Transgender Activists, Lawyers Target Government IDs

New program aims to expand practice of altering legal documents to accommodate gender-bending

Boston-based GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, and law firm Ropes & Gray are working on something called the “Transgender ID Project,” the groups announced Monday.

The project will provide legal help to trans people in New England seeking to change their names and change the gender on crucial identity documents such as birth certificates, passports, driver’s licenses, state IDs, and even Social Security cards.

“Having accurate identification not only facilitates everyday interactions, but also safeguards their right to be treated fairly.”

“Accurate identity documents are critical for the safety and dignity of transgender people,” said Jennifer Levi, director of GLAD’s Transgender Rights Project.

The new push belies a myriad of serious problems posed by switching sex and gender information on legal documents — in some cases based only on the wishes of the person in question. The challenges could particularly impact law enforcement or first responders. Medical professionals could make ultimately incorrect judgement and decisions about an injured and incapacitated trans person based on anatomy in line with their ID card.

While altering one’s official documents to show a different name and sex from those with which one was born poses obvious potential problems, there are now also serious questions about programs designed to help children transition without their parent’s knowledge or consent.

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Last week, a mother in Minnesota filed a lawsuit after learning her 17-year-old son began to receive hormone replacement treatment to transition into a female without her knowledge.

“It was brought to my knowledge that my son began receiving hormone replacement treatments from Park Nicollet Health Services to transition from male to female, with medical assistance paying for this,” Anmarie Calgaro told reporters last Wednesday. “I was not consulted or informed about this in any way.”

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