A sign marks the entrance to the Georgetown branch of the District of Columbia's Department of Motor Vehicles. (John Kelly/TWP)

Starting next week, the District will allow gender-neutral designations on driver’s licenses and ID cards.

The announcement from the D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles comes after Oregon became the first state in the country to introduce a gender-neutral option on ID cards earlier this month.

The D.C. change, which will take effect Monday, means residents can choose a gender-neutral “X” identifier as opposed to male or female designations. The nonbinary option will appear on driver’s licenses, ID cards and other DMV-related documents, including learner’s permits and driver records.

The new option comes just weeks after the city replaced “District of Columbia”on driver’s licenses with “Washington, D.C.” in an effort to quash confusion over whether residents were actually from the nation’s capital.

“This is an example of D.C. wanting to be on the leading edge and supporting our residents so that basic government bureaucracy doesn’t make them feel excluded from our community,” said D.C. Council member Brianne K. Nadeau (D-Ward 1).

Beginning Monday, D.C. residents will be able to get a gender-neutral designation on their driver’s license. Starting this month, the city also is replacing District of Columbia with Washington, D.C., on its licenses and IDs. (Courtesy of the D.C. DMV)

The change is an administrative one made by the DMV. Nadeau, who introduced legislation Tuesday to make a nonbinary option on ID cards law, said the measure has six co-introducers as well as other sponsors and that she does not anticipate any opposition on the D.C. Council. The change should not cause problems for people using their D.C. licenses for federal ID purposes, because the REAL ID law requires only that individuals select an option in an available gender field, Nadeau said.

Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who chairs the panel’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment, said the world has never been binary but is in fact “much richer and much more complicated than the categories that we’ve used for a millennia.”

“Increasingly, we’ve become aware that there is a significant segment of the population who does not identify as male or female, and we shouldn’t let their existence be denied,” Cheh said in a statement.

The new option comes as transgender issues have taken on greater urgency and importance nationwide.

In February 2014, Facebook added a “custom” gender option, which users can incorporate into their profiles. The option provides more than 50 additional identifiers, including “neither, “transgender” and “nonbinary.” Users can also set their profiles to incorporate gender-neutral pronouns.

But government and legal changes often lag behind societal ones. Beyond Oregon, where residents will be able to select a nonbinary identifier starting July 3, only California has a bill under consideration to add the option to state IDs.

The District DMV has been working on the technological and operational changes required by the addition for about six months, according to spokeswoman Gwendolyn Chambers. Applicants establishing or requesting to switch to the gender-neutral identifier on a driver’s license or ID card must submit the relevant applications and Gender Designation form as well as pay fees associated with obtaining a new or duplicate ID.

In 2004, the District became one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to enable residents to change their genders as indicated on their IDs using a Gender Designation form.

Zelaika Clarke, a social worker at the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, said the announcement marks a step in recognizing the diversity “that has been denied to folks for a really long time.” Clarke, who has a master's degree in the education of human sexuality and a doctorate in human sexuality, said there are dozens of gender identities that are not recognized by many institutions.

Yet despite the opportunity for the District to act as a “model for the country,” Clarke cautioned against the ways in which the gender-neutral designation could provoke a backlash against the nonbinary community. Clarke said it is vital that people whose job it is to check IDs be educated about what the designation means.

“To have to explain yourself can be exhausting, so I hope that in instances like that, it doesn’t provoke that type of response,” Clarke said. “I just hope it doesn’t further marginalize the community.”

David Mariner, the center’s executive director, said that even the center’s offices are located in a government building where visitors have to present their ID to enter.

“It’s important for people to feel comfortable and safe,” Mariner said. “I think that this will make those interactions even better than they are now.”

For Erika Feinman, legal recognition of nonbinary and transgender individuals is much more than a symbolic gesture. Feinman said that their current ID serves as a daily reminder that the government does not recognize them for who they are, which can be “a very disorienting thing.”

Feinman, 22, who served as the nation’s first openly nonbinary student body president at George Washington University, said they cried when they first saw headlines about the introduction of a gender-neutral identifier in Oregon. Feinman, who lives in Columbia Heights, joked that they thought about moving to Oregon as a result.

Now that won’t be necessary.