Anyone who has transitioned knows about the difficulties of correcting ones gender marker and name on their legal identification documents. This process shouldn’t be hard, I mean the physical process of transitioning is difficult enough and then there are the hassles of dealing with the ignorance of some people and the bigotry of others. Why does the government add another layer of discomfort, pressure, hardship and stress on top of all of this with which you are already dealing? Having identification which matches your true identity is not a frivolous thing, because it could be a matter of safety, of a person’s ability to become gainfully employed and treated respectfully when simply going about the daily affairs of life. Argentina clearly gets this, because it has done exactly what I have suggested above for its transgender population. It has made their lives so much better.
Early on in my transition I happened to be in the Harold Washington Library in Chicago and before leaving I had to use the restroom. Well, I used the women’s restroom which I had been doing since my transition, but at the time my gender expression was still somewhat awkward. There was one woman in there and we were both washing our hands at the same time. I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, that she was looking at my hands. I didn’t think anything of it at the time and she left quickly and then I exited shortly after her. Immediately outside the restroom I was confronted by two Chicago police officers, one male and one female, and I saw the woman who had been in the washroom standing off to the side. One of the officers told me that they had been informed that there was a man in the women’s washroom and asked to see my ID. I felt a little uncomfortable and the thought that I was being singled out as an intruder who had gone where she shouldn’t have made me angry as well. I went into my purse took out my wallet and showed the officer my new State ID. I had only recently had it changed to show my new name and reflect my correct gender. The police officer looked at it, thanked me and told me to have a nice day. I lifted my head and strutted off. Just imagine how ugly things might have turned had I not had my corrected ID in hand at that time? I can’t speak directly to discrimination in employment or housing due to a mismatch between gender expression and government issued identification, but I’m certain that it has happened and continues to happen. And I do know of embarrassing moments at hospitals when those things did not line up because I have experienced that first hand. The U.S.A. is supposed to be one of the most advanced countries on the planet, yet it continues to make the lives of its transgender population miserable and unnecessarily hard. Argentina, while it is a developed country is not considered on par with the U.S., but is the most advanced country when it comes to taking care of its transgender population.
In 2012 I began the process of changing my legal identification to correspond to my gender reassignment, or I should say gender reaffirmation, by getting my name and my gender changed with the state of Illinois. I had settled on my new name, Elizabeth, because to me it represented strength of character and sophistication but that was the easy part. It is best to get your name and gender changed simultaneously, so you don’t have to repeat any work. In order for you to change your name and gender in Illinois you have to provide letters from your doctor verifying that you have undergone medical procedures that support your claim to a new gender and that you are living in that gender, file the petition with the court, pay the required fee, which is more than $300.00, appear before a judge and post your request to change your name in a local newspaper as a legal notice. If you can’t pay the fee then you can file as an indigent and have the fee waived. Once you have completed all of these tasks and waited the specified time that the ad has to run, then you will be rewarded with your new name. With the court order in hand you can then take it along with your letter of gender change to the state department of motor vehicles (Secretary of State in Illinois) and pay another fee and you will be issued a new license or State ID with your new name and gender. Completing this process and getting my new ID gave me a feeling of euphoria. I felt as if I was walking on air all the way home. Getting your birth certificate corrected involves a similar process with the exception of appearing before a judge and advertising in a newspaper, that you are having your gender changed to reflect your true identity.
A new birth certificate will cost you $15.00 plus whatever the notary public charges per page. It is a bit tricky because the local office of Vital Statistics is not very helpful and the employees there may not give you the proper forms and instructions to complete the process, but the main office in Springfield will inform you of the forms needed, which are an affidavit signed by your doctor verifying that you have jumped through the necessary medical hoops and an affidavit by you requesting your name change. You will then mail the court ordered name change, the fee and both notarized affidavits to Springfield. I have just completed the paperwork for correcting my birth certificate and I’m waiting for confirmation of the changes in the form of a new birth certificate, which takes from eight to twelve weeks. Next, I will tackle my passport, which of course has forms of its own which you must complete, include with them a passport size current photo and yet another fee. I forgot to mention that social security somehow changed my name and gender without any effort on my part. I was very pleased to have discovered that when I went to their office one day. What if you don’t have the money for all these fees or the skill to complete correctly all of the paperwork? Then maybe you might consider moving to Argentina and becoming a citizen there. I have seriously considered it myself.
According to a report written by Michael Warren of the Huffpost on June 5, 2012, “Argentina’s Gender Identity Law Takes Effect”, which enables people to change their names and sexes (gender) on official documents without first getting approval from a judge or doctor. Argentina’s gender identity law won congressional approval with a 55-0 Senate vote last month and took effect Monday,” reported the Huffpost. “Maria Mara Brodos, said, “It’s important to have the freedom to decide by myself and not have anyone deciding it instead of me,” in the article in Huffpost. She was one of the first transsexuals to take advantage of the new law. “Also just for the record adults in Argentina who want sex-change surgery or hormone therapy will be able to get it as part of their public or private health care plans under the gender rights law,” as reported by Michael Warren in Huffpost.
Getting accurate identification documents is necessary for our safety, ease of navigating things like employment, schools, hospitals and any other organizations that would require proof of identity. I’ll be glad when our so-called advanced nation catches up with some of these countries which are in fact the more advanced, the more evolved, and recognizes that transgender people are real and should be treated as equal citizens and deserving of fair treatment in every aspect of life and relieved of burdensome and costly procedures to live more stress free lives by dismantling and streamlining the process of changing one’s name and gender for the purpose of gender reaffirmation just as Argentina has already done. I applaud Argentina for its forward thinking and obvious love of its transgender people!