N.H. residents apply for licenses with ‘X’ gender

Monitor staff
Published: 1/12/2020 7:25:44 PM

For Linds Jakows, Friday was about a lot more than a tiny symbol placed on a plastic card.

“It’s going to feel really validating when I get to hand over that license for the first time and have people see me as I really am,” Jakows said standing outside the entrance of the Concord Department of Motor Vehicles.

The 29-year-old walked through the DMV’s front doors and got in line at the front desk, with a state form in hand signed by a medical professional – one that would allow Jakows to get a state ID that reflects Jakows’s non-binary identity.

In July, New Hampshire passed a law allowing people to have an “X” gender marker on a drivers license instead of an “M” or “F” for male and female. The new rule went into effect on Jan. 1.

Like others who are transgender, non-binary individuals do not identify with their birth gender. But instead of transitioning from one gender to another, they fall somewhere between the two genders.

For five years, Jakows, of Concord, has identified as non-binary and uses “they” and “them” pronouns instead of “she,” “her,” “he,” or “him.”

However, that identity has not been reflected on any state or Federal issued IDs – until now. Jakows said it was an amazing feeling to be getting an ID with an “X” on Friday.

“It’s definitely becoming less of a big deal and more accepted,” Jakows said, about the community’s outlook on non-binary people.

“I woke up this morning and I was singing to my partner, like, ‘Happy non-binary license day to me and everyone else.’ It was really exciting and an amazing feeling.”

Jakows was joined by a number of other people hoping to make the change on their licenses. It was comforting to have the support, Jakows said.

“It’s a nerve-wracking thing – even though you know other people have been able to get their licenses successfully, you still wonder, am I going to get weird looks? Are people going to truly understand this?” Jakows said. “It feels good to have this group behind everyone and to feel comfortable in that.”

As of Friday, the New Hampshire DMV had 8 licenses issued with the “X” gender identifier said Larry Crowe, DMV Public Information Officer.

That afternoon, there were five or six people at the DMV who said they were going to change their license gender marker. People standing outside the DMV were holding signs with messages like, “New year, new gender marker” and “Team X.”

Alissandra Rodriguez-Murray, 25, of Manchester said coming to the DMV as a group would help bring visibility to the issue and make people more aware of non-binary people in the state.

“I think it’s important to do this as a community,” Rodriguez-Murray said. “We fought for this as a community and now we get to reap the benefits as a community.”

“When we go one-by-one, it’s not as impactful as all of us together, showing up like, ‘Hey, there are people that are actually using this, and non-binary people exist in New Hampshire, and we deserve to be validated by the state,’ ” Rodriguez-Murray added.

Rodriguez-Murray said being able to access state-issued IDs will make a huge difference in increasing social awareness for non-binary people.

“Even though it’s just a piece of plastic, it’s definitely going to make me feel more recognized. When you’re non-binary people sometimes have certain expectations for how you’re supposed to look, or act and I look very female and I get misgendered all the time, so even having that “X” on my license is going to make me feel better about, ‘This is who I am, I recognize that, and the state recognizes that. It will feel really good,” Rodriguez-Murray said.

“It’s a really easy thing for people to make fun of, and they a lot of people don’t know how far back non-binary gender or gender-fluid people go in human history and we’ve always existed, it’s not a weird thing, it’s just in American culture, we have such a binaried way of making everything.”

Tye Thompson, 50, of Nottingham, was feeling emotional before going into the DMV. Thompson said it’s only in the last year that they have been out publicly.

“The public conversation has changed,” Thompson said, wiping a tear away. “Even when I was 25, this was not the conversation that was happening and certainly when I was four or five, this was not the conversation that was happening and I do feel truly, truly grateful for everybody who has been part of public advocacy that allowed this to happen.”

“It’s just empowering to be able to have those kinds of conversations and be known by the people that are important to you,” Thompson added.

The people that were waiting to get their new licenses Friday would all be offered paper copies and will have plastic ones sent to their homes.

Alex Brendan McEntee, who was the first person to apply for the “X” gender marker at the Concord DMV after the first of the year, already had received the new ID in the mail. McEntee stopped by the DMV to support others who were applying for the “X” on Friday.

“There’s a million words – there’s ‘validating,’ there’s ‘amazing,’ there’s just ‘perfect.’ I was so psyched,” McEntee said, about the feeling of receiving the license.

State Rep. Gerri Cannon, who pioneered the bill at the statehouse, said Friday was a proud moment for her. As a transgender politician, Cannon said she wants to use her position to make sure conversations about gender identity continue to happen at the state level.

“This has been great for me, to see my first bill get through and to see that the outcome of it is actually making people happy,” Cannon said.

Cannon said the next step is to advocate for federal IDs, like passports, to develop a gender marker for non-binary people.

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