The State of Nonbinary Drivers (2021): Nearly 50% Can’t Mark X on Their Driver’s License

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Key Insights
  • 46% of the nonbinary population (an estimated 556,320 individuals) live in a state that does not allow X gender markers on driver's licenses.
  • 54% of nonbinary people (643,680) live in states that allow X gender markers on driver's licenses. In those states, an increasing number of people have changed their gender marking to X in recent years, but some still have not.
  • That may be due to the cost of changing gender markers and poverty levels among nonbinary people, as well as unclear policies for change.

46% of the Nonbinary Population Cannot Get an X Marker on their Driver’s License

In the U.S., 22 states and Washington D.C. allow nonbinary people (individuals that don’t identify as male or female) to use an X marker on their driver’s license to reflect their gender. New data analysis from Jerry found that this means more than half a million nonbinary Americans (46% of the 1.2 million population) live in a state that does not allow X markers on driver's licenses. This means that almost half of the U.S. nonbinary population cannot have a driver’s license that accurately reflects their gender. 27 states only allow the option of M or F (male or female) on a driver's license.
Which U.S. States Allow X Gender Markers?
In our analysis, we looked at the Williams Institute’s regional breakdown of the nonbinary population to determine how many were in each region.
U.S. RegionsNonbinary Population %States that Allow X MarkersOverall Population %
Northeast (ME, NY, NJ, VT, MA, RI, CT, NH, PA)25.3%9/917.1%
Midwest (IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, NE, ND, OH, SD, WI)16.3%2/1220.8%
South (AL, AR, DE, FL, GA, KY, LA, MD, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, VA, WV, DC)27.3%4/1738.3%
West (AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, MT, NV, NM, OR, VT, WA, WY)31.2%8/1323.9%
Most states that allow X markers are in the Northeast or West regions, which is reflective of the regions with more nonbinary individuals. However, the second-largest nonbinary population is in the South, where only four of 17 southern states allow X markers. The South also has the largest overall population of any region, and its nonbinary population numbers reflect that.

Data Shows Increases in Drivers Getting X Markers Despite Hurdles

Data from Maryland and Oregon indicates that an increasing number of drivers are getting X gender markers on their driver's licenses. Most states did not have public data showing the number of active driver's licenses by gender. However, in 2019, the Baltimore Sun reported that over 100 Maryland residents had gotten an X marker on their driver’s license even though it had only been available for a month at the time. Data from Oregon also showed that the number of driver's licenses with X markers increased every year once it became an option. X markers were made available in July 2017 in Oregon—and by the end of the year, 701 individuals had X gender markers. By the end of 2018, that number jumped to 1,782 (154% increase) and then again to 2,828 in 2019 (59% increase). 
Oregon Driver's Licenses with X Gender Markers per Year
While there is clearly an upward trend in nonbinary drivers getting an X marker, many individuals aren’t making the change. What is stopping them from changing their gender marker in states that allow the X gender marker? 

New Driver Licenses are Expensive—and 816,000 Nonbinary People Live in Poverty

We also found that while X gender markers are allowed in 22 states and Washington D.C., nonbinary drivers face significant financial hurdles in changing their gender marker. Replacing a driver’s license in these states ranges between $18 in New Mexico and $89 in Virginia—where the minimum wage is $7.25. To put this into context, this means that in order to pay for a new driver’s license in Virginia a person has to work over 12 hours. Additionally, one Williams Institute study found that 68% of nonbinary people nationwide don’t make enough to get by. In other words, 816,000 nonbinary individuals are living in relative poverty.
Overall Poverty Rate vs. Nonbinary Poverty Rate
Another study found that 34% of all transgender Virginia residents live in poverty. The percentage of transgender residents also includes binary trans individuals (people who identify as male or female, despite being assigned the opposite gender at birth). However, many identify as nonbinary — and are struggling financially. In states like Virginia, nonbinary residents may want to change their gender marker, but may not be able to afford it.
While Virginia ranks as the state with the highest driver’s license cost, the next two highest states (Massachusetts and Connecticut, at $85 for four years and $72 for seven years, respectively) also have high poverty rates for transgender people. This data shows that poverty, not legality, may still be holding some nonbinary drivers back from having their gender legally recognized in their state.

Gender Marker Requirements Vary from State to State

In 21 of the states that allow the X marker and Washington D.C., the process of changing a gender marker is simple: an individual fills out a gender change form. No doctor’s note is required. Utah, however, has burdensome requirements. State residents can change the gender marker on their driver’s license to X as long as they also have an X marker on their birth certificate or passport. But Utah lacks a clear policy on gender marker changes for birth certificates, and therefore, for driver's licenses. A judge must grant a nonbinary birth certificate. As a result, only two birth certificates had been updated to include an X in Utah as of 2019, according to a report from NBC.
Driver’s license changes are also difficult for trans men and women. Of states that only allow changes from M to F or vice versa, many require doctor’s notes, or even surgery, for this change to be valid.
Unclear policies mean that nonbinary drivers have to fight harder to get their gender legally recognized. In states where the X marker is allowed, nonbinary drivers do not face as many bureaucratic hurdles to getting legal recognition with established policies in place. Clear policies mean that nonbinary drivers can be legally recognized more easily, and that, as a result, more nonbinary people can live their lives in comfort and safety.

Conclusion 

Nonbinary drivers still struggle for legal recognition in more than half the country. However, most states that permit X markers have only made them available in the last five years. With nearly three-quarters of nonbinary individuals living in poverty, though, increased legal recognition may not be enough to ensure that all nonbinary drivers will have validating identification.

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