Within the next year, Pennsylvania drivers will be permitted to select an “X” on their driver’s licenses rather than identify themselves as male or female. While voices of opposition will kick and scream, we wonder what the big deal is?
Why does a driver’s gender matter? Get pulled over driving 85 mph, you’re going to get a ticket if you have “F,” “M,” or “X.” We understand a driver’s license is also used as a universal form of identification, but gender doesn’t matter when you board an airplane or enter a federal building, locations where ID is always needed for entry.
“I don’t know what the state’s interest is” in having a gender designation on ID, said Jordi Comas, of Lewisburg, a board member of Equality PA, a statewide group advocating for LGBT rights. “Your identification has your name and photo, that’s what they need.”
Pennsylvania would join 13 other states, including neighboring Maryland, that offers residents a gender-neutral option on driver’s licenses, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, based in Washington, D.C. New Hampshire was the most recent state to make the announcement.
A PennDOT spokeswoman says the agency has the authority to present the gender-neutral option to drivers without an act of the state’s General Assembly. The state vehicle code doesn’t include mandates that the driver’s gender be described on the license, according to a copy of the code posted online. Instead, it says that driver’s licenses should include the driver’s name, date of birth, address, a photograph and “such other information as may be required by the department.”
As America becomes more aware of gender neutrality, these types of discussions, as uncomfortable as they can be for some people, need to happen. Some transgender individuals are concerned if they pick male or female on other documents but have selected a non-gender specific title on their driver’s license, it might open them up to some sort of criminality for lying on an official document.
“Gender-marker changes are a patchwork of policies across the country,” Arli Christian, director of state policy for the National Center for Transgender Equality told the New York Times. “That leads to these very tricky questions of when you update one document, what do you get on another?”
When The Daily Item posted a story on Facebook of PennDOT’s move, there were 361 comments on the story, a higher than average total. Most thought the idea “ridiculous” or “stupid.”
Why? It will have no impact on anyone else. How does any sort of designation on someone’s driver’s license impact anyone but the individual involved?
Earlier this year, state legislators in Maryland began discussing a similar proposal. Democratic Sen. Mary Washington offered up the following: “By passing this legislation, this body is allowing Marylanders to accurately represent … who they are,” she said.
That is all this change does in Pennsylvania and other states where it is allowed. It doesn’t force anyone to change anything else.
NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher and top newsroom executives. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.