New Yorkers applying for food stamps, Medicaid, and other essential public assistance programs are about to experience a more inclusive application process. Why? Because they’ll soon have the option to select an “X” gender marker when filling out those forms. This landmark change comes in response to a lawsuit filed back in 2021 against several government agencies. The lawsuit made a compelling case: it argued that New York’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) put nonbinary individuals in an uncomfortable spot. They had to either fib about their gender identity, claiming to be either male or female, or face the unsettling prospect of being denied critical benefits. Thankfully, a settlement has been reached, and it’s a game-changer.
New York’s public assistance and health agencies have agreed to introduce “X” gender markers on the relevant forms, starting from January 1. The New York City Human Resources Administration, as confirmed by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), will be ahead of the game. They’ll offer “X” gender markers on their forms even before the statewide rollout date. Talk about progress! Gabriella Larios, an attorney with NYCLU, couldn’t be happier. She sees this settlement as a massive win for the countless nonbinary New Yorkers who can finally breathe easy. They won’t have to mask their true selves or worry about being misgendered when seeking those essential public benefits.
This step forward echoes New York’s forward-thinking approach, as they’ve already made room for nonbinary gender options on driver’s licenses and birth certificates. And as if that’s not exciting enough, since April 2022, U.S. citizens can boldly select “X” as their gender marker on U.S. passport applications. It’s a clear sign of the growing recognition and acceptance of diverse gender identities at the national level. When the lawsuit was initially filed, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance made a promise. They assured everyone that a substantial software upgrade was in the works, pledging to accommodate this additional gender option. With this recent settlement, that promise becomes a reality, promoting inclusivity and honoring the identities of all applicants.
By introducing the “X” gender option on public assistance application forms, the state takes a critical step toward recognizing and celebrating gender diversity. Now, everyone can access vital services without sacrificing their true selves. It shows the state’s dedication to honoring the rights and identities of all its residents, pushing society to be more inclusive, where everyone can feel seen and accepted.