The new policy will require transgender individuals to present medical verification that they are living full-time as a certain gender in order for the “male” or “female” designation on their license or identification card to be changed. Previously, trans people had to have undergone sex-reassignment surgery in order for such a change to be implemented.
Amara Chaudhry, legal director at Mazzoni Center, initiated the discussion with PennDOT last year when she oversaw the legal services at Equality Pennsylvania, and Ted Martin, Equality PA executive director, said his agency continued to press for the policy change for the past few months.
Martin noted that PennDOT was very receptive to the concerns of Equality PA.
“PennDOT was great to work with,” he said. “They were very open and very willing to talk about it. This was made much simpler because of their cooperation. They knew the issue, they did their homework and were very willing to listen to our points.”
Craig Yetter, PennDOT spokesperson, said the department was motivated to act on this issue in light of similar regulation changes made at the federal level and in state agencies across the country.
“The policy change follows a similar change implemented June 10, 2010, by the U.S. Department of State concerning gender markings for transgender persons issued a passport,” Yetter said, also noting that “26 other states and the District of Columbia currently do not require documentation of a sex-reassignment surgery before they will correct the gender marker on a transgender person’s driver’s license or identification card.”
Martin said Equality PA stressed to PennDOT the need for Pennsylvania to remain on par with the current trends in the transportation industry.
“If Pennsylvania were to stick with the old policy, transgender people would just no longer use their Pennsylvania driver’s license as identification but would use their passport because it’s a more valid form of ID. I think that was very eye-opening to PennDOT,” he said. “Also, we made the case that this has been done in a number of places, including in New Jersey, and there have been no reported cases of abuse, no reported cases of fraud. It’s all been done very smoothly.”
Above all, Martin noted, the change was needed in order to “protect the dignity and privacy of transgender citizens.”
Yetter said PennDOT employees have already undergone additional training so they will be prepared to handle the policy change.
Those interested in changing the gender marker on their licenses or identification cards can access the Request for Gender Change form at www.dmv.state.pa.us.
The form must be signed by a licensed physician, therapist/counselor or social worker whose practice includes assisting, counseling or treating persons with gender-identity issues.
Jen Colletta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.