Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Transgendered Alaskan Male Hayden Nevill Considered A Male On His Passport, But A Female On His Alaska Driver's License, And The Alaska DMV Won't Budge

Hayden Nevill, a transgendered Alaskan who identifies as a male, has a legitimate beef. The U.S. Department of State is willing to accept his self-identity as a male, so his passport indicates he's a male. However, the Alaska Department of Motor Vehicles is not willing to accept his self-identity as a male, so his driver's license indicates he's a female. So in situations where he needs to use his driver's license as his official I.D., such as renting a vehicle, it can lead to some interesting and uncomfortable experiences, which he describes in an Anchorage Daily News Compass piece entitled "Transgender Alaskans' privacy imperiled".

On the surface, Nevill presents as a male. He has a deep voice and a receding hairline. He does not state definitely whether or not he's had gender reassignment surgery, but by the tone of his article, it's probable that he hasn't. He contends that shouldn't matter, noting that not every transgendered person should be considered a candidate for surgery or can afford surgery that isn't covered by health insurance plans.

But the central issue here isn't gender reassignment surgery; it's vertical consistency. We have two different agencies using two different standards for issuance of official identification cards, producing two different results. This generates confusion; the dichotomy must be resolved. In another case, the ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of K.L., a female pilot who was told by the Alaska DMV that her new license, which identifies her as a female, would be revoked unless she submitted proof of having surgery. In March 2012, the judge in that case ordered the DMV to produce an appropriate regulation for transgender people within six months, warning that the agency must consider the constitutional implications of any future rules. K.L. will be able to re-apply for a license after the new regulations are adopted, and her license cancellation is suspended. The six-month deadline expires in September 2012.

Meanwhile, transgendered Alaskans are still left with at least one official government document that doesn't match who they are. This is not acceptable. The State of Alaska cannot control the standards used by the Department of State, but it can control the actions of the DMV. It's time for Governor Sean Parnell to intervene and light a fire under the DMV. The central issue is NOT the propriety of transgenderism; the fact that I believe gender should be defined solely by genitalia is irrelevant in this case. It's about vertical consistency -- and nothing else. Every agency issuing official I.D. needs to use the same defining standards. If the trumpet giveth an uncertain sound, who shall join the battle?