As national pride month picks up steam, members of Maine’s LGBTQ community are celebrating a fresh victory. The Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles will no longer require people getting IDs and driver’s licenses to select only male or female to indicate their gender.
The change comes after a yearlong mediation process between the Maine Human Rights Commission and the department.
Last June, Ian-Meredythe Dehne Lindsey filled out a gender designation form, went to the BMV and was told that the current computer system could not accommodate a “nonbinary” gender designation.
“It was frustrating just because other states do have that accommodation. So it’s a little frustrating to know that the state that I live in and love at the time didn’t have that accommodation,” Lindsey says.
Lindsey reached out to the Maine Human Rights Commission which soon began talks with the state.
Maine is the first state in New England to offer the option of selecting “X” on state-issued IDs to indicate nonbinary gender. The policy is already in place in Oregon and Washington, D.C.
People in Maine can now apply for an official sticker to put on their driver’s licenses that will indicate their true gender.
It is a change that could eliminate one source of continual concern, Lindsey says.
“It’s just a daily challenge and you’re always concerned and there’s that little bit of apprehension and fear of like, ‘OK, I have to show my ID, how is this person going to react based on my gender expression, my gender presentation?’ and how that’s not reflected in my ID at all,” Lindsey says.
Lindsey says the fact a state ID will actually provide a more accurate descriptor seems a bit surreal.
“But at the same time it feels really, really amazing to have actual documentation from my state that reflects and represents who I am and that validates my existence,” Lindsey says.
Maine Transgender Network Executive Director Quinn Gormley says the change will benefit its several hundred members throughout the state. She says news of the change has brought tears to the eyes of many.
“I think there’s a really core level of validation in having an official document recognize you for who you are,” she says.
Gormley says the change in Maine’s BMV-issued IDs is a step toward equality that is cause for people outside the community to celebrate as well.
“Even if you don’t understand what the meaning of this change is to our community that you can at least join us in celebrating the visibility that this is bringing and understand that this visibility is only going to help us grow and make us more resilient,” she says.
Newly issued IDs will include the nonbinary gender option starting July 2019.
This report comes from the New England News Collaborative, eight public media companies including Rhode Island Public Radio, joining together to tell stories of a changing region with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.