Voting. Boarding a plane. Driving. Buying a drink. Filling out paperwork for a new job. These are all situations where showing a driver’s license or state-issued ID can be nerve-wracking or even dangerous for trans people.
If a person’s picture, name, or sex listed on an ID don’t match the way they present themselves, they may be denied services, harassed, and even attacked.
A new investigation by ProPublica found that when many trans people are killed, local law enforcement often only use the name and sex listed on that person’s ID while investigating the murder. Across the nation, we found, some 65 different law enforcement agencies have investigated murders of trans people since Jan. 1, 2015. And in 74 of 85 cases, victims were identified by names or genders they had abandoned in their daily lives.
This is called deadnaming and becomes a problem when police investigate these crimes. Many people who may know the victim will only know the name they used in their daily life.
But updating a name or gender marker — that little M or F on an ID — can be incredibly complicated. The laws across the United States that determine how a trans person can update their IDs are confusing and often contain onerous requirements. In some states, trans people are required to have expensive and irreversible surgeries just to make that change on their ID
These obstacles can be debilitating — and costly — for people who experience discrimination simply for being transgender. And these obstacles can delay justice.
For those that do get their gender marker updated, it can be life-changing. Trystlynn Barber, a trans woman in Reidsville, Georgia, told us she collapsed by her mailbox and cried when she got her updated birth certificate in the mail. “It’s the most amazing feeling,” she said.
In this Vox and ProPublica collaboration, we see how burdensome requirements for updating IDs have affected two trans women in the South.