July 26, 2012

New Policy Allows Transgender Persons To Correct Gender On License and Eliminates Requirement Undergo Surgery

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Alaska Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell has filed a new regulation that governs changes to driver’s licenses and will allow transgender individuals to correct the gender marker on their licenses without undergoing major surgery. The regulation takes effect August 11. The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Alaska had challenged the requirement as a violation of an individual’s right to privacy.

“We appreciate the work of the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Lt. Governor’s office in crafting a regulation that recognizes the important and legitimate needs of transgender Alaskans,” said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska. “All Alaskans must be able to obtain a driver’s license that accurately reflects their gender and avoids disclosure of sensitive personal information unrelated to their ability to safely drive a motor vehicle. The government should never needlessly intrude into mandating specific medical procedures.”

The ACLU filed its challenge on behalf of a transgender woman, K.L., whose United States passport and work documents all identify her as a female. After initially securing a change to the gender on her driver’s license, she was told that her new license would be revoked unless she submitted proof of having surgery.

“I am humbled and grateful for this decision,” said K.L. “It is my prayer that this victory will make a difference in the lives of transgender people.”

Many transgender persons are treated for a condition called gender dysphoria. Although the American Psychiatric Association agrees that surgery is medically necessary treatment for some, it is not required for everyone with the condition. Treatment for gender dysphoria varies from individual to individual, and many can be effectively treated without surgery.

Additionally, such surgery is beyond the means of many people and is potentially dangerous for some individuals. The State Department no longer requires transgender people to have surgery before it will correct the gender marker on passports, and a growing number of states have stopped requiring surgery for changing the gender marker on a driver’s license.

“The previous requirement had nothing to do with accepted medical standards and demonstrated a callous lack of understanding of what it means to be transgender,” said John Knight, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “The government should not be in the business of dictating anyone’s medical care, especially when it comes to requiring surgery that may not be available, desired, or medically necessary.”

More information on this case can be found at: www.aclu.org/lgbt-rights/kl-v-state-alaska-department-administration-division-motor-vehicles

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