Michigan secretary of state makes changing gender on driver's licenses easier

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Transgender people will face fewer hurdles to change the sex designation on state-issued driver's licenses and ID cards under a policy announced Monday by Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

Previously, Michigan residents had to provide a birth certificate, passport or court order to change the designation. Under the new policy, they only will have to fill out a form, visit an office to have their photo taken and pay the $9 correction fee for a driver’s license or $10 fee for a state ID, according to a press release.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced that people seeking to change genders on Michigan-issued driver's licenses or other state ID will face fewer hurdles.

"One of my goals is to reduce barriers for marginalized communities to participate fully in our society," Benson, a Democrat, said in the release. "The transgender community has faced both marginalization and violence without proper identification."

In 2011, former Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, a Republican, began requiring an amended birth certificate to change the sex designation. An amended birth certificate was only obtainable for people in Michigan by undergoing gender confirmation surgery, opponents said at the time.

That led to a 2015 lawsuit by six transgender Michigan residents who argued the policy forced them to carry ID cards that reflect "the incorrect gender, causing them significant psychological and emotional harm and placing them at risk of bodily harm," according to the lawsuit.

Eventually, Johnson's department eased its policy to also allow U.S. passports or a court order changing the sex of the individual to be provided by an applicant who wanted to change his or her sex designation on a state ID.

The U.S. Department of State requires only a doctor’s certification that a person "has had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition" to change the gender on his or her passport, according to a 2016 court filing.

Benson announced her department would further ease the process during an event Monday.

Lilianna Angel Reyes, executive director of Trans Sistas of Color Project, was among the advocates who joined Benson at the event, according to a press release.

"For us, having a state identification that reflects how we see ourselves reduces trauma and stress when having to show your ID," Reyes said in a statement. "It validates who we are, especially in a world where people and systems constantly devalue our identity."