TransmissionsI – Am Not a Terrorist!
September 5, 2006
by Jamie Tyroler
I say this because one of the (hopefully) unplanned effects of some of the antiterrorism laws is that they have made several things more difficult for transgender people. For example, in Missouri, which was one of the first states to react to the REAL ID Act, you need a copy of your birth certificate or a passport in order to renew or get a new driver’s license or state ID card. Missouri also is now requiring a valid photo ID in order to vote. Some people may wonder what exactly the issue is.
Here it is: Certain states, like Ohio, will not change or amend the birth certificate. Someone born in Ohio and living in Missouri could be forced to have his or her driver’s license show the gender at birth regardless of any surgeries or how this person is living their life. Potentially, you could be a post-operative male-to-female transsexual who has spent thousands of dollars on genital and facial surgeries, hair removal, and legal fees to get her name changed and all identification changed to reflect her new identity. Work records would reflect the new gender, as would her driver’s license and Social Security information. But if this person was born in a state that will not amend the birth certificate, she could become legally “male” by renewing her driver’s license.
One of the effects of the Patriot Act, the REAL ID Act, and Voter ID acts is that many government agencies will cross-reference information. So, in the case of this hypothetical person, her Social Security information will have to be verified and changed, which then will cause a letter to go to her employer to mention that the gender on her work records does not match the “corrected” gender on her Social Security record. This means the person is outed at work – at least with the Human Resources department of her employer.
In some states, the documentation required to change gender on legal documents has become stricter. In many states now, and with Social Security, proof of genital surgery is being required. This causes a huge issue with many female-to-male transsexuals who opt not to have any genital surgery because the options are not the best. Phalloplasty is an expense that is out of the reach for most people and isn’t guaranteed to succeed. Also, many surgeons will not operate on people who are HIV+, are diabetic, have a history of heart disease, or are overweight. Other people feel, for whatever reasons, that genital surgery is just not that important.
The proposed changes regarding no-match letters could not only out a transgender employee with their employer, but because of the strict timelines that are planned, they could also cost transgender workers their job.
The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) submitted a letter to the Department of Homeland Security on August 14th raising the following issues:
1. Gender no-match letters are an invasion of private and privileged medical information. NCTE recommends that gender not be a piece of information that is transmitted or considered between employers and DHS/SSA. Because of SSA’s own policies, a person’s gender is private medical information.
2. The strict 60-day time limit in which all mismatched information must be rectified among the employer, employee, and SSA imposes a heavy and unfair burden on transgender people. NCTE recommends that the time period be extended to 90- or 120-days to allow sufficient time for individuals to process legal name changes on all relevant government and employment documentation.
3. Transgender people and other people who have recently had a legal name change do not have ready access to multiple forms of I-9 approved identification providing their legal name. NCTE recommends that accommodations be expressly written into the no-match letter procedures allowing for differences in identification requirements for people who have gone through legal name changes.
4. The anti-discrimination aspects of the proposed procedure need to be strengthened to explicitly protect transgender people from adverse employment action. NCTE recommends that explicit protections for persons whose appearance might not match the social norms associated with their gender or their name be included in the proposed rule by expanding the existing protective language regarding foreign appearance or accent.*
* Email of August 15th
There are a couple of things that I would like to add to this month’s column.
First, I’d like to congratulate Jolie Justus on her victory in the Democratic primary for the 10th Senate District in Missouri.
Second, I ask that everyone in the greater Kansas City area be involved in some way with the 19th annual Creating Change Conference which will be in Kansas City this November. It’s an excellent way to meet people from all over the nation and it will get you fired up to create changes for the better for the LGBT community and all allied communities.