As this report and this report explain, transgender people who have transitioned to live in a gender different from the gender assigned to them at birth face unique obstacles to obtaining identification documents that reflect their correct gender.
According to The Williams Institute, a national think tank at UCLA Law dedicated to conducting rigorous, independent research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy, there are some 25,000 transgender voters. The studies cited above, conducted prior to the 2012 national elections, revealed that 41 percent of transgender citizens who have transitioned reported not having an updated driver’s license and 74 percent did not have an updated U.S. passport. Moreover, 27 percent of transgender citizens who have transitioned reported that they had no identity documents or records that list their current gender.
Part of the problem is that the transition period is lengthy. In the meantime, when presenting identification for voter registration that doesn’t accurately reflect gender, many transgender citizens report being harassed, asked to leave, and even assaulted. Updating documents takes time and money. People of color, youth, students, those with low incomes, and respondents with disabilities are likely to be disproportionately impacted.
Transgender and gender non-conforming people face rampant discrimination in every area of life: education, employment, family life, public accommodations, housing, health, police and jails, in addition to the problem of ID documents. A 2011 survey conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found that 63% of participants had experienced a serious act of discrimination – “events that would have a major impact on a person’s quality of life and ability to sustain themselves financially or emotionally.” Almost a quarter of respondents reported experiencing a “catastrophic” level of discrimination.