Watch: NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling Discusses Landmark ID Policy on MSNBC

July 9, 2014

This past weekend, National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) Executive Director Mara Keisling joined MSNBC’s Live with Craig Melvin to discuss New York City’s proposed municipal ID law granting driver’s licenses to undocumented New Yorkers. The proposed law also allows anyone applying for an ID to self-identify their gender—a landmark policy that allows transgender people to avoid outdated and burdensome medical requirements that have barred many transgender people access to accurate ID.

The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 41% of respondents live without ID that matches who they are, creating barriers to accessing bank accounts, educational loans, voting, or even securing a job. Often as a consequence of the inability to access ID, transgender New Yorkers face economic instability at high rates: 19% of transgender New Yorkers had a household income of $10,000 or less, compared to only 4% of the general population, which is almost five times the rate of poverty.

NCTE Executive Director, Mara Keisling, on MSNBC's Craig Melvin Show

NCTE Executive Director, Mara Keisling, on MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin

Read the rest of this entry »

HuffPost Live Looks at Trans ID Issues

July 1, 2013

Last week, National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling and intern Kye Campbell-Fox joined HuffPost Live to look at barriers facing transgender people and identification. Other panelists included the Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s Reina Gossett, transgender activist Patricia Harrington, and Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund attorney Noah Lewis. Panelists celebrated the recent Social Security Administration policy change dropping surgical requirements to update SSA records. However panelists also recognized that overwhelming hurdles still exist with securing drivers licenses and birth certificates that correctly reflect people’s gender identity.

Kye Campbell-Fox discussed costly barriers to updating his ID and how incongruent drivers license, birth certificate, and health care records led him to postpone emergency medical care. Mara Keisling discussed the complicated nature of advancing fairer ID policies state by state.

Watch the full segment here.

Download “Transgender People and the Social Security Administration”

Re-cap: Bringing Trans Issues to the Motor Vehicle Administrators Gathering

March 14, 2012

Yesterday I had the opportunity to give a presentation to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) at their annual Spring Conference in New Orleans. AAMVA invited NCTE to speak to their members on providing appropriate and effective customer service to transgender people, as well as best practices for updating gender designations on driver’s licenses and state ID cards. I discussed the growing trend toward streamlined policies that enable updates to be made quickly and easily with a simple form and without disclosure of detailed medical information, using the District of Columbia DMV policy as a model of this trend.

Having presented a webinar to AAMVA’s members last year together with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, I was pleased to be able to meet so many of them in person. AAMVA’s members, who are motor vehicle administrators from jurisdictions throughout the US and Canada, gave me a warm welcome and were very interested to hear about these topics, which every agency must deal with but which have until recently received little focused attention in most jurisdictions. I was impressed by how seriously AAMVA’s members take providing professional service to all their customers and developing policies that work for everyone. For my own part I was able to learn a lot about all the hard work that goes into producing secure and user-friendly driver’s licenses – though I was disappointed to miss the session on “Emerging Vehicle Issues,” i.e. flying cars (!).

Read the rest of this entry »

Quick Hit: Changing Driver’s License Gender Markers, Coming Soon?

July 7, 2011

The current edition of MOVE, a magazine for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), includes extensive coverage of issues transgender people face with identification cards. The article “Transgender Drivers: New Norms in Customer Service,” encourages DMV staff in all states to reflect on their treatment of transgender people and sets a positive tone for transgender people in their service offices:

The notion that a person believes the sex assigned at birth is an inadequate description or application of their gender may conflict with the DMV staffs’ personal, political or religious beliefs. As public servants, personal feelings or bias cannot interfere with quality customer service extended to those we serve. When there are fewer facts known and agreed upon, there is greater controversy; where there are more facts known and agreed upon, controversy diminishes. Perhaps no greater place is this felt than in the transgender community.

The National Center for Transgender Equality is pleased by AAMVA’s willingness to learn and teach on transgender issues. In early August, NCTE and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force will join AAMVA and motor vehicle agencies from around the country to review best practices around driver’s license gender change policies.

This movement comes on the heels of the U.S. State Department’s recent update to their gender marker change policies for passports and Consular Reports of Births Abroad. Over recent years, many states have already taken action on gender marker changes, and if other DMV’s pursue these policy changes, it may mark a turning point for the security and privacy of transgender people.

Read the full MOVE magazine here. The Article begins on page 38.

Moving Forward on Accurate Identification

August 30, 2010

The new passport policy announced by the State Department in June will make a difference in the lives of many transgender people around the country. The new policy should allow many transgender people who previously were unable to do so to obtain identification that accurately reflects who they are, and makes it less likely that they will encounter discrimination, harassment or other difficulties when traveling or conducting other business. Over the summer, we have received a large number of messages from people who are relieved that at long last they can obtain a US passport and will not be afraid to travel abroad. NCTE will be monitoring the implementation of this policy and working with State Department and our partners in the Council for Global Equality to ensure it is working effectively for everyone.

This step forward builds on tremendous progress at the state level in recent years. To pick just two examples, in recent months Ohio and Nevada have taken important steps to improve and simplify their policies for changing gender on driver’s licenses. This month, New Mexico and Pennsylvania did the same. Half of all states now have driver’s license rules at least as strong as the new passport policy. This progress happened because of the efforts of state and local advocates, along with medical experts, to educate state officials and develop workable policies. The new passport policy should go a long way in demonstrating to other state and federal agencies the practicality and advisability of providing identification documents that reflect the reality of transgender people’s lives.

But while we have just seen a major breakthrough, it will not cure transgender people’s documentation problems overnight. There are still many federal and state policies – most of which were written many years ago without the benefit of any knowledge about transgender people – that create serious difficulties for our community, and which we will have to continue working to correct. At the federal level, our goals will include, over the course of 2010-2011:

  • Monitoring the implementation of the State Department’s new policy and seeking improvements if needed
  • Working with the American Association of Motor Vehicle Agencies to develop a model driver’s license gender change policy
  • Working with the Social Security Administration to develop appropriate policies regarding gender data in SSA account records
  • Working with US Citizenship and Immigration Services to ensure that immigration documents appropriately reflect and individual’s gender
  • Working with the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration to address several issues related to veterans’ records
  • Continuing to monitor the implementation of the REAL ID Act (which, fortunately, is currently stalled) and any proposed legislation to amend or repeal REAL ID
  • Working with the National Center for Health Statistics to improve the Model Vital Statistics Act

NCTE will also continue to support and assist the diligent work of state and local advocates on state ID policies.

Nearly half of all states now have a driver’s license policy at least as strong as the new passport policy.

Ohio Protects Drivers’ Safety and Privacy

October 2, 2009

The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles last week rolled out an updated policy on changing gender designations on driver’s licenses. This policy will make it easier for many residents of the Buckeye State to seek employment, open a bank accounts and post office boxes, travel and conduct other business while protecting their privacy and safety. It will also assist law enforcement and other government agencies by ensuring that this most common form of identification reflects how individuals live their daily lives.

Under the new policy, Ohio drivers can obtain an updated license by filling out, along with the medical or mental health provider, a simple form verifying that they are receiving care for gender transition in accord with established standards of care. Ohio’s policy reflects the current trend in motor vehicle agencies across the country, and is similar to existing policies in the District of Columbia, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and several other states. While the new Ohio form is not yet available online, more information is available via TransOhio. If you are interested in improving driver’s license policies in your state, please contact