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Accurate IDs Are a Human Right

December 19, 2012

This past week, our nation celebrated International Human Rights Day, the 64th anniversary of the signing of the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. The document declared that “inherent dignity” and “equal and inalienable rights” are part of the fundamental building blocks to a just world.  While progress has been made for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people domestically and internationally there is still much work to be done, especially for the transgender community.

Unfortunately, transgender people still face systemic barriers and prejudice, both domestically and internationally. One way in which transgender people have struggled is in accessing identity documents that provide legal recognition of their gender identity.

Presenting inaccurate identification all too often becomes a trigger for various forms of abuse and discrimination. Transgender people can often times be forcibly outed to others because of an old name or gender marker on their ID. The results of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, reveal how common these outcomes are in the United States. Forty percent of respondents who reported presenting ID that did not match their gender identity experienced harassment—3 percent were physically assaulted and 15 percent were asked to leave the premises where the ID had been presented. Furthermore, those who were unable to update their driver’s licenses reported much higher rates of discrimination in hiring and housing.

When governments fail to recognize they reject the fundamental right of self-determination and only add to the barriers faced by transgender people in accessing support systems, government services, and utilizing social safety nets. It is imperative that governments provide a means to accurate and affirming identity documents, not only to grant access to essential services but also to guarantee the dignity and respect that every human deserves.

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