Trans people often have an extremely difficult time obtaining valid, legal identification documents that match our identity and presentation. This opens us up to many kinds of problems, ranging from bureaucratic headaches to serious issues of personal safety. Forcing us to carry ID that does not match our realities also violates our right to privacy by forcing us to “out” ourselves when we do simple things like buy a pack of cigarettes or get pulled over for a missing brake light, or apply for a job. This can have dangerous consequences for trans people – like being discreetly fired from our jobs by transphobic employers.
Further, it denies our basic right to have our lives validated by those around us. It can also be used to place us in inappropriate facilities should we end up homeless, in jail, etc. In short, having to carry ID documents – whether a driver’s license, birth certificate or other kind of ID – that do not match a person’s presentation or identity can place them at increased chances of discrimination, harassment and even physical violence.
At the DC Trans Coalition, we believe that all trans people deserve identity documents that most accurately reflect the way we live our lives. We also believe that we should not be forced to pay for expensive surgeries we may not desire or may not be able to have for medical reasons. Nor should we have to pay unnecessary legal fees or face other additional barriers that cisgender (non-trans) people are not expected to fulfill simply in order to obtain accurate identification documents. Trans individuals already face tremendous challenges when accessing services and obtaining employment, and we should not add to it by forcing us to carry inaccurate documents.
History of Our Campaign
In 2007, the DC Trans Coalition worked with District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles to implement a new policy on changing the gender marker on ID cards issued in the District. The new form can be signed by a doctor, counselor, or social worker, and requires no additional evidence; information about a gender change will remain confidential. This current policy has helped trans individuals living in the District access accurate identity documents that conform to the way they live, limiting embarrassment, harassment, violence and discrimination that often occur when a state ID card does not match an individual’s appearance.
The Transgender Legal Advocates of Washington (TransLAW), which includes many DCTC regulars, offers a name and gender change clinic. From the TransLAW website:
TransLAW is thrilled to be collaborating with Whitman-Walker Heath in establishing the the Name and Gender Change Clinic. The clinic is free and consists of trained attorneys meeting one-on-one with clients on a walk-in basis to provide counseling and assistance with the name and gender change processes, including obtaining court orders, changing drivers’ licenses, passports, birth certificates, and other identity documents and public records. We will also help clients to collect needed letters from their medical providers and to seek assistance with court fees, where appropriate.
Clients can walk in and receive services without bringing any documents, however, you will receive more comprehensive services if you can bring any of the following documents: original birth certificate, any name change order if you have already changed your name, passport, and other legal documents and records.
Clinic Dates: Check TransLAW’s website for upcoming dates. Clients should arrive between 6:30-7:30pm at the Whitman-Walker Health Legal Services Program office at Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center, 1701 14th Street, NW. If you have questions about the clinic, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Lee Brubaker at Whitman-Walker at 202.939.7627.