Killer of Sacred Cows
Thursday, February 10, 2005
  National ID Card End-Run
This is a copy of a letter I wrote to my state senators (I'm in California). Please pass it on, modify it and send it to your own senators, and let other people know about this issue. This is serious, folks. I focused on transgendered people in my letter, but other communities will also be negatively impacted by this law.

Dear Senator:

I am writing to you with great concern regarding a bill which has come before the House mandating federal standards for driver's licenses. This bill (HR 418) has been approved by the House as a follow-up to the "Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004: National Standards for Drivers’ Licenses, Social Security Cards, and Birth Certificates," which was unfortunately approved by both houses of Congress and signed into law by Mr. Bush in December 2004. A Senate bill number for it does not yet exist, but should be appearing on your calendar shortly.

I urge you to oppose this bill. It would be damaging to a number of your constituents and has the effect of creating a National Identification Card, which is a clear violation of state's rights. It also stands a good chance of becoming another unfunded mandate, requiring states to conform to federal standards without having the necessary funds to do so.

One of the largest groups that will be negatively affected by this bill is the transgendered/transsexual population of the United States. The federal government, and many of the states, have long shown antipathy towards allowing transgendered people to define their own gender identity. The Social Security Administration requires proof of irreversible gender-reassignment surgery in order to allow a gender change on SSA records. Having a diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder is not enough; neither is proof of hormone treatment.

On the surface, this may seem reasonable, but please consider the following facts: Many transgendered people do not feel the need to surgically alter their bodies. Many do not even feel the need for hormone treatment - simple recognition of their true gender would be enough. Some may be prohibited by their religion from altering their bodies at all (for example, the Jewish religion prohibits alteration of one's body even at the level of piercing one's ears or getting a tattoo). Some may have medical conditions that pre-empt being able to undergo surgery and/or hormone treatment. Many transgendered people do not have the necessary funds to pay for the surgeries that the federal government requires as sufficient. Medical insurance generally does not cover the costs of transition (whether surgical or hormonal) because although it is psychologically medically necessary for many transgendered people, insurers insist upon viewing it as cosmetic, and therefore unnecessary.

The state of California, on the other hand, has been very accomodating of the rights and needs of transgendered people. DMV Form DL-328 allowed them to change names on their identification, and gender as well, if their diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder was verified by a licensed physician. As of the first of this year, the "Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004" has effectively negated that protection for transgendered citizens of this state.

This law and others like it are at odds with current medical and scientific knowledge about gender. Although many people are unaware of this fact, human beings do not have a binary gender system - if we did, we would always either have two X chromosomes or one X and one Y chromosome. But there are documented medical cases of Klinefelter's Syndrome, Turner's Syndrome, and others where the genetic gender configuration may be XXY, XYY, XO (meaning only one X chromosome) and others. Intersexed people (those born with features of both genders) are also excluded from recognition of their personhood by this law.

Medical knowledge also indicates that gender is not about the physical attributes of one's body but about the configuration of one's mind. It is possible to be born with a body and a mind that are at odds with one another concerning one's gender identity. It has been shown through years of research that one's mental gender identity cannot be changed through therapy or drugs, and that the appropriate treatment of a person with Gender Identity Disorder is to allow them to live in the role that their brain dictates they are part of. There are medical standards of care (The Harry Benjamin Standards) which are applied to transsexuals; one of the requirements for completing transition is the Real Life Test, where the person lives completely in the gender role that they feel they should occupy for a period of one year, and undergoes job, school, and social functions with the appropriate identification to allow them to function as their innate gender and see if this is what they really need to do in order to achieve some kind of peace with themselves. The Real Life Test is usually required for one year before any medical transition (hormones and gender reassignment surgery) can take place. This law makes it impossible for transgendered people to conform both to the law and to the medical standards of care.

I urge you to oppose this bill and any like it. I also urge you to introduce a bill that requires federal recognition of the medical and scientific facts about gender, and the difference between mental gender identity and physical gender assignment. Until this is done, transgendered, transsexual and intersexed people will continue to be discriminated against by a government that is seriously behind the times scientifically and medically.

Thank you for your consideration of these issues.

Link to information about the bill that passed in December:

Link to PDF of the December 2004 bill/law (this will redirect; the URL was long):

(Especially worrying is this part of that law: "The new law requires that the Secretary issue regulations within 18 months of enactment that require each driver’s license or identification card, to be accepted for any official purpose by a federal agency, include the individual’s: (1) full legal name; (2) date of birth; (3) gender; (4) driver’s license or identification card number; (5) digital photograph; (6) address; and (7) signature.")

Link to information about HR 418:

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