A joint project of the Gender-Identity Network Alliance (GNA), Affirmations, the Trans Sistas of Color Project and the ACLU of Michigan is assisting trans people with getting their gender markers changed on their government-issued IDs.
The project stems from a 2011 policy change by the Michigan Secretary of State’s office that allows people to change their gender marker on their state ID if they have a gender change on their birth certificate. This is problematic for people who have not had gender reassignment surgery, which is required in order to change the gender marker on their birth certificate.
An estimated one-third of trans people are able to have this surgery as costs are prohibitive and not covered by most insurance policies. Also, not every trans person defines their gender based on their physical anatomy.
Michigan became the only state with the birth certificate requirement and as a result the state’s policy prevented a large number of trans residents from being able to obtain accurate identity documents.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit in federal court in May 2015 challenging the constitutionality of the state’s policy. In return, the state unilaterally changed its policy to permit passports and passport cards to be used as the basis for changing the gender marker on a state ID. Since 2010, the U.S. Department of State has allowed trans people to submit a letter or affidavit from their physician stating that they have received the appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition. This does not have to include any surgical procedures.
This policy was enacted under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and is now under threat from the current Trump administration. That’s why trans people are encouraged to take advantage of the program and the financial assistance it provides to change their gender markers on their state IDs as soon as possible.
“The passport addition to the policy, while much better, is not optimal,” said Jay Kaplan, staff attorney of the Nancy Katz and Margo Dichtelmiller LGBT Project with the ACLU of Michigan.
“Many trans people have no need for a passport or cannot afford the cost of passport, which is about $150. A passport card, which also can be used (it only permits traveling to Mexico and Canada) is cheaper and costs $55.”
Act Now Before It’s Too Late
GNA Founder and Executive Director Michelle Fox-Phillips encouraged the trans community to take advantage of this program without delay.
“We will provide the check for the passport card, which is $30 to the state department and $25 we make out to the U.S. Post Office for processing,” she said. “So it’s $55 total. They will get their passport card with the correct gender and then they can take it to the secretary of state’s office to get their license or state ID changed.”
Lilianna Reyes, Affirmations program services director, said only 32 people had taken advantage of the program so far.
“It’s truly amazing that we’re able to do this because trans people need documentation that matches their gender identity,” Reyes said. There is currently no shortage of funding for the program. Equality Michigan donated $2,500, while the ACLU of Michigan gave $1,000 and GNA, the TSOCP and Affirmations each gave $500.
“We’re going try to continue this as long as possible,” she said. “There’s no end date. We want to try to get as many people as we can into the pipeline. Because [Secretary of State] Rex Tillerson or [President] Trump can roll back that policy from Clinton at any time. So once that policy is rolled back we’re back to square one with Secretary of State.”
Jayla Jaorski has already taken advantage of the program.
“It meant a great deal to me to have an ID with my correct gender marker on it,” she said. “It made me feel authentic and like the woman I knew I was.”