Idaho Amends Policy for Changing Gender Marker on Driver's Licenses

Affiliate: ACLU of Idaho
April 23, 2013 5:04 pm

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New Policy Allows Transgender Persons to Correct Gender Markers Without Showing Proof of Surgery

April 23, 2013

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BOISE, Idaho – The Idaho Transportation Department has amended its policy regarding changes to driver’s licenses to allow transgender individuals to correct the gender markers on their licenses without showing proof they have undergone surgery.

“We’re glad that the state has recognized the important and legitimate needs of transgender Idahoans,” said Monica Hopkins, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho. “All Idahoans should be able to get a driver’s license that correctly reflects who they are without disclosing sensitive personal information completely unrelated to their ability to drive. The state did the right thing in updating its policy.”

The Idaho Transportation Department agreed to change its policy after the ACLU of Idaho expressed concern on behalf of two transgender Idahoans who previously updated their driver’s licenses to match their gender identity, but whose licenses the Transportation Department cancelled upon realizing later that they had not submitted proof of surgery.

One of those individuals, transgender woman and Boise State University student Erika Falls, said, “I’m very happy that the agency agreed to change its policy, and grateful that I and other transgender people in Idaho will be able to get and use accurate identification going forward.”

Many transgender persons are diagnosed with a condition called gender dysphoria or Gender Identity Disorder. Although gender-confirming surgery is medically necessary treatment for some individuals with these conditions, the American Medical Association and other experts have affirmed it is not required for all transgender individuals. Surgery is beyond the means of many people because of exclusions from health insurance coverage and, like many medical decisions, treatment for gender dysphoria varies from individual to individual making it unnecessary for the state to confirm if an individual has had surgery before correcting a license.

The U.S. State Department no longer requires transgender people to have surgery before it will correct the gender marker on passports, and the majority of states do not require surgery for changing the gender marker on a driver’s license.

“Requiring proof of surgery to change a driver’s license went against accepted medical standards and showed a fundamental lack of understanding of transgender people’s needs,” said Amanda Goad, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project. “The state has no business dictating anyone’s medical care, and we appreciate the Idaho Department of Transportation agreeing to stop requiring major and potentially unnecessary surgery as a prerequisite for obtaining accurate identification.”

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