‘Very validating and very affirming’: Pa. to add gender neutral option for driver’s licenses in 2020

By: - August 2, 2019 2:09 pm

In a win for LGBTQ rights, Pennsylvania will join the 13 states that allow for gender neutral driver’s licenses.

The development was first reported by The Daily Item of Sunbury, Pa. Erin Waters-Trasatt, a spokesperson for Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, said in an email that the change should be ready “before this time next year.”

“There are system changes that need to be made to ensure we implement a systematic process across the commonwealth,” Waters-Trasatt said. “This is only an estimate and we plan to have those system changes completed as quickly as possible.”

Once implemented, license holders will be able to have “M,” “F,” or “X” on their license.

Gov. Tom Wolf voiced his support for the change earlier this week.

“I believe we ought to recognize and be supportive of folks who are looking to figure out what their gender identity is, and I think it was consistent with the general feelings I have about equity and fairness,” Wolf said.

The announcement was greeted with excitement by many in the LGBTQ community, including Charlie Borowicz.

Borowicz, who identifies as gender queer, told the Capital-Star they were excited by the change, calling it “very validating and very affirming as non-binary to have those options rather than be forced into a category.”

“People will assume I’m male or female — and I think there’s pretty much equal assumption on both sides — and neither of those things are true. [This policy] opens up a conversation,” Borowicz, who runs Allegheny Health Network’s Transgender Health Project, added.

Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Philadelphia, one of two openly gay lawmakers in the General Assembly, said the change “tells our LGBTQ+ citizens that we see them, they matter and we respect them.”

PennDOT doesn’t believe the change will violate federal REAL ID standards. 

Passed in 2005 in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, REAL ID sets federal guidelines for state identification cards. These forms of federally sanctioned ID will be required to enter federal buildings and nuclear power plants, as well as board airplanes, by 2020.

While the guidelines require IDs to list a gender, they do not restrict how gender can be classified, according to a 2008 federal rule-making memo.

According to the memo, the Department of Homeland Security, which administers the REAL ID program, “will leave the determination of gender up to the states, since different states have different requirements concerning when, and under what circumstances, a transgendered individual should be identified as another gender.”

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Stephen Caruso
Stephen Caruso

Stephen Caruso is a former senior reporter with Pennsylvania Capital-Star. Before working with the Capital-Star he covered Pennsylvania state government for The PLS Reporter.