Michigan Secretary of State changes gender marker policy

By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman

LANSING - Transgender Michigan and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan's LGBT Project have convinced the Michigan Secretary of State's office in Lansing to change their policy regarding changing individuals' gender markers on driver's license and state identification cards.

The long-standing policy of the Secretary of State's office had been similar to the Bureau of Public Records, which was that one cannot change the gender marker without first undergoing gender reassignment surgery.

The change was initiated when Transgender Michigan asked Jay Kaplan, the staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan's LGBT Project, to press for a change on behalf of the transgender community.

In a letter to Secretary of State Terry Lynn Land on Feb. 6, Kaplan explained the discriminatory nature of the policy.

"The current policy excludes a majority of the transgender community who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria and are under treatment of medical professionals," the letter said. "Most transgender persons cannot afford sexual reassignment surgery, nor have health insurance that will pay for such surgery."

During the week of March 28 the Secretary of State notified Jay Kaplan that the office would change its policy effective April 1. Under the new policy, individuals need to bring a letter from their therapist stating the reason for the gender marker change in order to trade their old license in for a new one.

Rachell Crandall, MSW, Transgender Michigan's executive director, said, "We are very proud to be able to have had such an impact on the policies of the Michigan Secretary of State's office. This one policy will positively affect so many members of our community. It really is an excellent example of how much can be accomplished when we work together."

"I applaud their change of policy because their new policy is much more inclusive," said Kaplan. "It allows many more trans folks to change their gender on their state ID, and this is really important."

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