Trans and non-binary voters face barriers ahead of election

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The stakes are high for transgender voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election, and one major problem looming is the difficulty of securing appropriate identification. A UCLA study estimates that more than 965,000 transgender people will be eligible to vote, but out of the 45 states that conduct elections strictly in person, 42% of eligible transgender voters don’t have the correct identification.

Noah Grey Rosenzweig, a 22-year-old trans man from Washington, D.C., told CBS News that when he goes to the polls, he has to bring an ID, which has the wrong name and gender marker. “It’s a day of a lot of anxiety,” Rosenzweig said. “I’m really hoping that I don’t have to go through any of that and the ID is enough, that I look hopefully similar enough to my 5, 6-year-old ID at this point, that I don’t run into any issues.”

Rosenzweig, however, said he feels prepared, citing the “Voting While Trans Checklist,” a resource created by the National Center of Transgender Equality, which explains what to do if you’re denied the ability to vote.

There are plenty of reasons a person might want to change their gender marker but getting an accurate marker on legal documents can be tricky in some places. Many states require a note from a doctor, court order, amended birth certificate or even proof of surgery: something that not all trans people can afford or even want.

Angelica Ross, the actress and CEO of TransTech, wrote an open letter to the trans and LGBTQ+ community, acknowledging the challenges many trans voters face when their ID doesn’t match their lived identity. “We have to do it anyway. It’s one way we can reduce harm against us and our communities,” Ross said.

Ross, in a Wednesday interview on CBSN, said there is a lot more education needed on the issue. “I know the (Trump) administration is against sensitivity and identity training, but the reality is, the folks working behind the desk at the DMV and places that you have to file for identity documents don’t necessarily affirm us in those spaces,” Ross said.

“Right now, we have a lot of trans people who would rather carry an ID that does not match their lived experience than to try to continually fight the system. It gets expensive to change your name, it’s such a process to change the gender marker on your documents, but it’s very worth it.”

Rosenzweig said the stakes of the election are too high and that he plans to be an active voter, despite his ID not aligning with his lived identity.

“My vote feels important for the people who may not be able to or the trans people who feel like it’s too much, I respect that and I want to make sure that I can do that for them, for myself as well. Even if the stakes were not as high I would still cast my vote, but the thing is the stakes are always high.”

Gauri Walker, from Charlotte, North Carolina, said she’s well aware of the barriers voter ID laws present. The 27-year-old transitioned to female at the beginning of 2020, and said despite fearing her identity being questioned over her physical appearance, she’s done all she could to make sure she can vote comfortably because it’s her right.

“I made sure that I did my due diligence by setting up appointments to update my ID to match my physical and gender identity,” Walker said. “I went to the DMV for the documentation during the summer, and my doctor’s appointment is set for Monday of next week, right before I go to vote. I feel like a woman, so I want to make sure that I ‘scream’ women.”

Walker thanks her mentors and therapist for helping her on the journey to transition into a woman, adding that researching and contacting a therapist can help a person transition comfortably. “I feel confident knowing that all of my ducks are in a row. Making sure that I have no questions about my identity,” Walker said.

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