Michigan is considering adding a nonbinary option to driver’s licenses and state identification in 2021.
Residents in Michigan can currently change their sex on driver’s licenses but must select from either male or female. The change would allow residents who do not identify as either male or female to register as nonbinary to better reflect their gender expression.
If the change takes place, Michigan will become the 15th state to offer the option, joining New York, Maryland, Hawaii and others. Washington D.C. also offers a nonbinary option. According to a spokesman for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, the state is looking at adding the option after they upgrade their technology in 2021.
For residents who identify as nonbinary the change is a welcomed one.
Ferris senior, who uses they/them pronouns, Zephyrus Reugsegger, said, “I think it would be extremely helpful. Today I did two things: I went to the doctor and then the phone store and I had to give my license both times and then they automatically assumed my pronouns incorrectly based off of my license and that’s very frustrating. It would probably cut down on the number of times I have to correct people and the awkwardness,”
According to the university’s Fact Books, Ferris currently identifies all students as either male or female. This information inaccurately represents the entirety of Ferris’ student body, as many students do not identify with a binary gender. However, Ferris has been making strides towards more gender inclusivity.
Ferris LGBTQ+ Resource Center Coordinator, Sarah Doherty said that while Ferris is still using binary sexes in data fields such as Banner, the IT department, along with administration and others at Ferris have been working on making it possible for students to self-generate gender labels and to designate appropriate pronouns.
However, making the change to allowing nonbinary identification for class rosters, Blackboard, and Canvas requires those sites to make changes before Ferris can make the option available.
The changes in these systems could make an important impact in the classroom for nonbinary students like Reugsegger, who said they were called by their deadname (legal name) in front of a classroom because a professor was taking attendance from Banner, which uses the student’s legal name, even if they have done a name change through the university.
As for what Ferris could do to better accommodate nonbinary students without a technology change, both Reugsegger and Doherty had suggestions.
Reugsegger said they appreciate when professors include their own pronouns outside of their office and when they give students an opportunity to disclose their own pronouns during class introductions. Reugsegger also said that some of their professors, even after being corrected, never use the correct pronouns when addressing them, and that it makes them feel invalidated.
“I think it would be amazing if pronouns were on the roster because I get misgendered almost every day I go to class because no one ever thinks to use they/them pronouns or gender neutral pronouns of any sort, so that would be extremely helpful,” Reugsegger said.
One suggestion made by Doherty can be implemented at Ferris, but also outside it.
“It would be helpful if more folks who are and are not in the LGBTQ+ community to just remember that there are more kinds of people than you’re maybe raised to believe and remember that there is gender diversity in your classroom,” Doherty said.