PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Within a year’s time, Rhode Island will be offering a non-binary gender option on state driver’s licenses and identification cards.
It’s something that Jaye Watts, the director of the Trans Health Program at the non-profit healthcare center, Thundermist, said is overdue in the Ocean State.
“I think this has really been a charge being driven by the members of our community, who collectively said, ‘It’s time for this be put in place, we’re tired of waiting and we need answers,'” Watts said.
Rhode Island joins more than a dozen other states that either currently offer or are working to add a third gender option on licenses.
The change is a positive one for Rhode Islanders like 22-year-old Jess Ring – who identifies as non-binary, or “genderqueer.”
“I don’t feel like I am a woman or a man, but I feel like I walk this area in the middle of the spectrum,” Ring explained.
Governor Gina Raimondo told Eyewitness News there will soon be three options for Rhode Islanders to choose from when selecting their gender for their drivers license including “M” and “F” – for male or female – and “X” for people who don’t identify as either of those genders.
“Having that ‘X’ option is very affirming and makes me feel like my gender is real and that I’m not just some sort of trend or a fraud or someone pretending to be a boy,” Ring said.
Raimondo hopes the non-binary option will be available within the next year, though she’d prefer if it were implemented as soon as possible.
“It is just basic fairness so that everybody can be treated equally and be recognized by the government for who they are,” Raimondo said.
Some don’t agree with the addition of a non-binary gender, including Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group.“Catering to political-correctness is no way to run a state,” Stenhouse said in a statement. “The majority of people in Rhode Island have lost faith in our government, which has forgotten about them, and which now caters almost exclusively to the special-interest few.”
Spokespeople for the Department of Health and Division of Motor Vehicles said the changes to the licensing forms and birth certificates will be included in Raimondo’s budget.
Watts said this will not impact on the implementation of REAL IDs.