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LGBTQ Minnesotans respond to third gender option on licenses

The 'X' option for gender is available for those who don't identify as male or female. Department of Driver and Vehicle Services

MOORHEAD, Minn. — LGBTQ Minnesotans are responding to a report this week of a new gender-neutral option for state driver's licenses. At least one lawmaker is questioning why the option did not have legislative approval.

Residents in Minnesota will now have the option to choose 'X' as their gender on their state ID if they don't identify as either male or female.

While there was no formal announcement made by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the option is available when completing the pre-application for a Minnesota license on its website. The online pre-application was implemented Monday, Oct. 1.

With no official announcement of this availability, there were some that didn't know about the change.

Katrina Koesterman, a Moorhead resident and vice president of Tri State Transgender, said she didn't even know about this until Forum News Service spoke to her Wednesday morning, Oct. 3.

Nevertheless, she believes this process is a progressive step to accepting those who don't follow the male-female binary.

"We need more stuff like this to help normalize people that don't follow the binary, so that discrimination can become a thing of the past," Koesterman said.

"I think it will be talked about within the (LGBTQ+) community and hopefully that will help spread the word."

According to a statement by Minnesota DPS Drivers and Services Division, "Gender identification is a self-descriptor like eye color, height, and weight. Licenses will have either an M, F or X noted in the gender section. This change was made during the planning for the new driver's license system. It was a business decision to offer a third option to better serve all Minnesotans. In addition, other states recognize this designation and the federal government allows it under REAL ID."

State Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said the change was made "unilaterally by Democrats" and mentioned he was "concerned that law enforcement may not have been consulted. Will this change hamper law enforcement's ability to properly identify suspects, or hinder the investigative process in any way? The public deserves answers to these questions, or at least a dialogue about the potential repercussions."

Kandace Creel Falcon, director of Women's and Gender Studies at Minnesota State University Moorhead, also says she didn't know about the change until contacted by a reporter.

"I think our news sources are an important part of getting this news out there. Word of mouth will be vital in sharing this information with others, and folks who are using these documents to change their gender identity are already relying on the community and will communicate," Falcon said.

"If all you have to do is simply inform a proper government authority that you don't want to be male or female, that process would alleviate a lot of stress from somebody that doesn't identify with the binary. When your ID doesn't reflect who you are, it can be a stressful situation. When trying to go to the bar or going to the airport, not knowing how people would respond can be worrisome."

Falcon says there has been more interest in understanding different genders and this is one of the first steps toward more inclusiveness in Minnesota.

"In the recent decade, there has been an increased interest in gender identities beyond the gender binary of male and female. I'm really excited about the possibility of opening up understanding more inclusive ways of gender in Minnesota."

Minnesota joins Maine, Oregon, California, Washington and the District of Columbia in offering the new option.