Many transgender people in the U.S. experience substantial barriers to having identity documents (IDs) that list the correct gender marker. Having inaccurate IDs can subject individuals to harassment, discrimination, and can negatively impact mental health. State-level gender marker change policies vary across the country and impose unique burdens on transgender people that can impact whether one is able to obtain an accurate ID. Transgender people also face the same barriers to having correct IDs as the general population, such as having low income or a disability.
In this report, we utilize data from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey (USTS) to estimate the number of transgender people without accurate IDs, assess the relationship between state-level policies and having accurate IDs, and provide a real-world example where having inaccurate IDs may cause problems for travelers. We find that:
- 55% of respondents to the 2015 USTS who live all the time in a gender different from their sex assigned at birth had no IDs with the correct gender marker, which suggests that 476,000 transgender adults in the U.S. are without IDs with correct gender markers.
- Transgender respondents to the 2015 USTS who were born in or live in states with the least state gender change policy barriers are significantly more likely to have accurate birth certificates and driver’s licenses than those in states with the most policy barriers.
- 46.5% of those living full time in a gender different from their sex assigned at birth have corrected the gender markers on their driver’s licenses in states with the least policy barriers, compared to 25.8% of those living in states with the most policy barriers.
- 15.7% have corrected the gender markers on their birth certificates in states with the least policy barriers, compared to 8.4% of those born in states with the most policy barriers.
- The relationship between having corrected the gender marker on these IDs and state gender marker change policies remains significant, even when controlling for age, education level, poverty, race, gender, and state-level characteristic.
- Having inaccurate IDs can cause problems in a variety of settings, including when traveling.
- TSA officers were more likely to question the name or gender on IDs of people without corrected gender markers on their driver’s license (26.0%) or passport (17.6%) compared to those who had corrected the gender markers on their driver’s license (8.9%) or passport (6.0%).
State-level policies that make it less burdensome on transgender people to obtain IDs with the correct gender marker result in higher proportions of transgender people with accurate IDs, which can reduce the prevalence of harassment and discrimination and even improve mental health. State and federal policymakers should review statutes and regulations that govern changes to official IDs and enact necessary changes to make these processes easy and accessible for transgender people.