Michigan Updates Policy, Allows Transgender People To Change Gender On State ID Without Surgery

Michigan took a significant step forward for transgender rights by changing a policy this month pertaining to Michigan driver’s licenses and ID cards. M or F, on State of Michigan issued driver’s licenses and identification cards, will more often represent the gender that the Michigander actually identifies with thanks to this new policy change.

The Secretary of State’s new policy allows transgender people to change the gender markers on their Michigan identification without first having surgery. It’s considered a huge victory for transgender people across Michigan, according to MLive.

“My name is legally changed,” Charin Davenport, an adjunct professor at Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University, told Mlive. “I will now be able to afford to change my gender marker on my license. All I have to do is get passport and I’m good to go.”

Named Charles at birth, Charin says she has always known she was a woman and that she began hormone therapy three years ago in order to make the physical transition. Charin told Mlive that she felt marginalized under Michigan’s earlier policy.

Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams confirmed that the policy update has been made.

“This is an important step forward by the Secretary of State’s office, and we hope it will result in many more transgender persons in Michigan being able to obtain accurate driver’s licenses and state IDs,” Jay Kaplan, staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan, told Mlive. “That said, we still don’t believe the new policy is as good as the policies practiced by dozens of other states, and we are continuing to advocate for improvements.”

Michigan’s previous policy prevented transgender people from having the correct gender marked on their state IDs and driver’s licenses, creating significant problems for Michigan’s transgender community. The difficulties led the ACLU to a lawsuit in federal court in May, 2015. Less than a year later, on March 10, 2016, the Secretary of State in Michigan changed the policy to reflect the civil rights of transgender people in Michigan.

A note from a doctor stating that the individual has progressed into their transition is required in order to change the gender marking on a passport, and under Michigan’s new policy, a passport is enough proof to change the gender marking on a Michigan ID, Mlive reported.

Some say that the new policy change isn’t going far enough, according to WWMT.

“I think the state is realizing that they need to make some changes, which is great. I applaud the state for making steps in the right direction, and I know that there is a lawsuit. The ACLU is representing individuals who are unable to change their ID. I think that this is part of the process to, hopefully, succeed at getting a model policy,” Jay Maddock, with the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center, told WWMT. Some transgender people can’t afford or don’t want passports. Without the passport, they still can’t change the gender on their licenses, Maddock explained.

Michigan Radio reported that a court order can also allow an individual to change the gender marking on the Michigan ID.

“Every time they have to show that piece of identification, it outs them. It forces them to share highly personal information about themselves with perfect strangers,” Kaplan told Michigan Radio. “And it also forces them to show an identity document that does not reflect who they are. It doesn’t reflect their gender identity, and it doesn’t reflect their gender expression, their lived gender. And many times because of that, it puts people at risk for not only discrimination but possibly harassment and violence.”

Michigan reportedly joins about 30 states that have similar transgender identification policies.

[Photo by torbakhopper | Flickr | Creative Commons 2.0 | cropped]