Following several months of discussion, Equality Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) recently announced agreement on a change in gender marker policy. “Gender markers” refer to those ways in which individuals present themselves mostly on official documentation. For example, on a driver’s license your “gender marker” would refer to your name and photograph.
Under previous policy, transgender individuals looking to be represented on their driver’s license as their presenting gender were forced to prove that sexual reassignment surgery had occurred. With the newly adopted policy, transgender citizens of Pennsylvania will be permitted to change the designated gender on their driver’s license when they are living full-time in their new gender and it can be verified by a licensed medical or psychological caregiver.
“I want to applaud the Department of Transportation for the careful and intelligent way they have handled this discussion,” said Equality Pennsylvania Executive Director, Ted Martin. “From the very beginning, they recognized what the American Psychological Association, over 25 other states and the U. S. Department of State, has been realizing all along; that this just makes sense and is the right thing to do. This simple and cost-free change in policy will make lives better and that’s really the most important point in all this.”
“First, I want to commend Equality Pennsylvania for their remarkable dedication to seeing this issue to a successful conclusion. They have been a great ally to the transgender community and I am grateful for their energy and support,” explained Jeanine Ruhsam, president of TransCentral PA.
“It is vitally important that transgender Pennsylvanians have driver’s licenses that accurately reflect their lived gender. Having one that misrepresents your lived gender “outs” transgender people in many situations where they need to show their license—if stopped by police, in bars and restaurants, and while filling out forms for employers. This violates their privacy, puts them at risk for discrimination, and even opens them to violence,” Ruhsam said.
Throughout the discussion, Equality Pennsylvania partnered with TransCentralPA, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Gay and Lesbian Taskforce for advice and support, Mazzoni Center, Philadelphia. “I am thrilled to learn of this change in policy at PennDOT,” said Amara S. Chaudhry, Esq., who initiated the dialogue in 2009 as legal director at Equality Pennsylvania with a series of letters to the agency, co-authored with legal intern Natalie Hrubos. Chaudhry, currently legal director at Mazzoni Center, said “We are deeply grateful to Ted Martin for his dedication and persistence on this, and to PennDOT for their willingness to develop a policy that is more inclusive of all Pennsylvanians.”
“Equality Pennsylvania is committed to making sure that real policy change benefiting the entire lgbt community happens regularly, so this victory – so long in coming – is an especially satisfying one,” said board president, Brian Sims. “These victories change people’s lives, and that’s really what our advocacy role is all about.”