Nav­i­gat­ing Ge­or­gia’s gen­der marker maze

GA Voice - - Georgia News -

There are many hur­dles that Ge­or­gia’s trans­gen­der and gen­der non­con­form­ing com­mu­nity have to jump over in or­der to live their lives, but one has stood out even more so lately due to both a re­cent in­ci­dent in traf­fic court and to it be­ing an elec­tion year—chang­ing the gen­der marker on their state-is­sued ID.

Long­time At­lanta trans­gen­der ac­tivist Dee Dee Cham­blee says that she was re­peat­edly mis­gen­dered and in­ter­ro­gated about her gen­i­talia while at­tend­ing a re­cent traf­fic court hear­ing in East Point. So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral An­tavius Weems re­port­edly (and in­cor­rectly) told Cham­blee that the law re­quired him to ad­dress her us­ing the pro­noun match­ing the gen­der marker on her ID, which was listed as male.

Hav­ing a gen­der marker that oth­ers view as not match­ing their ap­pear­ance can also have con­se­quences at the polls. A 2014 Wil­liams In­sti­tute re­port es­ti­mated that 4,400 mem­bers of Ge­or­gia’s trans­gen­der vot­ing-el­i­gi­ble com­mu­nity may have been dis­en­fran­chised in that year’s elec­tion be­cause they ei­ther had no iden­ti­fi­ca­tion or the one they had didn’t ac­cu­rately re­flect their gen­der. It doesn’t help that Ge­or­gia has one of the strictest voter ID laws in the coun­try.

But there are ways to go about chang­ing the gen­der marker on your state-is­sued ID, and ways around even hav­ing to show up at your lo­cal polling lo­ca­tion to suc­cess­fully cast your vote.

Ge­or­gia law re­quires doc­tor’s let­ter

At­lanta trans­gen­der ac­tivist Gabrielle Clair­borne crossed a per­sonal mile­stone in 2012 when she walked out of a lo­cal Depart­ment of Driver Ser­vices of­fice with a driv­ers li­cense in­clud­ing a photo that fi­nally re­flected her true self. Two years later, she of­fi­cially changed her name—an ap­prox­i­mately 45day process in Ful­ton County that be­gan

May 13, 2016

with fil­ing pa­per­work, hav­ing her in­ten­tion pub­lished pub­licly for 30 days and cul­mi­nat­ing in a court­room ap­pear­ance.

She was elated, but then was brought back to re­al­ity while ob­tain­ing the cer­ti­fied court doc­u­ments in the records depart­ment.

“It was there that a staff per­son told me I could get my gen­der marker changed on all my le­gal doc­u­ments by pre­sent­ing a let­ter to their of­fice from my physi­cian cer­ti­fy­ing that my tran­si­tion was to­tal and com­plete,” Clai­borne says. “This was a sad re­minder to me that much of so­ci­ety still de­ter­mines the gen­der iden­tity of trans in­di­vid­u­als by our gen­i­talia, de­spite the names on our le­gal doc­u­ments or who we know our­selves to be.”

The Ge­or­gia Depart­ment of Driver Ser­vices re­quires ap­pli­cants to up­date any “phys­i­cal changes” on their ID, in­clud­ing weight, height, eye color or gen­der.

“Gen­der up­dates re­quires ap­pli­cant to sub­mit a court or­der or physi­cian’s let­ter cer­ti­fy­ing gen­der change,” the DDS rules state. “The let­ter or court or­der shall state the per­son’s name, date of birth, date of gen­der re- as­sign­ment op­er­a­tion and other iden­ti­fy­ing in­for­ma­tion.”

Clai­borne had pre­vi­ously elected to have surgery—a per­sonal de­ci­sion and one that not all trans peo­ple use to au­then­ti­cate their gen­der iden­tity—and suc­cess­fully got a let­ter from her physi­cian at­test­ing to that fact.

Surgery is a costly en­deavor that not all trans­gen­der peo­ple want or can af­ford though, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the dis­ad­van­tages they face due to higher lev­els of em­ploy­ment dis­crim­i­na­tion. How­ever, some physi­cians will take a more broad read­ing of the term “gen­der change” and “gen­der re­as­sign­ment op­er­a­tion,” with some is­su­ing the letters on a trans­gen­der or gen­der non­con­form­ing pa­tient’s be­half if they’re only on hor­mones or un­der­go­ing hor­mone re­place­ment ther­apy.

Ab­sen­tee vot­ing an op­tion

For trans­gen­der and gen­der non­con­form­ing in­di­vid­u­als who, for one rea­son or an­other, haven’t up­dated their gen­der marker but still want to ex­press their right to vote with­out be­ing con­cerned about a con­fronta­tion with a poll worker on elec­tion day, there is an­other op­tion—vot­ing ab­sen­tee.

Sim­ply down­load the bal­lot from the Sec­re­tary of State’s web­site, then mail, fax or email it to the lo­cal county board of reg­is­trar’s of­fice. Ge­or­gia Equal­ity also has a Trans­gen­der Voter ID Tool­kit avail­able on their web­site and at their of­fice that has more in­for­ma­tion on vot­ing ab­sen­tee, up­dat­ing IDs and more.

So the hur­dles still ex­ist for Ge­or­gia’s trans­gen­der and gen­der non­con­form­ing com­mu­nity when it comes to in­ter­act­ing with lo­cal gov­ern­ment and vot­ing, but there are some work­arounds avail­able to get over them. And the com­mu­nity surely won’t stop liv­ing as their true selves.

“The re­al­ity is, re­gard­less of the photo or the name or the gen­der marker on my driv­ers li­cense—or any other trans per­son’s driv­ers li­cense—we know who we are,” Clai­borne says. “Nev­er­the­less, it does feel good to have a fully aligned of­fi­cial ID. Not only is it af­firm­ing to us, but it also al­lows oth­ers to in­ter­act with us more com­fort­ably, with­out con­fu­sion and hope­fully with­out mal­ice.”

By PA­TRICK SAUN­DERS — At­lanta trans­gen­der ac­tivist Gabrielle Clair­borne

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