New York City allows residents to use ‘X’ gender option on official documents

Author: Eleanor Noyce

In this photograph, two trans people hold hands while marching under a trans pride flag

New York City is to allow residents to use the alternative “X” option when indicating their gender on public-assistance documents.

NYC already permits people who do not identify as male or female to choose the “X” option on driver’s licences and birth certificates.

The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) has now agreed to make the “X” gender marker available to all New Yorkers looking to apply for public benefits, including food stamps and Medicaid. The move is expected to be implemented by the start of next year.

The change comes about following a lawsuit in 2021, in which the New York Civil Liberties Union argued that the OTDA’s refusal to recognise the gender marker was actively discriminating against non-binary people and their gender identity.

Previously, the OTDA’s application processes meant that unless non-binary New Yorkers wrongly identified themselves as either male or female, they were unable to access crucial benefits.

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health states that ensuring organisations and institutions obtain accurate gender markers on identity documents is crucial in helping alleviate gender dysphoria in trans and non-binary people, with further research finding a dramatic decrease in suicide attempts among transgender people who were permitted one document that reflected and affirmed their gender identity.

Last year, New York state governor Kathy Hochul announced that driver’s licences, learner permits and non-driver ID cards issued by the Department of Motor Vehicle offices would include the gender-neutral option.

Campaigners pointed out that having inaccurate state ID documents posed many problems for the non-binary community when using day-to-day services in New York, including health benefits and welfare.

An ID with an “X” gender marker has also proved essential for non-binary people who have changed their names and updated their birth certificates.

Recognising non-binary New Yorkers’ ‘fundamental dignity’

The lawsuit on public benefits was initiated by Jules Donahue and Jaime Mitchell, as well as plaintiff Princess Janae Place, a community-based organisation led by and for trans people in the Bronx, one of NYC’s five boroughs. The group’s executive director, Jevon Martin, said the move “restore[s] a greater degree of autonomy and self-determination for all non-binary New Yorkers, recognising their fundamental dignity.”

And Donahue said: “No New Yorker should have to make a choice between lying about their gender identity or forgoing public assistance. While today’s agreement does not erase the emotional harm of being misgendered, I am grateful for OTDA’s policy changes, which will help non-binary people like me to feel more at home in their bodies, their lives and their societies.” 

Meanwhile, the New York Civil Liberties Union described the decision as a “major victory [for the] thousands of non-binary New Yorkers who will be able to seek public benefits without being forced to lie about their identity or risk being misgendered”.

Staff attorney Gabriella Larios said: “Offering X gender markers lets non-binary New Yorkers know that their government sees them and honours who they are when seeking food stamps, cash assistance and other supports to help them get back on their feet.

“In the face of nationwide attacks targeting trans and non-binary people, we will continue to monitor implementation of the settlement to ensure compliance and protect the rights of non-binary New Yorkers.”

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Actual Story on Pink News
Author: Eleanor Noyce

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