Non-binary New Yorkers will have the option to mark their gender identity as “X” when applying for public benefits through the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) announced on Wednesday, Oct. 4.
The change relates to a settlement stemming from a 2021 lawsuit by the NYCLU against the OTDA, arguing its policy of requiring applicants for benefits — including food stamps and Medicaid — to choose between “male” and “female” discriminated against non-binary New York residents.
The OTDA will make “X” gender markers available starting on January 1, 2024, the NYCLU’s announcement stated. The same will apply to New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and New York City Human Resources Administration documents.
Furthermore, the settlement called to make training available to OTDA, NYSDOH, and local social services staff to help inform them about the changes and underscore the need to maintain cultural competency.
Jules Donahue and Jaime Mitchell were plaintiffs in the case along with Princess Janae Place, a Bronx-based organization that helps trans individuals transition from homelessness to independent living.
Jevon Martin, executive director of Princess Janae Place, celebrated the news, calling it a “critical policy change.”
“As a transgender advocate leading an organization that provides gender-affirming support, I have seen firsthand the devastating mental health effects of misgendering people. OTDA’s new policies will help restore a greater degree of autonomy and self-determination for all nonbinary New Yorkers, recognizing their fundamental dignity,” Martin said in a written statement.
For Donahue, an LGBTQ activist, the new policy represented was a welcome change.
“While today’s agreement does not erase the emotional harm of being misgendered, I am grateful for OTDA’s policy changes, which will help non-binary people like me to feel more at home in their bodies, their lives and their societies,” they said.
New York State has allowed individuals to use an “X” gender-marker on drivers’ licenses and birth certificates since May 2022.
The OTDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Gay City News.