Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Mini-win for the trans community: Michigan SOS makes it easier to change gender marker on ID

Posted By on Wed, Mar 16, 2016 at 2:20 PM

click to enlarge Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. - PHOTO COURTESY STATE OF MICHIGAN
  • Photo courtesy State of Michigan
  • Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson.
Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson has made it easier for transgender people to change their gender identifier on their IDs. Individuals can now use a U.S. passport or passport card to have their ID changed. 

Previously, individuals seeking to change their state ID or driver's license to match the gender they identify as would run into a costly roadblock. The Secretary of State required them to present an amended birth certificate, which requires a consuming and financially strenuous process to obtain. It's only possible to obtain an amended birth certificate once a person has had gender confirmation surgery — an expensive procedure that not every transgender person has the funds or desire to have done. 

The reality of the previous hurdle meant many transgender individuals in Michigan were going without IDs — a dangerous situation — or being forced to carry IDs that didn't represent who they were, a factor that could result in increased discrimination once this disconnect became apparent to employers or landlords.

The ACLU, which filed a lawsuit against Johnson to eliminate hurdles for ID changes, is pleased with the news but not dropping their case, pointing out that getting a passport is still expensive and an unnecessary barrier for getting an ID changed. 

“It’s still not a model policy. It’s still not a policy that other states have adopted to make sure transgender individuals can obtain ID. We are continuing with our lawsuit,” Kaplan, who is representing six plaintiffs in a case against Johnson, told the Detroit News

While the US has seen an uptick in trans-visibility in mainstream media — films like Tangerine and award-winning actress Laverne Cox getting recognition — major hurdles still remain for this population of individuals. One in four transgender people lives in extreme poverty, with an income of less than $10,000 a year. Nearly 25 percent of trans people in Michigan who took part in the last comprehensive survey of the population said they became homeless because of their gender identity and/or expression.

MT did a deep-dive into the stigma and prejudice keeping many trans women in a cycle of poverty and violence in January. You can read it here

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