How ID laws can put trans people in danger

How ID laws can put trans people in danger


[radio: “You’re listening to 89.9. WJCT Jacksonville. Your community, your world. Storms will develop during the mid afternoon
hours and will move from west to east. Highs will reach the low to mid 90s.] Savannah Bowens: It puts me on edge. You know what I’m saying? Because I could be walking to the store. Walking down the street. Getting in my car. And it seems as just because I’m trans that
I’m murdered. Savannah Bowens is a black trans woman living
in a city where three black trans women have been murdered this year. Savannah: How many are even unaccounted for? I believe that number is so much bigger. [news clips: “Tragedy for the transgender
community.” “ A transgender woman was found dead.” “The second killing of a transgender woman
in Jacksonville.” “Celine Walker was killed inside this Extended
Stay America.” “Another transgender woman found dead.” “This victim is the third trans woman who’s
died by gun violence in Jacksonville this year.”] None of the murders in Jacksonville have been
solved yet. And they’re actually a part of an alarming
crisis. Since 2015, at least 85 trans women have been
murdered across the country — most of them black trans women and gender non-conforming
people. Savannah: It’s like, if I was searching
for a place to move to like where do I go? Where would I be safe? Turns out a lot of these cases have something
in common… [news clips: “She was a transgender woman
police identified as a male when she was killed.” “In just the past 90 minutes, Jacksonville
police have released that victim’s birth name.” “Who was identified initially as a man by
the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.” “JSO is referring to the victim as a black
male in his 20s who appears to identify as a female.” The way cops are investigating these crimes…could
be delaying justice. Transgender people are more likely to face
violence and discrimination than the average U.S. resident. One of the reasons they’re often at risk
is their IDs – a simple document that many might take for granted. When the gender marker on state-issued ID
doesn’t match the outward appearance of a transgender person, it opens up a world
of harassment, and sometimes violence. Savannah: When it comes to getting a job. You know this could be the best job ever. And then now all of a sudden they see my gender
marker and now they’re treating me differently. They can be afraid to show their IDs while
driving, at a bar, or to vote, for fear of someone finding out that they’re transgender. Savannah: The scary part is for me, being
stopped by the police. You just never know who’s stopping you. You don’t know if these people are homophobic. You just don’t know. [Savannah at church: “Even in my unworthiness
he calls me friend. Aren’t you glad this morning that God doesn’t
look at your circumstance or look at your issues.” Singing: “You are everything to me.” According to a 2015 survey of transgender
people, nearly a third of people with mismatched IDs reported being harassed, denied services
or attacked. They can also lose access to medical care,
become homeless, or be forced into sex work. Savannah: A lot of times our trans women they’re
resorting to things such as prostitution because society has made it so hard. Every girl may not be as feminine or look
passable as we love to say in our community. What do you do when you’re hungry? What do you do when your rent is due and your
lights are about to be cut off, but you can’t get work because you don’t fit into the norm. Because your friends? They’re in the same situation as you and your
family wants nothing to do with you. So you walk the streets in unsafe environments
just so that you can feed yourself. The discrimination trans people face in life
can continue after they die. In Jacksonville, during murder investigations,
the police often identified victims by names they no longer used, instead of their preferred
names. In the trans community — whether this happens
in life or death — it’s called deadnaming. The police have also systematically denied
the victim’s identities by incorrectly describing their gender. Savannah: If they were known as a woman and
that’s who they lived their life as, they’re refusing to do that. In addition to the disrespect – deadnaming
can slow down a murder investigation in its most critical hours. Savannah: You don’t get to choose what gender
I am. Those people that knew me in the streets or
wherever, they knew me as a woman. So you’re saying, oh a man. You’re misnaming me and giving my biological
name, how do you expect to solve a case, if nobody knows that. What if I was murdered in a hotel and people
saw a woman go in and then you’re saying a man, that’s not what they saw. That’s not that’s not who they are. This is part of a national pattern. ProPublica contacted all law enforcement agencies
in locations where trans people have been killed since 2015, and found that 87 percent
of victims were deadnamed or misgendered by authorities. Many police departments cite an internal policy
to go with the name and sex listed on a victim’s state ID. Savannah: I need my gender marker to reflect
what it is. So that I can be respected. I feel like it’s a prison. It’s a prison and I have a release date. But I have no keys to get out of my cell. Savannah has recently started the process
of legally changing the gender marker on her ID. But turns out, switching that tiny “M”
or “F” can be incredibly hard. There are no federal policies to address gender
marker changes on documents like driver’s licenses. So it’s left up to the states. Some are generally more trans-friendly than
others. While others require a court order, an amended
birth certificate, or proof of surgery. Trystlynn Barber: The laws are so convoluted
across the United States, state to state. And it does not make any sense. Supposed to be united right? Trystlynn Barber lives in Georgia and has
been in the process of changing her ID. But it’s not been easy. Georgia law requires proof of gender reassignment
surgery, which is a high barrier for most people. Trystlynn: The cost of gender reassignment
surgery at the low end that I’ve seen in research in the United States is 15,000 dollars. The problem is getting health coverage to
cover something like that. To be hit with a solid wall of not being able
to move forward is heartbreaking. It can destroy people. But she later remembered a crucial detail. Trystlynn: I wasn’t born here. I was born in New York. The State of New York, with a less restrictive
policy, required only a doctor’s note stating she was transitioning. They sent her a corrected birth certificate
within a month – which she’s used to update most of her documents. Trystlynn: There it is. That’s a certified copy grey seal. With my name. My changed name and my correct sex. And I was half way back from the mailbox. When I open this up. I had other mail in my hands, everything else
fell from my hands I fell to my knees. I started crying, in the middle of the grass
right out here. I’m sorry. After thinking that I was not going to be
able to ever get it done. Was the most amazing feeling. I’m sorry. As for Savannah…she’s working with a lawyer
in Jacksonville to get her ID changed. Savannah: When that day comes for me when my gender marker is changed, it will be like
the missing piece to my puzzle. It’s that important. She hopes it will keep her a little bit safer…but
knows this problem is bigger than a letter on her ID. After we saw her, another trans woman was
murdered in Florida, this time a few hours south of Jacksonville. The Sheriff’s Office described the victim
as a man “wearing a wig” and “dressed as a female.” Another case of deadnaming… and a murder
that’s yet to be solved.

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