Three transgender people are suing the state of Alabama over its policies on changing gender markers, saying current guidelines unfairly discriminate against them.
A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) claims Alabama’s requirement that trans people undergo transition surgery prior to changing the gender on their identity documents is a prejudicial barrier for many individuals. Just 20 percent of transgender people in the state have updated their documentation to match their lived identity.
“Anyone who is eligible for a license should be able to get one that they can use without sacrificing their privacy, safety, health, autonomy or dignity,” said Gabriel Arkles, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT and HIV Project, said in a Tuesday media call.
He added in a press release that denying updated driver’s licenses and state IDs to trans people leads to “inconvenience, embarrassment, discrimination, or violence.”
Darcy Corbitt, one of the three plaintiffs being represented by the ACLU, recalled experiencing bias from a clerk at the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) Driver’s License Division in Opelika. Although Corbitt has been able to update the gender marker on her Social Security card and U.S. passport, her state ID has yet to match.
When the representative saw a copy of her old driver’s license, Corbitt claims the worker immediately began to treat her with icy indifferenceswitching to male pronouns for Corbitt with other staff members. She even called Corbitt “it.”
“In half an hour, I was subjected to the most blatant cruelty another human being had ever inflicted on me,” Corbitt told reporters.
Arkles claim that Destiny Clark, a second trans woman who signed onto the ACLU suit, has been subjected to requests for “invasive information about her medical and surgical history” from state officials in Alabama. He claimed in a statement that ALEA representatives called “her doctor’s office without her consent to get detailed records.”
“[E]ven with all that information, Alabama still refused to change the gender marker on her license,” Arkles added.
Surveys from the National Center for Trans Equality show that approximately a third of transgender people have faced harassmentand even violencefor not having a license which corresponds with their identity.
Currently, nine states require proof that a transgender person has undergone gender confirmation surgery before they are allowed to change their gender marker. These procedures, however, are often out of reach for trans individuals. Fully transitioning can cost up to $100,000, a steep price tag for a population which faces extremely high poverty rates.
Other transgender people have no interest in surgically transitioning, and ACLU argues the state of Alabama doesn’t have the right force them to do so.
“The government has no business dictating what treatment transgender people get, especially as a prerequisite for a basic government service,” the legal advocacy organization said in a press release. “After all, it has nothing to do with how people drive.”
Note: The third trans plaintiff named in the suit has chosen to remain anonymous, referred to as “John Doe.”