ACLU launches petition for accurate federal ids

Image via ACLU.

The ACLU has launched a petition drive to urge President Biden to issue an Executive Order giving trans, non-binary and gender nonconforming (TNBGNC) people access to accurate IDs. The organization is seeking 50,000 signatures and intends to deliver the petition to the White House LGBTQ Liaison on March 31, the Trans Day of Visibility.

According to the ACLU, 68% of transgender people reported that none of their ID listed the correct name and gender. As a consequence, the organization asserts, trans people face “negative outcomes,” which include physical attacks, verbal harassment, denial of services or benefits, or being asked to leave an establishment or location.

The ACLU is posting stories of trans, non-binary and gender nonconforming people detailing their experiences of not having identification that matches their identities and what has happened to them because of it.

The ACLU argues that the Biden administration could easily remedy the perils TNBGNC people face by improving the federal gender change process by removing medical letter requirements and adding an X designation.

Biden committed to issuing the X designation ID during his campaign.

“Transgender and non-binary people without identification documents that accurately reflect their gender identity are often exposed to harassment and violence and denied employment, housing, critical public benefits, and even the right to vote,” his campaign website said.

During the Obama administration, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton began allowing transgender people to update their passports after transitioning.


On Inauguration Day, Biden issued an Executive Order with anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

Now the ACLU is urging the Biden administration to not only roll back Trump administration policies discriminating against transgender and non-binary people, but take action to more fully recognize transgender and non-binary people. The ACLU’s priority for the Biden administration is an executive order related to accurate ID documents.

“Trans and non-binary people belong, and we need IDs that accurately reflect who we are so we can travel, apply for jobs, and enter public establishments without risk of harassment or harm,” said ACLU Trans Justice Campaign Manager LaLa Zannell. “We know who we are, and we need the federal government to recognize who we are.”

The ACLU argues that “most federal agencies require costly, burdensome and intrusive medical documentation to update a gender marker.” The executive order sought by the ACLU would implement two critical changes: allow self-attestation of gender markers, meaning people can confirm their own gender without needing medical verification, and add a gender neutral “X” designation on all federal IDs and records, allowing non-binary and other people to have a more appropriate gender marker than “M” or “F.”

The ACLU and other LGBTQ advocates have been in discussion with the Biden administration on this issue. In a statement last week to The 19th, a non-partisan news organization, Matt Hill, a spokesperson at the White House, said Biden remains committed to issuing nonbinary ID, but declined to proffer a timeline.

Hill said, “President Biden remains committed to advancing state and federal efforts that allow transgender and non-binary Americans to update their identification documents to accurately reflect their gender identity, especially as transgender and non-binary people continue to face harassment or are denied access to services because their identifications documents don’t affirm their identity.”

Arli Christian, campaign strategist at the ACLU and one of the nation’s leading policy experts on transgender ID issues, wants the X gender markers across all federal documents. They want that designation made official in an executive order within Biden’s first 100 days.

“It cuts across so many areas of discrimination against trans people, whether we’re talking about being respected in school, safety, employment, housing,” Christian said in a statement.

Christian added, “Access to an ID that reflects who you are is paramount to the rights of trans people, and so passing this kind of executive order early in the administration says from the federal government ‘We see you. We respect you for exactly who you are.’”

Currently, 19 states and Washington, D.C., have policies that allow for self-attestation of gender, allowing trans, nonbinary and intersex people to update their federal gender markers without submitting medical documentation of a gender change. New Jersey does not require medical documentation; Pennsylvania and Delaware do.

The ACLU notes that thousands of trans people lack accurate ID and the stories on the ACLU website make clear that changing jobs or looking for an apartment — anything requiring a gender designation on a form — presents problems for TNBGNC people.

The 2015 U.S. Trans Survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality found that 46% of trans people don’t have identification that lists their correct name and gender.

Prior to the 2020 election, the UCLA School of Law estimated that 42% of eligible trans voters, which they cited as 378,450 people, might be barred from voting in the general election due to voter ID laws in 35 states.

Any agency that issues ID documents displaying gender markers or displays gender markers in individuals records will need to update their policies according to the executive order. These updates may include changes to forms, operations manuals, and computer systems to allow individuals to self-select an F, M, or X marker. Some agencies may take longer than others to make these changes.

According to the ACLU, once a Biden executive order is fully implemented, people will be able to choose an M, F or X marker for any federal document or record just by checking a box. The agencies that would have the most impact would be: the State Department for passports, consular birth reports, and border crossing cards; Homeland Security for trusted traveler cards, immigration documents; the Social Security Administration; and the Office of Personnel Management for federal personnel files.