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non-binary driver’s license

My Bill Died

This legislative session, 1289 bills were introduced in Arizona. Every bill that didn’t receive a First Read by last Friday (February 22, 2019) is dead. If a bill doesn’t get a First Read, it doesn’t get assigned to a committee. If it doesn’t get assigned to a committee, it never gets voted on. I could not find a comprehensive list of all the bills that died (or that are still pending for that matter), but among the dead bills is my bill.

HB2289 would have given Arizona the ability to issue non-binary driver’s licenses. This law would have provided the legal recognition that non-binary people deserve to be treated the same as men and women. It would have helped alleviate the problems that arise when someone’s appearance is discordant to the gender they were assigned as birth.

The currently law only allows for male and female designations on IDs. There are no other options. Even if you present a non-binary birth certificate or a non-binary driver’s license from another state, they can’t issue you a non-binary driver’s license. Even if the MVD wanted to, it can’t issue a driver’s license with “X” for non-binary. (I know. I’ve tried. Ditto for leaving the field for sex blank. The computer won’t process the application without “M” or “F.”)  

During this legislative session, I called or emailed Speaker Bowers’ office almost every day. My friends called and emailed him too.  I never received a response, even when I specifically requested a call back. Each time I asked him to give the bill a First Read and assign it to a committee. My requests fell on deaf ears.

I never asked Speaker Bowers to support the bill. All I asked was that he allow it to be heard.

Issuing non-binary driver’s licenses is not a new idea. Currently, Washington D.C. and 6 states issue non-binary driver’s licenses: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, and Oregon. (Looking at the pending bills and previously passed laws in other states, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Vermont are the most likely states to be next to grant non-binary driver’s licenses.)

Wait. Back up.

Arkansas! One of the states in the “bible belt” is more progressive and accepting of non-binary people than my state!

Granting non-binary people driver’s licenses that match their gender won’t change most people’s lives, and it shouldn’t be that expensive. It’s a matter of updating a form and some computer software. By not even letting the bill be heard, the State is telling non-binary people that we don’t exist, that we don’t matter, that we don’t deserve the same rights and acknowledgement as everyone else. The State of Arizona is saying we’re second class citizens at best.

This hurt. Having my bill die without being given a chance was a slap in the face and a kick in the gut. It made me want to figuratively crawl into a corner and cry.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/taedc/34757503063
Image by Ted Eytan from Werk For Your Health (Creative Commons License)

At the same time, I want to scream at anyone who says we don’t exist. I will shop in the men’s and women’s sections if I feel like it. I will cringe every time I hear someone refer to me as “ma’am” or “miss.” I want to take my non-binary birth certificate (thanks California!) and whip it out anytime someone claims we should be forced to use the bathroom based on what gender we were assigned at birth.

We know we exist. I’m not asking for your validation. I just want the same rights as everyone else.

If you’re curious about the status of a bill, you can look it up on the State’s website. A lot of good bills died last week.

Arizona Candidates Support Non-Binary Rights

Earlier this year, I had my California birth certificate corrected to state that I’m non-binary (meaning I’m not a man or a woman). When I went to my local Arizona Motor Vehicle Department to get my FAA-compliant ID that we’re all required to get by 2020, they denied my application even though I brought all the requisite documents. By law, the Arizona Department of Transportation only acknowledge two genders: male and female. The system cannot process an application with “X” for the sex or gender.

Contacting the Candidates

Arizona needs to update its laws to acknowledge that non-binary people exist. As of this date, seven states and Washington D.C. will issue non-binary birth certificates and/or driver’s licenses. I may have been the first person to present a non-binary ID, but I will not be the last.

I contacted all 176 candidates running to represent Arizona in the U.S. Congress and to serve in the Arizona Senate and House of Representatives (via email, their website, or Facebook), told them about this situation, and asked them two questions:

  1. If elected, would you support a bill that would require the State (or federal government) to have a non-binary option on all identifications that specify sex or gender?
  2. If yes, would you be willing to sponsor such a bill?

