On Jan. 28, the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles officially declared that it would become easier for transgender people to change their sex on their driver's licenses.
John Brockwell, the communications manager for the N.C. DMV, said the DMV has been working to implement this change for about six months. TheAmerican Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators also advocated for this amendment. Brockwell said the DMV is always committed to working with all North Carolinians, including the LGBTQ+ community.
Terri Phoenix, the director of the LGBTQ Center at UNC, formerly served on the transgender advisory board for the American Civil Liberties Union and said the ACLU of North Carolina and Equality N.C., among other organizations, have advocated for representing the identities of transgender people on official documents.
"I know that when I was working on that board, we looked into approaching the DMV to get policy put forward for changing drivers licenses,” Phoenix said.
The first page of the new sex designation form features two parts that include designating one's sex. The second page of the form provides information on the following steps to change sex on driver’s licenses, and what to do in the case of a name change.
One may select between two sexes: male and female. People must also provide authorization from a health, state or local professional. The form now allows people to choose between using a physician, physician’s assistant, psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed therapist, counselor, case worker or social worker.
The previous policy required that people provide proof of sex reassignment surgery.
“The offices that would let you change often required that you have a letter from a physician that required people to disclose private, personal medical information in order to try to get their documents to reflect their gender identity,” he said.
Ames Simmons, a policy director at Equality N.C. said he thinks the amendment will make the bureaucratic process more efficient when it involves transgender people. By standardizing the process, he said, people will no longer be obligated to obtain forms confirming surgical procedures.
The sex designation policy also greatly reduces the burden on transgender people in other situations because transgender people previously may have felt discomfort when showing identification that did not align with their gender expression, Simmons said.
“It puts them at risk of harassment or violence and so we think this is an important step in trying to reduce violence in the community,” he said.
Simmons said he thinks it also alleviates pressure on transgender people that could not have surgery, whether it be for medical, financial or personal reasons.
Phoenix and Simmons both believe there will be improvements to come. Currently, the form only offers a binary gender option, so they said they hope that it will expand in the future.
“That is not going to be representative of people’s identities overall," Phoenix said. "There are many people that identify as non-binary.”
Kendra Johnson, executive director of Equality N.C., said while there is a long way to go before LGBTQ+ North Carolinians are seen as equal, this move was a step in the right direction.
“People of all genders shouldn’t have to face invasive questioning and surgical requirements just to have their government identification reflect their true identity."
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