Denied Gender Change at DMV: Government Workers Need More Education
My name is Victoria Michaels Lavelle and I am the current reigning Miss Florida F.I. 2011 for the LGBT community. I am a pre-op transsexual (male to female) and I have been living every day life as a full time female since 1999. I serve as an advocate for the LGBT community and I currently work as a premiere hostess at the world famous Boardwalk Bar in Fort Lauderdale.
On June 10, 2010 the U.S. Department of State announced new guidelines for issuing passports to transgender people. It states that any applicant for a gender marker change on their passports will need to submit a certification from a physician that they have received “appropriate clinical treatment” for gender transition. Most importantly, gender reassignment surgery is not required anymore under the new policy.
National Center for Transgender Equality and other advocates stressed with the State Department that the old policy unnecessarily called attention to transgender travelers whose appearance and gender marker were at odd’s. I can personally confess through personal experience that in some airport destinations my gender marker having still read “male” had created an uncomfortable situation because I was outed as transgender in an unwelcoming environment and in the presence of prejudiced security personnel.
The government website goes on to say that the new rules represent a significant advance in providing safe, humane and dignified treatment of transgender people. I went to the Florida DMV to ask if they would honor the new passport guidelines for gender marker change on my license and I learned through the Supervisor, Aaron Lee at the Pompano DMV Branch, that Florida is now following very similar guidelines for gender change for transgender individuals such as myself.
I was elated that after all these years of my living as a female I can finally have it officially read “female” on my license.
There are written details in the new guidelines, which Florida DMV provided me with a copy of the official license manual for gender change about what information my physician must provide and be sworn too under the penalty and perjury laws of the United States of America.
After reviewing the new guidelines carefully with my physician we both considered myself to be a perfect candidate since I have lived every day as a full time female and have also had my name legally changed to Victoria Michaels Lavelle in 1999.
I returned to the Florida DMV to have my gender marker changed and after standing in line for 3 hours to my amazement I was denied. I was informed that only a supervisor could change the gender marker on my license and it seemed the supervisor was not at work that day.
I was flabbergasted because I had followed all of the instructions word for word yet I was turned away and refused.
I made two more attempts to return to the Florida DMV in the coming weeks and each time I was denied by two managers, Jacqui and Anthony.
Each time I returned to Florida DMV in Pompano the managers were rude and they spoke loud about my gender change in front of other people, which was embarrassing because I am completely passable as a female and these managers were outing my personal business to everyone standing in the DMV.
I thought the entire purpose of the new gender change law was to prevent transgender people from being put in uncomfortable situations like these. In addition to that the Florida License Manual guidelines also states that anyone working for DMV must provide transgender individuals changing their gender marker with extreme discretion and treat us with respect.
I followed all of the guidelines yet Florida DMV fell short of holding up their end of the stick. On my fourth and final trip back to Florida DMV they once again denied me and I literally had to stand up and scream out “SHAME ON YOU PEOPLE FOR DENYING ME MY RIGHTS! “
It deeply saddens me that in today’s cultural changes that even though new laws are put into effect to give us equal rights and protect us that places like Florida DMV fails to educate their employee’s and staff of new guidelines and laws.
Finally after contacting numerous equal rights organizations I was able to have the gender marker on my Florida License changed to FEMALE.
When Supervisor Aaron Lee finally came to work at his branch he seemed to laugh the situation off and made a snide remark that he would have to train his staff better when dealing with the new guidelines for gender change. He also informed me that any one of those managers could have changed my gender and he apologized for their behavior.
Victoria Michaels Lavelle
Miss Florida 2011