Followed up with each candidate up to three times over the last three weeks or until I received a response.

The Results

I received “yes” answers to question #1 from 36 candidates (20% of candidates contacted), and only 50 of the 176 candidates I contacted gave me any type of response. I was delighted by the number of candidates who said they support changing the laws to acknowledge non-binary persons. Here’s the list of everyone who would support a bill to add a non-binary option to government IDs:

U.S. House of Representatives
District 3: Raul Grijalva (Democrat, Incumbent)

Arizona Senate
District 2: Andrea Dalessandro (Democrat, Incumbent)
District 5: J’aime Morgaine (Democrat)
District 7: JL Mealer (Republican)
District 9: Victoria Steele (Democrat)
District 10: David Bradley (Democrat, Incumbent)
District 11: Ralph Atchue (Democrat)
District 13: Michelle Harris (Democrat)
District 15: Kristin Dybvig-Pawelko (Democrat)
District 16: Benjamin Carmitchel (Democrat)
District 20: Douglas Ervin (Democrat)
District 27: Rebecca Rios (Democrat, Incumbent)
District 29: Martin Quezada (Democrat, Incumbent)

Arizona House of Representatives
District 1: Ed Gogek (Democrat) and Jan Manolis (Democrat)
District 3: Andres Cano (Democrat) and Beryl Baker (Green)
District 4: Sara Mae Williams (Green)
District 5: Mary Robinson (Democrat)
District 8: Carmen Casillas (Democrat) and Linda Gross (Democrat)
District 10: Kirsten Engel (Democrat, Incumbent)
District 11: Hollace Lyon (Democrat)
District 13: Thomas Tzitzura (Democrat)
District 15: Julie Gunnigle (Democrat) and Jennifer Samuels (Democrat)
District 18: Denise “Mitzi” Epstein (Democrat, Incumbent) and Jennifer Jermaine (Democrat)
District 19: Lorenzo Sierra (Democrat)
District 21: Gilbert Romero (Democrat)
District 22: Valerie Harris (Democrat)
District 23: Eric Kurland (Democrat)
District 24: Jennifer Longdon (Democrat)
District 28: Kelli Butler (Democrat, Incumbent) and Aaron Lieberman (Democrat)
District 29: Richard Andrade (Democrat, Incumbent)

In addition to these 35 supporters, a number of candidates responded to my emails by saying they would support such a bill, but because of the circumstances related to their race, they could not publicly support such a bill at this time. I respect people in this situation, and I will follow up with them after the election if they win.

Commitment to Sponsor a Bill

“Arizona Flag” by Gage Skidmore from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Of the 35 candidates who would support this bill, 31 of them said they would sponsor such a bill.

The main reasons given by those who would not commit to sponsoring a bill were either because they commitments related to other issues to pursue or because they would be a freshman official and they did not know enough about the process to sponsor a bill yet.

Other Responses

Here are some additional responses I received to my inquiries from candidates who said “yes” and “no” to supporting a bill for non-binary rights:

Kelli Butler: “Thank you for spearheading this effort! I was a co-sponsor of HB2492 last session and hope to win my election so I can co-sponsor the bill again. This is an important step for equality and respect for all and I was extremely disappointed that the bill never received a hearing.” (Democrat, District 28)

Hollace Lyon: “My first, ‘gut’ reaction to your story was, ‘Just because one doesn’t declare a sex, doesn’t mean they aren’t a person!’” (Democrat, District 11)

Julie Gunnigle: “I am very concerned about what this means for non-binary citizens and their fundamental right to travel (not to mention the bigger picture of equal treatment by their government).” (Democrat, District 15)

John Fillmore: “I do not think I can support this.” (Republican, District 16)

The responses from these candidates give me hope for the next legislative session in Arizona, that we’ll be able to pass a bill that will acknowledge that non-binary persons exist, similar to the bill that died in committee last year.