Only recently has there been a movement towards equality for transgender people. In prior centuries, many of the discussions about gender identity focused on what was later disparagingly coined as “cross-dressing.” Take the case of Mary Henly, a Massachusetts female-assigned individual, who was charged with illegally wearing men’s clothing because it was “seeming to confound the course of nature” in 1692. History buffs might know that it is believed that over 200 female-assigned individuals dressed like male-assigned individuals in the American Civil War, some of whom simply wanted to fight in the war, but many others who were believed to be, what is now known as, transgender.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that information began to be published to the masses and transgender organizations were formed, and even later that transgender activists began demanding change. As recent as the last couple of years, the transgender community has faced some setbacks, but also seen a great amount of public support, including many court cases resulting in their favor. Given the time it has taken the transgender community to gain both legal and social support, it is no wonder that it is still difficult for a transgender individual to access the rights that are legally afforded to them, such as changing the gender marker on identifying documents.
The National Center for Transgender Equality conducted an anonymous survey in 2015 (the 2015 US Transgender Survey, “USTS”), examining the experiences of transgender people in the United States. The USTS yielded 27,715 respondents and revealed “disturbing patterns of mistreatment and discrimination” of transgender people. With regard to changing identification documents to match their gender preference, only 11% of those surveyed reported that all of their IDs had the name and gender they preferred, while more than 68% reported that none of their IDs had the name and gender they preferred. Additionally, it was reported that approximately 32% of those surveyed claim to have been verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave, or assaulted when presenting an ID with a name or gender that did not appear to match their gender presentation. That’s one in every three transgender people that are discriminated against because of a mismatch in gender or name to identification!
With these kind of statistics, why don’t more transgender people change their identification documents to match their preferred name or gender? Well, the legal process can be daunting and difficult to navigate. Amendment 10 to the US Constitution states that the “legal classification of sex is a matter of state jurisdiction,” meaning each state has its own laws about how or when a person can legally change their name or gender from what was assigned to them at birth. In addition to the varying state laws, each governmental entity has a different procedure for making gender marker changes as well. If you have limited resources, this could be very time consuming and expensive.
To make gender marker changes to identification documents in Arizona, the law requires a person to have undergone a sex change operation or to have a chromosomal count that establishes the sex of the person as different than in the registered birth certificate, and to have both a written request for an amended birth certificate and a written statement by a physician that verifies the sex change operation or chromosomal count. This means that in Arizona, your first step is to get a doctor’s note. After that you will be able to petition the State Court for a name change. Once you receive an order from the State Court, that document can be used to complete the appropriate forms with the Social Security Administration office for your amended social security card, the Arizona Motor Vehicle Department to get your driver’s license, the US Department of State to change your passport information and the Vital Records Office to change your birth certificate.
Understandably, having to process paperwork with four different government entities does not seem like an easy feat and many people become discouraged with the process. Don’t become a statistic like those described above, contact the attorneys at Platt & Westby, PC to assist you in obtaining the rights that are afforded to you!