When Alex Herisko entered the PennDOT Driver License Center in downtown Pittsburgh, they took a number -- 715 -- and looked up at the sign to see how many customers were ahead of them: about 60. Herisko settled in for a long wait.
Herisko, who identifies as genderqueer and non-binary, and uses they/them pronouns, visited the Smithfield Street facility to have their driver’s license gender marker changed to an X. The option was announced earlier this summer by PennDOT, in what the agency said is an effort to better reflect the spectrum of gender identities of Pennsylvanians.
Herisko arrived at the center a little before 2 p.m. on a recent Monday.
“Will this ticket let me to change my gender marker?” Herisko asked of the employee at the entrance handing out tickets. The employee nodded and Herisko took a seat, where they waited for the next two hours for their number to be called.
Herisko, 27, has one friend who has gotten the X. They said their friend was excited for the chance to get an ID that didn’t place them in a gender. Herisko falls under the transgender umbrella.
When PennDOT announced Pennsylvania would join more than a dozen other states in providing a third gender option, gender non-conforming and non-binary individuals praised the move. For people who don’t fall within the male or female genders, being identified as one can cause stress and gender dysphoria.
Finally around 4 p.m., Herisko’s ticket was called and they made their way to a counter. The employee asked why Herisko was at the center and asked them to print and sign their name on a clipboard and hand over their current ID. Herisko’s request to change their gender marker to an X was met with a nod, as if they had asked to change their address. There were no strange looks, Herisko noted.
Because the change is so new, PennDOT has not printed new forms for the X identifier, which seemed to cause a little confusion. But after a few apologies to Herisko and brief conversations with coworkers and a supervisor, the employee came back and had Herisko sign Form 32, Request for Gender Change. This form is available online and applicants can save time by printing it out ahead of time.
On the form -- which currently only allows people to change from M to F or F to M -- the employee drew on a box with an X next to it and checked it off. (In Pennsylvania, a physician, nurse practitioner, therapist or social worker must sign off on legally changing genders from male to female or female to male. This is not required to get the X. ) Several minutes later, the employee took Herisko’s old license, punched a hole in it and handed them their new ID.
“That was shockingly easy,” Herisko said afterward. “A lot of times with stuff like this, you have to have a physician’s note or something.”
Herisko’s advice for people interested in the change? “Bring a Gameboy or something, just for the wait.”