‘X’ Gender Markers Affirm Lives and Create Access in Maryland and Beyond

This spring, Maryland became the newest state to approve an ‘X’ gender marker for state-issued identification cards and licenses. This addition provides an affirming gender marker option for people who do not identify with the binary categories of “M” for male or “F” for female, or who prefer not to list their gender marker. Whitman-Walker was grateful and pleased to be a part of the coalition supporting this legislation.

The inclusion of an “X” gender marker option means increased safety for transgender and gender-expansive persons who may identify as gender non-conforming, non-binary, or genderqueer. This inclusion also brings Maryland up to date with nine other states and the District of Columbia where ‘X’ is already a gender marker option. In time, a third gender marker will also be available in the state of Colorado. Several countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Thailand, Pakistan, Argentina, India, and Canada have also made this option available to their residents.

For many transgender or gender-expansive individuals, possessing inaccurate identity documents means not applying for a job, not enrolling in school, not reporting crimes, and oftentimes, not receiving healthcare. The “X” gender marker fully complies with federal and international document requirements – making the case for worldwide inclusion of the “X” marker.

Equally important, Maryland’s new policy provides for self-attestation of gender – meaning an individual can self-select how they wish their gender to be recorded on their ID or driver’s license without further documentation. This no longer requires healthcare providers to attest to an individual’s gender identity. In comparison, the former Maryland policy was costly, burdensome, and unnecessary. Self-designation is an improved approach and in line with existing attestation policies for height, weight, hair color, eye color, etc.

Whitman-Walker is invested in the availability of an “X” gender marker option in Maryland, and beyond, as it directly benefits our Maryland clients and staff. Whitman-Walker Legal Services created a name and gender change legal clinic in 2012 helping transgender and gender-expansive individuals update their name and gender markers on identity documents (i.e. identification cards, licenses, passports, birth certificates and more). Since that time, we have served 1,600 individuals – more than 400 of them being Maryland residents – with updating their identity documents.

Beyond the personal stories we hear, national surveys offer evidence to the need. According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, over two-thirds (69%) of transgender and gender-expansive respondents living in Maryland reported that they do not have any IDs that match their name and gender. (Sandy E. James et al., 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey: Maryland State Report (2017).) When a transgender or gender-expansive individual’s gender marker on their identification does not match their gender presentation, they are often subjected to unwanted violence and discrimination. According to the same survey – nearly one-quarter (24%) of transgender people in Maryland experienced verbal harassment or assault, were asked to leave, or were denied benefits or service after using identification with gender markers that did not match their gender presentation.

In 2017, Whitman-Walker Legal Services represented the first person in the District of Columbia to ever receive the “X” gender marker on an ID. That client was thrilled to be holding a driver’s license that more accurately described their gender. While this client identifies as non-binary, for many transgender and gender-expansive individuals, a third gender marker eases anxiety around presenting identification – an almost everyday occurrence in the greater Washington, DC region.

Through our medical-legal partnership, Whitman-Walker provides services to nearly 2,000 transgender and gender-expansive medical patients and legal clients every year. With this step forward in Maryland legislation, our clients will be safer, happier and better affirmed.

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