Transgenders Recognized by Department of Public SafetyS
Department Praised for Ruling Allowing Drivers License Photos in Clothing Appropriate to One's Chosen Gender
[DALLAS, TX] - The Texas Department of Public Safety recently directed its drivers license division personnel to allow transgender applicants to wear wigs and makeup for identification photographs.
Agency spokeswoman Tela Mange said that officials sent a memo to all employees advising them of the new policy. A previous policy, which activists said was inconsistently enforced, required the removal of wigs and makeup because they were considered to be a "disguise."
"Folks shouldn't be having any problems," Mange said. "The photograph should reflect the appearance of the person they represent themselves to be in daily life. So if someone is male but presenting themselves as female, that's how we will take their photograph."
Dallas Transgender Alliance president Tylana Marie Coop called the new policy a "huge step in the right direction to ensure transgenders are treated with dignity and respect."
"The Texas Department of Public Safety needed this policy because many transsexuals, intersexed and gender-variant people were being treated unfairly," Coop said. "They have furthered the cause of equality, personal freedom and justice."
The new policy should make obtaining a drivers license a "much less threatening and fearful experience" for transgenders, Coop said. It will benefit the agency because identification photographs will actually match the appearance of transgenders, she added.
The agency's policy will still prohibit "obvious disguises for the purpose of concealing identity or headwear that is not for religious purposes." It also directs that "each customer shall be treated with respect and courtesy during every contact."
The new policy came about after a transgender applicant was told by agency officials to remove her wig and makeup because she appeared to be a man with a female name. The incident occurred at an Arlington field office in February. The applicant produced a certified copy of her court-ordered name change, a Louisiana drivers license, Social Security card and Federal Communications Commission license with her female name. None of the documents swayed the officials.
The transgender applicant advised Coop, and both complained to agency officials in Austin.
Coop said that she told agency officials about her own difficulties incurred at a South Dallas field office. The officials were polite and appeared to be interested in resolving the matter, she said.
Coop said that she is hopeful that agency officials will also add transgender sensitivity and anti-harassment material to their workplace policies and training.
"I think this would be a good time ... to help reinforce the new policy and educate their employees," Coop said. Coop said that although the new policy marks a milestone, transgenders still will endure hardships obtaining gender corrections on their drivers licenses. Transgenders currently must present documentation from a surgeon who performed genital reconstruction or "take their chances in court" to get their gender changed on identification cards. Previous proposed state legislation that would have simplified the process "failed to make it very far," Coop said.
Coop said that she thinks Texas is "slowly changing to acknowledge the gender rights of a highly-discriminated-against population."
"Freedom will slowly come with time, visibility and advocacy," she said.