The Bulletin

Virginia has issued 5,600 nonbinary driver’s licenses and IDs since 2020

By: - September 28, 2022 12:05 am

A security guard exits DMV headquarters in Richmond. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles has issued approximately 5,600 driver’s licenses and other forms of ID with a nonbinary gender designation since a 2020 law allowed people to choose that option rather than male or female.

The number includes “driver’s licenses, identification cards, driver privilege cards and identification privilege cards,” said Jessica Cowardin, a spokesperson for the DMV. 

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax, said he was surprised to hear so many people had taken advantage of the option since the law went into effect July 1, 2020, but said the number indicated “how important it is to so many people.” 

“There’s thousands of Virginians that have a very strong and sincere belief that they ought to be able to express their gender identity that way in government records,” he said. “There’s probably other government records we ought to be thinking about as well.” 

Virginia isn’t alone in offering a nonbinary designation on driver’s licenses. According to the nonprofit Movement Advancement Project, which tracks LGBTQ+ legislation nationwide, 22 states and Washington, D.C. now allow residents to list themselves as “X,” or nonbinary, on the identification. The U.S. Department of State also began allowing people to use X as a gender marker on U.S. passports in April. 

Surovell said it was “important that the government meet people where they are and recognize who they are.” 

“For decades the government put lots of people in boxes in lots of ways,” he said. “And going forward I don’t think a lot of young people see themselves that way.”

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Sarah Vogelsong
Sarah Vogelsong

Sarah is Editor-in-Chief of the Mercury and previously its environment and energy reporter. She has worked for multiple Virginia and regional publications, including Chesapeake Bay Journal, The Progress-Index and The Caroline Progress. Her reporting has won awards from groups such as the Society of Environmental Journalists and Virginia Press Association, and she is an alumna of the Columbia Energy Journalism Initiative and Metcalf Institute Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary. Contact her at [email protected]

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