If Nevada and other states can issue non-binary IDs then why can’t the UK?

Photography by Zackary Drucker as part of Broadly’s Gender Spectrum Collection

Congratulations are in order for Nevada. The American state has now made a momentous decision to allow non-binary people to identify as “X” gender on driving licences and other government-issued IDs. Other states require people changing their gender on IDs to provide a court order, however Nevadans can self-identify without any additional documentation.

As someone who identifies outside of the confines of the male or female tickbox, legal forms have become a political battleground. Not being able to be officially recognised in legal terms is triggering and frustrating for many and it’s something that has led to criticism world wide.

Nevada follows other US states who have been leading the way in gender recognition like Arkansas and Colorado and airlines like United, which have customised their booking systems to be more inclusive for non-binary passengers flying on the newly issued documents around the country. It’s not just the US putting places like the UK to shame, India has officially recognised “third gender” citizens on passports, as well as New Zealand, and Australia, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Germany.

In contrast, today a number of Scottish MPs for the SNP want to slow progress within the Scottish government to make it easier for people to self identify. As reported in The Scotsman, the 15 said: “conflating sex with gender identification affects a wide range of policy and service delivery, including data collection, education, health and social care, justice and sport. New information about this topic is emerging all the time and deserves to be properly scrutinised”. The letter adds: “Changing the definition of male and female is a matter of profound significance. It is not something we should rush.”

These places are miles ahead of the UK, which is dragging its feet on changes in the aftermath of the Gender Recognition Act consultation held last October. More recently, a non-binary activist named Jamie Windust started a petition that has garnered over 16,000 signatures so far since its inception.

Speaking to gal-dem, Jamie said they were “baffled” at the slow progress. “I think it’s really interesting to look at the progress of other countries in the West. The UK is supposed to be a country that is supposed to be leading the way in terms of LGBTQ rights and we’re not at a point yet where we have ‘X’ markers on passports and legal documentation, which is why I started the petition.”

It has now received a response from the government’s equality office. “The Government is aware that we have more to learn,” the statement reads. “In the Gender Recognition Act consultation, we included an open question on non-binary identity. We are currently analysing these results. The Government will use any insights gained to improve our understanding and carefully inform our next steps in this area.”

While Jamie says they weren’t expecting such a positive response from the government they believe it is a hangover from finding a big non-binary response from the Gender Recognition Act consultation. “What Nevada has done is amazing and it marks them out as a progressive state like New York who did the same in January. It’s a message to the rest of the Western world because it makes people question: ‘well, why aren’t we?’”

So far the government’s snail pace has been reasoned on the grounds of ease rather than morality. According to the Guardian, after a very public case for “X” passports, brought forward by Christie Elan-Cane, the Home Office denied a third gender option on passports because “there would be significant administrative and financial costs to HM Passport Office in allowing an X marker in passports… and the number of people likely to be benefited is relatively modest.”

It’s estimated the cost of issuing a third category of passport is as little as £2 million, which, in comparison to the £500 million cost of getting those Brexit blue passports, is tiny. However, a high court appeal for Christie is due to happen in December.

You can sign the petition here.

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