Virginia defies its reputation, embraces reality

This is nothing short of a stunning accomplishment. We owe our thanks to the community members who did the hard, unglamorous, patient work of education. They are heroes. Education is really the only thing that can bring about a significant change in policy like this.

Virginia has adopted a simple, straightforward mechanism for correcting one’s gender marker on a driver’s license, one that comports with the reality of legal gender transition:

As of April 25, 2012, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) implemented a new, and much simpler, policy for changing one’s gender marker on a VA driver’s license. Individuals can now use the Gender Change Request form, known as DL-17, which requires only a signature from a licensed provider, including a doctor, psychiatrist, nurse practitioner, social worker, or counselor attesting to the fact that the applicant is a patient of the provider and that the applicant’s “gender identity” is either female or male and “can reasonably be expected to continue as such for the foreseeable future.”

The previous policy made access to a corrected driver’s license attainable only by those trans Virginians with the financial resources required for gender reassignment surgery. It required either a corrected birth certificate (unavailable under any circumstance in some states), or a court ordered “change” of gender, only obtainable with proof of surgery. This ridiculously high bar for obtaining a Virginia identification card that accurately reflected their gender put the safety of many trans people at risk.

Virginia, with its anti-civil rights history, is one of the last places we would have expected to adopt this reasonable, reality-based policy. Congratulations and kudos to those who made it happen.

With the new policy implemented only days after the historic EEOC ruling affirming that discrimination on the basis of gender is, well, discrimination on the basis of gender, we can say that that the past week has been a very good one for justice.

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3 Responses to Virginia defies its reputation, embraces reality

  1. Fionnuala says:

    As someone who just went through this process (before the change in policy), what used to be required was not a birth certificate *or* proof of surgery, it was a BC *and* proof of surgery. I went to the DMV first with proof of surgery and was told to come back with my amended BC. Which I did three months later after turning all the cartwheels my birth state required.

    Obviously though, the new policy is a wonderful thing. I think the State Department got it right when they modified their gender marker change procedure, and now Virginia has it right as well.

  2. David says:

    Sorry, I wasn’t clear (not that the previous DMV policy was, either!). Because in some states it’s not possible under any circumstance or number of cartwheels to get a new/amended birth certificate, the alternative to that was a court order. In either case, proof of surgery was required.

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