As many as 25,000 transgenders could be profoundly affected by the new voter ID laws in Pennsylvania, something which could prove to be especially problematic during Election Day this November.
The issue was first brought to my attention by Jenn Colletta of The Philadelphia Gay News, who reported about the showdown over Pennsylvania’s new voter-identification law which made its way into court in July. The new measure requires voters to present state-issued IDs at the polls starting this year. Critics argue the new measure could complicate things for transgender voters who plan to head to the polls this November.
Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson ruled in favor of this highly publicized case, denying the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction, which would have stopped the law from going into effect.
Asher Schor, a transgender male involved in the Pennsylvania case, testified to the court that he fears his Pennsylvania state-issued license will not be accepted at the polls this fall. Schor expressed concerns that his testosterone regimen, which he began last November, has changed his appearance --- with the growth of facial hair and other masculine traits that could potentially create complications and confusion at the election polls. He is just one of many transgenders who should be concerned and start getting prepared.
Florida law requires voters to present photo identification when they go to the polls, but voters can also use other types of cards as long as they have photos -- including credit and debit cards, student identification, public assistance cards or those from neighborhood associations or retirement centers. If the identification cards don't have a signature, they can be matched against another document with a signature.
"The reality is that we won't know the true impact of these laws until Election Day, just the moment when it's too late," said Vincent Paolo Villano of the National Center for Transgender Equality.
There is still some hope available for transgenders on Election Day though. Coincidentally, it was offered to us back in June 2010 by the Obama Administration and seemingly is just one more reason to vote for Obama.
If you are a person who is transgender you may now have the gender marker on your U.S. passport changed and "Sexual Reassignment Surgery" (SRS) is no longer a requirement.
There are specific requirements that are needed in an official note from your consulting physician, but the process is actually very easy. Please be cautioned: You and your doctor must follow "each and every" requirement as listed. Should you miss any of the requirements you will be denied and forced to reapply. You can find the new guidelines for name change and gender marker change on U.S. Passport here: "U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 7 Consular Affairs"
The new policy states that to change their gender markers, applicants will need to present only certification that they have “undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition.” You will need a letter from a licensed physician with whom you have a doctor-patient relationship and who is familiar with your transition-related treatment. This may be any physician who is familiar with your treatment, including a primary care physician or specialist. In most cases, one year of hormone therapy is defined as appropriate treatment. For this, a physician must state that the applicant has had “appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition to the new gender.” Determining what “appropriate clinical treatment” is will be based on recommendations of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).
Voting is not only a right, but it's our most fundamental duty and responsibility as American citizens. Whenever I vote, I think about all those who have come before us that fought very hard so that we might have that right to vote, and the fact that we are voting for the future of a younger generation of Americans in this country.
There is still plenty of time left to get a U.S. passport if you are transgender and serious about voting in November. For transgenders nationwide, the NCTE now has resources available to inform the trans-community what identification they will be required to vote in their state.
The State Department has provided the following model letter for physician certifications.
All certifications must include all of the information seen here. You should ask your physician to use this letter and not give additional personal health information that is not included here.
I, (physician’s full name), (physician’s medical license or certificate number), (issuing U.S. State/Foreign Country of medical license/certificate), (DEA Registration number or comparable foreign designation), am the physician of (name of patient), with whom I have a doctor/patient relationship and whom I have treated (or with whom I have a doctor/patient relationship and whose medical history I have reviewed and evaluated).
I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States that the forgoing is true and correct.
Victoria Michaels has been a radio show producer, Miss Pennsylvania USofA 1999, and Miss World 2000. Currently, she works as a reporter, is a board member of T-House Project, and the reigning Miss Florida F.I. 2012.