Transgender disenfranchisement in the United States

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Transgender disenfranchisement is the prevention by bureaucratic, institutional and social barriers, of transgender individuals from voting or participating in other aspects of civic life. Transgender people may be disenfranchised if the sex indicated on their identification documents (which some states require voters to provide) does not match their gender presentation, and they may be unable to update necessary identity documents because some governments require individuals to undergo sex reassignment surgery first, which many cannot afford, are not medical candidates for, or do not want. [1][2]

Obtaining and updating documents

The National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce's 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey finds that only 21% of people who identify as transgender have been able to update all of their IDs and records to reflect their gender; 33% have not updated any IDs.[3]:5

There are bureaucratic as well as social obstacles to updating identification documents. Many policies were enacted at a time when it was assumed that in order for transition from one gender to another to be complete, a person had to undergo sex reassignment surgery. However, modern health experts' current understanding is that transitions are an individualized process that can involve a variety of steps, sometimes involving surgery, but often not.[4]

Utility bill

In accordance with the Help America Vote Act, some states allow voters to use two forms of identification that only list name and address, such as a utility bill,[5] which alleviates the issue of having to change one’s gender on a document.

Birth certificate

While birth certificates can be used as voter identification in non-photo identification states, birth certificate laws are established at the state level and commonly require that the individual undergo surgery in order for the gender on the document to be updated. Some states even make it mandatory that transgender people acquire a court order in order to change the gender on their birth certificate, which presents even more financial obstacles.[3][page needed]

The first case to deal with legal recognition of transgender identity in the United States was In re Anonymous v. Weiner[6] in 1966.[7] A post-operative male-to-female trans woman applied for a change of sex on her birth certificate through the Bureau of Vital Statistics in the New York City Health Department. The Bureau turned to the Board of Health who then called on a committee on public health of the New York Academy of Medicine to make a recommendation. The application was ultimately denied and the Board of Health stated that "an individual born one sex cannot be changed for the reasons proposed by the request which was made to us. Sex can be changed where there is an error, of course, but not when there is a later attempt to change psychological orientation of the patient and including such surgery as goes with it."[8]

Today over twenty-five percent of the states require that individuals undergo reassignment surgery before changing their sex marker.[9][not in citation given][citation needed]

Presenting identity documents

In the United States, the Williams Institute estimated that by requiring voters to present a government-issued photo ID at the polls, nine states may have disenfranchised over 25,000 transgender people in the November 2012 election,[10] because poll workers are unlikely to have training on how to handle transgender people, and may erroneously suspect voter fraud.

Transgender individuals may also be discouraged from voting under these photo identification circumstances because of prior experiences with presenting identification that does not accurately reflect their gender: 41% percent of transgender people reported being harassed in situations where they presented gender incongruent identification, while 15% reported being asked to leave the venue where the identification had been presented, and 3% reported being assaulted or attacked as a result of presenting their ID.[3][page needed] Additionally, 22% percent reported being denied equal treatment or being verbally harassed by government officials.[10]:2

Felon disenfranchisement and transgender incarceration

Transgender people lack employment discrimination protection, and face high rates of homelessness and harassment. 16% of transgender people have reported being incarcerated at some point in their lives, compared to 2.7% of the general American population.[3][page needed] [11] while 38% reported harassment during police interactions.[12]

See also


  1. ^ Emilia L. Lombardi, Riki Anne Wilchins, Dana Priesing and Diana Malouf, Gender Violence: Transgender Experiences with Violence and Discrimination, in the Journal of Homosexuality, volume 42, issue 1, 2002 (DOI: 10.1300/J082v42n01_05), pages 89-101.
  2. ^ Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. "Groundbreaking Report Reflects Persistent Discrimination Against Transgender Community", GLAAD, USA, February 4, 2011. Retrieved on 2011-02-24.
  3. ^ a b c d Grant, Jaime; Mottet, Lisa; Tannis, Justin; Harrison, Jack; Herman, Jody; Kiesling, Mara (2011). "Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey" (PDF). Washington: National Center for Transgender Equality. Retrieved January 2, 2016. 
  4. ^ Thaler, Cole. "What Does it Mean to be Real". 
  5. ^ "Help America Vote Act of 2002". 
  6. ^ In re Anonymous v. Weiner, 270 N.Y.S.2d 319 (N.Y. App. Div. 1966).
  7. ^ See In re Estate of Gardiner, 29 Kan. App. 2d 92, 109, 22 P.3d 1086 (2001) (remarking that Weiner was "the first case in the United States to deal with transsexualism").
  8. ^ In re Estate of Gardiner, 273 Kan. 191, 200, 42 P.3d 120 (2002) (quoting In re Anonymous v. Weiner, 270 N.Y.S.2d 319, ___ (N.Y. App. Div. 1966)) (internal quotation marks omitted).
  9. ^ Currah, Paisley; Minter, Shannon (2001). "Transgender Equality: A Handbook for Activists and Policy Makers" (PDF). Washington: National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce. Retrieved 13 February 2018. 
  10. ^ a b Herman, Jody L. "The Potential Impact of Voter Identification Laws on Transgender Voters" (PDF). Los Angeles: The Williams Institute. :2 The report estimated that there are 88,000 eligible transgender voters in these nine strict photo ID states, of whom approximately 25,000 do not have identification or records that reflect their gender.
  11. ^ Also nearly half (47%) of black transgender people have been incarcerated at some point, "Senate Bill Aims to Reduce Youth Incarceration". 2015-08-03. Retrieved 2016-07-16. 
  12. ^ Harrison-Quintana, Jack; Lettman-Hicks, Sharon; with Grant, Jaime (2008). "Injustice at Every Turn: A look at Black respondents in the National Transgender Discrimination Survey" (PDF). National Center for Transgender Equality. National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Retrieved 29 May 2017. 

External links

  • Green, J. "Transgender Equality: A Handbook for Activists and Policy Makers Introduction" (PDF). National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. 
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