Just in time for the Trans Day of Remembrance, Michigan is making it easier for trans people to correct their name and gender marker on driver’s licenses and state IDs.
As the Detroit Free Press was the first to report, transgender people will no longer be required to present a birth certificate, valid U.S. passport, or court order reflecting their lived gender before they receive updated identification. Instead, trans individuals merely have to show up to their local DMV office, fill out an application, and pay a small fee. It’s $9 to correct a state ID and $10 for a driver’s license.
The policy updates were announced by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson in a Monday press conference.
“The government must work for everyone,” she told reporters, adding that the procedural changes are intended to make Michigan a more “inclusive, welcoming environment” for all individuals, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Prior to the new policy’s implementation, trans Michiganders said the process to get an ID that matched their sense of self was laborious and burdensome. According to a 2015 report from the National Center for Trans Equality, just 18 percent of transgender people have their name and gender marker updated on their passport and only nine percent have a fully corrected birth certificate.
Because transgender people are twice as likely to live in poverty as the average American, many individuals simply can’t afford the extra expense.
Not having an ID that matches one’s outward appearance can lead to discrimimation, harassment, and even violence, and a third of respondents to the NCTE survey had experienced those phenomena. Trans Michiganders told the Free Press that the experience of showing identification with an outdated gender marker is “embarrassing, awkward, and humiliating” and even leads to “panic.”
“It's helping create longer lives,” said trans activist Lilliana Angel Reyes. “We just want to be happy.”
But Michigan still has a great deal of work left ahead to ensure that all trans people are correctly identified on identity documents. The state has yet to roll out a third gender marker recognizing intersex nonbinary individuals who do not identify as either “M” or “F,” although more than a dozen states do.
However, state officials hope this week’s announcement is a step in the right direction.
“One of my goals is to reduce barriers for marginalized communities to participate fully in our society,” Benson claimed during Monday’s press conference. “The transgender community has faced both marginalization and violence without proper identification.”