New Hampshire makes it easier for trans people to change their gender on IDs

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The state joins 16 others that have simplified the process of correcting gender markers on official identification documents.

As of Aug. 2, residents of New Hampshire who want to change the gender marker on their state identification documents can do so without presenting a letter from a doctor attesting that they are undergoing "change of gender" care.

A law that passed in the New Hampshire Legislature in 2019 and was enacted without the signature of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in 2020 created an X gender marker for IDs for those who do not identify as male or female. It did not require a letter from a doctor to change the existing marker. However, the state's Division of Motor Vehicles was still asking for one when people applied to correct their IDs even after the law was enacted.

The Boston-based organization GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders said that a nonbinary university student in Hew Hampshire named Rho reported they experienced this burdensome requirement for changing their ID. Rho called the request for a doctor's letter "demeaning."

According to Gay City News, Rho told GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders that they had been required to provide a doctor's letter to correct the gender marker on an ID. The group then reached out to the state's Republican attorney general, John Formella, before the Division of Motor Vehicles made the change on its website, Chris Erchull, a staff attorney with the group, told the American Independent Foundation.

Erchull said he couldn't say for certain what happened behind the scenes that prompted the division to make the change; however, on Aug. 2, the Division of Motor Vehicles changed the process for applying for a gender marker change on its website and now allows anyone to update the marker without a doctor's letter.

"I'm happy this is happening in my life. But I'm really happy it's helping other nonbinary young people to be respected Americans, because it's our birth right to be free," Rho stated after the change.

Erchull explained that there are many reasons for the state to make it easier for transgender and nonbinary people to change their gender marker, including discrimination and the incompetence of some medical professionals in dealing with transgender and nonbinary people.

A report released by the Center for American Progress on Aug. 18. showed that, based on data collected in 2019, one in three transgender people said they had to teach their own doctors how to provide health care for them.

Erchull noted that it can be hard for people to find the time and spend the money required to obtain a doctor's letter. Many transgender and nonbinary people can't afford or don't want to undergo medical treatments at a given time or don't wish for people to know about their treatment.

Additionally, Erchull said, the government should be motivated to have accurate information on state IDs: "The state does not have an interest in making people walk around with inaccurate identification documents. It's actually counterproductive."

In June, the Biden administration announced it would add an X gender marker to federal identification and "remove burdensome medical documentation requirements." The 19th website reported that the new rule could be implemented by the end of the year. For this reason, Erchull noted, gender markers on state IDs should match those on federal documents. Making it harder for nonbinary people to change their gender marker to X doesn't make sense in that context, he said.

According to GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders, New Hampshire is the 17th state to provide a simple process for transgender and nonbinary people to get an accurate gender marker on their state identification, joining California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, and Minnesota.

In June, then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed into law the Gender Recognition Act, which goes into effect in December. The law provides an X gender marker for both birth certificates and state identification documents and eliminates the requirement that people who want to change their names post their address, deadname, and birth date in a local newspaper.

Those kinds of requirements are a financial burden and put transgender people's safety at risk, LGBTQ advocates say. In December, New Jersey removed a similar rule requiring that transgender people who wanted to change their name publish both their deadnames and their new names two separate times in a local newspaper.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.