If it passes, legislative bill 517 will allow Nebraskans to have gender–neutral birth certificates, driver’s licenses and Identification cards. This means that instead of a gender on these documents being listed as “male” or “female”, it would display “X”.
There’s already a precedent for the usage of “X” as a gender marker on official documents in the United States. Currently, nineteen states plus the District of Columbia allow for this gender-neutral option on identification documents.
The purpose of the gender–neutral marker is to allow both non–binary (used to describe people who identify outside of the traditional gender binary) and intersex (meaning born with variations in sex characteristics) individuals to have identification that fits with who they are.
State senator Megan Hunt, who introduced LB517, believes that the ability to change legal documents to match a person’s gender is essential. “These documents have to do with somebody’s employment rights, marriage, inheritance, job or education,” said Hunt. “So much of what we do in our lives depends on our identification.”
Hunt also hopes that bills like LB517 could help reduce violence against transgender people. She says that transgender people are often likely to be harassed or assaulted when the name or description on their ID card doesn’t match who they are, and this bill could help change that.
“For their safety, and for the economic growth of Nebraska, it’s very important that people have documents that reflect who they are,” said Hunt.
The actual number of Americans publicly identifying as non-binary has grown significantly in the past few decades, most likely because of increasing social acceptance. This development means there is now a sizable demand for an official gender marker other than male or female on documents.
According to the Pew Research Center, about four in ten US adults say forms should offer more than two gender options. That percentage only increases among the younger generations.
For people who would like to change their gender to unspecified or “X” on a birth certificate, the process laid out by LB517 would require applicants to file a petition to their district court. Upon verifying the truth of petition, the court will order the gender listed on the birth certificate to be changed.
In addition to individual states allowing gender neutral identification, there has also been some push on the national level for similar legislation. California Representative Ro Khanna introduced a bill to the House this February that would create a gender neutral “X” option for US passports.
Even though the Nebraska legislature is majority conservative, Senator Hunt is still fighting for her bill to pass. “There is a lot of ignorance in the legislature about trans people and trans identity. Part of my challenge is to demystify and destigmatize that,” said Hunt. “It’s going to be a heavy lift, but I think the fact that I’m here and making people challenge their own discriminatory beliefs is a good thing.”
Hunt encourages youth who feel strongly about LB517 to reach out to their representatives and share their thoughts.