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October 9, 2009

 

Ohio makes it easier to change gender on licenses

Columbus--Since mid-September it has been easier for transgender Ohioans to correct the sex marker on their driver license and photo identification cards.

A regulatory change at the state Department of Public Safety creates uniform procedures and a new form for making the corrections.

Ohio has always allowed transgender people to correct the marker, but there were no set procedures to do it. So, a person living in a large or politically liberal county might have a relatively easy time compared to someone in a rural or conservative one.

The change does not affect the prohibition on correcting Ohio birth certificates. Ohio remains one of only three states, with Florida and Idaho, that will not change a birth certificate or issue an amended one, even for post-surgical transsexuals. To do that would require an act of the state legislature.

Ironically, the state’s refusal to correct birth certificates leads to same-sex marriages that would otherwise be prohibited.

But, said TransOhio board chair Shane Morgan, the ability to correct the photo identification and driver license allows people to live easier.

“State-issued identification cards are required for employment, to drive, to open a bank account, to cash a check, to get a post office box, and to travel,” Morgan said. “An identification card with the correct name and gender marker is an issue of safety.”

The Ohio Department of Public Safety responded to interview requests for this report, but did not provide a spokesperson with knowledge by press time.

Morgan said the drive to create the new rule started in 2007 when a northwest Ohio woman, who does not want to be identified, had a difficult time with the process and began working on the Department of Public Safety.

Morgan said TransOhio and Equality Ohio served as resources to the department, providing model language, information about how other states handled their policies, and other information.

With the new form, which will be online, the changes will be approved at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ main office in Columbus, not by each local registrar.

The form, called the “Declaration of Gender Change,” is filled out and signed by licensed physicians, psychologists and therapists treating the applicant in accordance with the standards of care under the World Professional Association for Transgender Health,  formerly known as the Harry Benjamin standards.

After the form is submitted, the BMV issues a letter that is taken to the local registrar who issues a new license or identification. The old license must be surrendered.

Morgan said the Department of Public Safety had their greatest concerns with identity theft and homeland security. Once these issues were worked out, resistance to the new procedures subsided.

Morgan said the biggest benefit to the change is for people who do not have surgery, but who live full time as their correct gender, as they had the most difficulty with identification documents.

“The word is that the new policy is working,” Morgan said of reports from people who have used the new form so far.

Until they are online, forms can be obtained by calling the BMV at 614-7527500.

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