Identity Documents

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Transgender Rights Toolkit: A Legal Guide For Trans People and Their Advocates

Carrying identification that reflects your genuine, real-world self is basic— whether you’re transgender or not. Th at’s what ID’s are for. So imagine if every time you tried to travel, open a bank account or start a new job, someone harassed you about your ID. Is it fake? Are you pretending to be someone you’re not?

When a transgender person’s ID is called into question, whether on suspicion of lying or out of an inappropriate interest in fi nding out whether they’ve had sex reassignment surgery (SRS), it amounts to harassment and discrimination and, in many cases, reveals their transgender status, which is private information. Forty percent of National Transgender Discrimination Survey1 participants who presented ID that didn’t match their gender presentation were harassed, 15% were asked to leave an establishment, and 3% were assaulted.

There is no set formula for transitioning. The Standards of Care established by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) state that for some, transition involves simply living in accordance with your gender identity, while for others there may be medical interventions required such as hormone therapy or SRS. All this needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

These facts are beginning to influence ID policy. WPATH urged in 2010 that governments and other bodies should “move to eliminate requirements for identity recognition that require surgical procedures.” Indeed, four U.S. federal agencies recently enacted policies that are more in sync with the realities of transition. And several states are modernizing their birth certifi cate and driver’s license policies.

This fact sheet is intended to answer questions about changing the gender marker or name on your identification and to bring you up to date about some of the work advocates are doing to help transgender people obtain accurate identity documents that will make their lives easier.