New driver's license

Granite Staters will be able to select a third gender indication on state driver’s licenses and state-issued identification cards starting Wednesday.

House Bill 669, which Gov. Chris Sununu let become law in July without his signature, allows cards to be marked “M” for male, “F” for female or “X” for those who identify as neither — known as non-binary gender.

Peter Starkey, executive director of the Keene-based Monadnock Peer Support Agency, said this gender marker is beneficial to non-binary people’s overall mental health.

“It’s been a barrier for many people to have to look at a license that doesn’t represent who they think they are,” he said. “It can cause a lot of stress and anxiety, and something that may seem so little can actually be a big deal for someone’s who been dealing with this their whole life.”

Starkey added clients of the agency, which hosts the only LGBTQ-specific mental health support group in the Monadnock Region, have said this addition is a “huge load off their shoulders.”

New Hampshire is the 13th state to provide this designation, joining bordering states Vermont and Maine. Massachusetts added the option in November.

Each state law is different as to how the “X” is obtained. In New Hampshire, residents must have a form signed by a qualified health care provider — physician, psychologist, nurse practitioner, clinical social worker or clinical mental health worker — confirming this is the gender the person identifies with.

The legal change will cost the state Department of Motor Vehicles $25,000 to implement for system programming, according to the bill.

Palana Belken, trans justice organizer for the American Civil Liberties Union’s New Hampshire chapter, said this option is a huge win for the non-binary community.

“The most important, top-line thing is it’s recognizing this identity is real,” she said. “Something besides just male or female exists and deserves documentation. It doesn’t force them to identify as something they’re not.”

The legislation follows two other recent bills involving LGBTQ+ rights. In 2018, Sununu signed a bill that added gender identity to the state’s anti-discrimination laws and another that banned gay conversion therapy for minors.

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @OBelangerKS.