Arkansas rolls back gender-neutral driver's license policy


Arkansas will no longer allow drivers to use an “X” for their gender on driver’s licenses, state regulators said Tuesday, rolling back a policy that was inclusive to nonbinary people. 

The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration said the changes are being made to “safeguard” state IDs. The agency also announced it will make it more difficult for transgender people to change the gender listed on their ID.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) celebrated the announcement, comparing the ID changes to fraught conservative culture war talking points.

“This policy is just common sense. Only women give birth, men shouldn’t play women’s sports, and there are only two genders,” she said in a statement. “As long as I’m Governor, Arkansas state government will not endorse nonsense.”

The effort continues moves by Republican state governments to legally mandate gender as binary, a move which goes against the common academic understanding of gender and which critics argue completely erases the recognition of transgender and nonbinary people. The changes also raise concerns for intersex people, those with sex traits of either both or neither gender.

There are approximately 1.2 million nonbinary or transgender Americans, according to a 2021 study. Nonbinary driver license gender labels are allowed in 22 states plus the District of Columbia, and are supported for federal IDs, including passports.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas denounced the changes on Tuesday, saying they “threaten the safety and dignity” of transgender, nonbinary and intersex Arkansans.

“Accurate and consistent identity documents are a fundamental necessity, enabling individuals to travel, secure employment, open bank accounts, and enroll in educational programs,” the group said in a statement. “For transgender people, in particular, an ID that accurately reflects their true self is not just a matter of dignity — it is crucial for their safety and well-being.”

“We strongly oppose the Governor and the Department of Finance and Administration’s (DFA) attempt to implement this regressive and damaging policy,” the statement continues. “It is shameful that they have failed to consider the significant impact such measures will have on the lives of many Arkansans.”

Just 342 of the state’s more than 2.6 million active driver licenses use the “X” gender designator, the DFA said, in addition to 174 of 503,000 other state IDs. Those IDs will remain valid through their expiry date, when owners will be forced to choose male or female for their documentation.

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