ACLU Sues Alaska Over Trans Woman’s Driver’s License


The ACLU is suing the state of Alaska on behalf of a transgender woman over a refusal to allow gender change recognition on her driver’s license.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in the Alaska Superior Court, challenges the DMV’s decision to cancel a trans woman’s driver’s license because she failed to provide proof that she had undergone gender change surgery. The woman, whose identity remains undisclosed but who is identified in court documents as “K.L.,” began the formal process of gender change two years ago but, while she has used female hormones, she has not had gender change surgery.

K.L., who was originally issued a license noting her female identity but then found it cancelled after the DMV said there was an “error” on the license, challenged the DMV’s decision in January through the DMV complaints procedure. She met with no luck.

The ACLU has filed the legal complaint on the grounds that it is discriminatory to use gender change surgery as the standard for a fully realized gender change when many trans people neither medically require, nor personally want, gender change surgery. Furthermore, the ACLU believes that the Constitution of Alaska, which places an emphasis on the right to privacy, clearly prohibits this kind of standard because it forces K.L. to reveal intimate details about herself that could, in fact, put her at risk of emotional, or even physical, harm.

From Alaska Dispatch:

“It is unfair and unnecessary to require that transgender people undergo prohibitively expensive and drastic surgery in order to have accurate identity documents,” said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska.

In its lawsuit, the ACLU points out that many states and the federal government have developed less restrictive policies, reflective of the evolution within the medical community about how gender identity disorder or transsexualism may be treated. Decisions about how best to cope with a sense of self that is in conflict with a person’s sex at birth are highly personal, and in 2011 sex reassignment surgery is not the only viable option, according to the lawsuit.
K.L. has successfully changed her passport, bank records and her medical certificate that she needs to operate as a pilot. When she went to get the new driver’s license she provided the passport and her pilot’s license as supporting documentation to list her legally changed name and list her as female. The DMV initially issued the license, but later cancelled it saying K.L. had not provided adequate proof — documentation of surgery — to have her sex changed from male to female on the license.

“The surgery requirement not only violates Alaska’s laws, it demonstrates a profound lack of understanding about what it means to be transgender,” said John Knight, staff attorney with the ACLU. “The state cannot deny transgender people an accurate driver’s license based on an arbitrary and unconstitutional policy that clashes with accepted medical standards.”

The surgery requirement for a change of identification records has met with similar legal battles in other states.

Recently three transexuals launched a class-action lawsuit against the state of Illinois claiming that its failure to change birth certificates unless applicants have undergone genital change surgery is unlawful. Read more on that here.

Related Reading:
U.N. Approves Resolution Against Anti-LGBT Discrimination
Transexual Woman Takes Marriage Fight to European Court of Human Rights
Ireland Introduces New Guidelines on Creating Safe & Supportive Schools for LGBT Students

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to brainchildvn.


Lisa M
Lisa M6 days ago


Lisa M
Lisa M6 days ago


Paul C
Paul Carter6 days ago

So, a cop stops a driver for a minor traffic violation, the driver produces a licence with a male name and a masculine photo taken years ago. The cop looks at the driver in confusion and asks "her" to explain why she is driving on a "false" licence. Hours of embarrassment and wasted police time ensue as the cop tries to figure out whether an offence has been committed. All of this could have been avoided by a new licence. Who exactly won?

Peggy B
Peggy B7 days ago


Flannel Disaster
Flannel Disaster6 years ago

Wow, Floyd and Steve, I don't know if there's a bus going to the 1950's any time soon, but you should try to be on it if there is.

In response to some of the comments that were actually reasonable, I think it is a somewhat tricky situation, given all that a driver's license and the info on it is used for, so I'm not really sure what the best answer is.
It seems to me that if someone has been taking hormones and whatnot so their appearance is consistently not the gender listed on their license, it makes sense to let them change it.
Anything short of that and the line gets a bit fuzzy for me due to the logistics and complications involved.
Perhaps the best solution is indeed just to remove gender from the license, especially since it's obvious enough to be superfluous in most cases anyway.
Somebody brought up prisons, which I thought was interesting, as I hadn't considered such a thing before.
I haven't known too many transgendered people personally, but it seems they normally use the restroom which matches their outside appearance, as do some of the crossdressers I've known, though some of those still use the one that matched their naughty bits and got strange or even threatening looks and words.
How is it determined which prison a transgendered person who hasn't transitioned goes to, and... such.. and which prison would they prefer to go to, I wonder, considering the reactions they're likely to receive?
Or are they just S.O.L. either way? :/

Floyd H.
Floyd H6 years ago

Why do people that have mental problems get they problems taken care of? Don't mutilate your bodies by having gender operations. Get your head straightened out.

Jade H.
Jade H6 years ago

Kudos to the ACLU!!

Past Member
Past Member 6 years ago

Specifying gender is important on driver's license. Some females look like or dress like males and vice-versa. So how should a transgender look different compared to a male or female when a policeman examines a transgender driver's license? A hybrid sex has no distinction.

Laurie D.
Laurie D6 years ago

One reason for a gender specific license is so the person isn't put into the wrong jail if arrested. Even county or city jails can be problematic for gang rapes and such.

Tracey D.
Tracey D6 years ago

Kudos to the ACLU.