700+ Oregonians choose third gender on ID cards

Oregon first state to offer third, nonbinary gender on state-issued driver licenses and ID cards

Southwest Portland resident J Gibbons is one of hundreds of Oregonians who have converted their gender marker to 'X' in the past four months, since Oregon became the first state to offer the third gender choice on identification cards and driver licenses. (Jaime Valdez/ Portland Tribune)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — More than 700 Oregonians have selected a third gender — neither male nor female — on their state-issued identification cards and driver licenses since the option became available July 3.

Southwest Portland resident J Gibbons is one of hundreds of Oregonians who have converted their gender marker to ‘X’ in the past four months. (Jaime Valdez/ Portland Tribune)

The state transportation commission approved the change in June, making Oregon the first state to allow people to identify as “nonbinary,” or Gender “X” on their driver licenses and identification cards.

Southeast Portland resident J Gibbons, 26, went to the local DMV office to change the gender on their license from female to nonbinary, on the debut day of the option, July 3.

“For Oregon to be the first and to finally have an identity document that reflects all aspects of my identity, I felt I was finally being seen by the state I live in, which is something that had never happened before,” Gibbons said.

Having to carry the label of female was a constant source of pain and invalidation, Gibbons said. For instance, when Gibbons went to the doctor’s office or went to buy something with a credit card, staff would call Gibbons “ma’am,” or make other assumptions about Gibbons’ identity. Gibbons, who goes by the first name of “J” (no period), was assigned the female gender at birth but shops for clothes in the men’s section and keeps a short haircut. Coming out to the world as neither male or female involved counseling and doggedness, Gibbons said.

“I’m not a man or a woman; I’m somewhere in between,” Gibbons said. “To be able to have the correct gender marker was an incredible source of validation.”

Last month, the California Assembly followed Oregon’s lead but enhanced the offerings to include birth certificates and other official state documents.

As of the last count Wednesday, Nov. 1, 720 Oregonians have selected the Gender X designation, said David House, a spokesperson for the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles. That’s a fraction of a 1 percent of about 3.2 million people with some kind of Oregon-issued driver license.

Transgender and intersex Oregonians may self-certify the gender designation with “no questions asked,” the same way applicants may self-report height and weight, House said.

The number of people who have taken advantage of the option is a “powerful statement” and represents a larger trend of people, including celebrities, embracing nonbinary identities, Gibbons said.

Facebook has for several years offered dozens of different gender identities. In 2015, the number was estimated to stand at more than 70 different ones and was customizable in certain countries, included the United States. The dating app Tinder offers a selection of nearly 40 gender identities.

“This world constantly and subtly sends the message that there are only two genders,” Gibbons said. “For Oregon to move to the forefront (of that trend) was incredibly powerful for me.”

The Portland Tribune is a KOIN media partner.