Anyone in Michigan who doesn’t feel as though the standard “male” or “female” driver’s license designations is the best description for them can change it.
People who identify as nonbinary have the option to be listed as “X” under the sex designation on state driver’s licenses. The move was announced last week and went into effect Wednesday.
Speaking to those who gathered Wednesday at Affirmations LGBTQ+ Community Center in Ferndale, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says this measure is about acceptance and equality.
“Today’s announcement is not an achievement rather it’s an affirmation,” Benson says. “It demonstrates that our Department and the State of Michigan recognizes each and every resident for who they are.”
Benson says Michigan joins 20 other states and the District of Columbia to offer the “X” designation.
In 2019 the Secretary of State’s office changed rules to allow people to correct their sex designation without having to provide a birth certificate or court order.
Benson said that she wanted to make the change two years ago when she took office but was limited by technological constraints.
“Today’s announcement is not an achievement rather it’s an affirmation. It demonstrates that our Department and the State of Michigan recognizes each and every resident for who they are.” — Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson
LGBTQ activists have long called for the change.
Jeynce Poindexter, an LGBTQ activist and case manager at the Ruth Ellis Center, says after years of fighting for this change it’s rewarding to see the state heading in the right direction.
“Just to know that Michigan is a state that’s progressing and moving forward with great leadership it means the world to us and you will see the impact for years and years to come as we continue to be contributing members of society,” Poindexter says.
Carrick Copeland with SAGE Metro Detroit thanked the Secretary of State for making the move, which celebrates and respects nonbinary people.
“Every day and throughout the course of history, nonbinary people like me, my partner, and my child have been forced to select between limited options that do not represent or include us,” Copeland says. “We are being told that nonbinary people are not only included and represented, but respected and celebrated.”
ACLU of Michigan LGBT Rights Attorney Jay Kaplan says in the past, trans people had trouble cashing checks, voting and dealing with law enforcement.
“Often their inaccurate state ID outed them as trans subjecting them to discrimination harassment and at times violence,” Kaplan says.
Benson says she’s not expecting people who hold her office in the future to change the rules.
“I would hope and expect that anyone occupying this office would act similarly to protect our residents and ensure we’re an inclusive state.”