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476,000 transgender adults in the US have no IDs with the correct gender marker

Using data from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, this report estimates the number of transgender people without identification that list the correct gender marker. It also assesses the relationship between state-level policies and having accurate identification.

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An estimated 476,000 transgender adults in the U.S. are without any form of identification with the correct gender marker, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. Michigan has the highest percentage of transgender adults without an ID that lists the correct gender (78%), and Delaware has the lowest (31%).

Using data from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS), researchers estimated the number of transgender people nationally and by state without accurate IDs and examined the relationship between state-level policies and having accurate IDs.

Findings show that transgender people in states with the fewest policy barriers to updating their gender marker are significantly more likely to have accurate birth certificates and driver’s licenses than those in states with the most barriers. States with the most burdensome requirements may require proof of gender-affirming surgical care to update a gender maker. States with less burdensome requirements may require individuals to fill out specified forms or submit an affidavit.

“Having inaccurate IDs can lead to harassment and discrimination for transgender people, which can negatively impact mental health,” said lead author Jody L. Herman, Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “State and federal policymakers should enact policies that make gender marker changes on IDs less burdensome and more accessible for transgender people.”  

ADDITIONAL FINDINGS

  • 55% of respondents to the 2015 USTS did not have any IDs with the correct gender marker.
  • In states with the fewest policy barriers, 47% of transgender people have corrected the gender markers on their driver’s licenses, compared to 26% of those living in states with the most policy barriers.
  • In states with the fewest policy barriers, 16% of transgender people have corrected the gender markers on their birth certificates, compared to 8% of those in states with the most policy barriers.
  • 26% of transgender people with an incorrect gender marker on their driver’s license had the name or gender on their ID questioned by TSA officers, compared to 9% of those with the correct gender marker.
  • 18% of those with an incorrect gender marker on their passport had the name or gender on their ID questioned by TSA officers, compared to 6% of those with the correct gender marker.
  • Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia allow a gender marker of “X” on driver’s licenses, and 13 states allow an “X” gender marker on birth certificates.

The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a think tank on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, is dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research with real-world relevance.

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august 2021

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