans.”

Heath hopes this third option means that other people won’t need to go through the pain of being unable to legally express their identity. 

"To have something that even more identifies or more closely fits a person’s gender is extremely important. It means the world to us," she said.

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Talia Milavetz

Copyright 2018 - KAAL-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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