The governor of Alaska, Mead Treadwell, this week filed a new regulation to allow trans citizens to correct the gender marker on their driver’s licences without first having to go through gender change surgery.
The new regulation will take effect on August 11 and follows a legal challenge filed with the Alaska Superior Court made by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Alaska who said that the gender surgery requirement was an unnecessary infringement on individual rights to privacy.
“We appreciate the work of the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Lt. Governor’s office in crafting a regulation that recognizes the important and legitimate needs of transgender Alaskans,” said Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska in a statement. “All Alaskans must be able to obtain a driver’s license that accurately reflects their gender and avoids disclosure of sensitive personal information unrelated to their ability to safely drive a motor vehicle. The government should never needlessly intrude into mandating specific medical procedures.”
As reported at the time, the ACLU filed a challenge on behalf of a trans woman known as K.L. who was initially allowed to change her gender markers on her driver’s license, but then had that permission revoked whereby she was told she must now submit proof of having gender change surgery before the request could be granted. This is out of step with other amendment procedures, and K.L. had been able to change other important documents such as her United States passport, bank records and her medical certificate that she needs to operate as a pilot–yet still she was denied a driver’s license without the proof of surgery that she doesn’t need.
Given that treatment for gender dysphoria does not always require gender change surgery, and the extremely high cost genital change surgery entails, K.L. and the ACLU said that this threshold for a gender marker change was overly intrusive and unrealistic, pointing out that the State Department no longer requires trans people to have surgery before amending gender markers on passports. They also noted that other states have similarly dropped the surgery requirement for amending driver’s licenses.
K.L. has said that she is “humbled” and “grateful” for the new regulation, adding, “It is my prayer that this victory will make a difference in the lives of transgender people.”
“The previous requirement had nothing to do with accepted medical standards and demonstrated a callous lack of understanding of what it means to be transgender,” John Knight, staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project is quoted as saying. “The government should not be in the business of dictating anyone’s medical care, especially when it comes to requiring surgery that may not be available, desired, or medically necessary.”