On December 17th, 2019, a judge at the Marion County Courthouse ruled in agreement with my doctors and therapist that my legal gender should match my gender identity. I was officially declared by the State of Indiana to be nonbinary.
My driver’s license, the BMV, and former Attorney General Curtis Hill say otherwise.
My name is Evren Elliott. I work in housing and supporting homeless youth and young adults. I am an active volunteer in my community, a theatre artist and writer, and I sit on the board of a creative artist co-op. I am one of countless transgender people in Indiana whose ID does not match my gender.
Why should it matter? To those who live happily in the gender they were assigned at birth, a gender marker is often an afterthought. The little “F” or “M” appearing on their official identification doesn’t carry much weight to them at all, because it is known to be correct.
But to a transgender person, not having the correct gender marker on our IDs can feel like a constant stamp of disapproval, bannered out before our names in almost every space we occupy.
I use my driver’s license to move about the world on almost every stage: restaurants, grocery stores, banks, hotels, the pharmacy – the list goes on and on. Every time I have to present my ID, I am presenting something which asserts an identity that is foreign to me.
For a lot of trans people, this disparity can not only be painful, but lead to discrimination or harassment. The National Center for Transgender Equality reports that 40 percent of trans people who presented inaccurate identification experienced harassment, 15 percent were asked to leave the premises, and 3 percent were assaulted.
The process for changing a gender marker is not easy either. Appointments, paperwork, money and more, all go towards recounting again and again every why, when, and how of our gender experience.
The process can be so drawn out that now highly sought-out organizations are dedicated to assisting people through it. (I thank Indiana Legal Services every day for the work they did for me in this endeavor.)
All of this effort is required simply to convince a series of officials of something that I already knew: I am the greatest expert on my own experience.
It matters because we are who we say we are.
Being transgender isn’t new. Communities throughout history and around the world have recognized transgender people under their own names and have included multiple genders in their languages.
Yet I have young people and community members coming to me on a regular basis asking for help in obtaining verification after verification that their existence and recognition is real and necessary.
I long for a world of gender self-identification – a world in which we don’t have to recount traumas, struggle, and dysphoria before a parade of professionals in order to be believed.
Having an accurate ID that reflects your gender is an affirmation before the State of an identity that existed long before we did and will continue long after.
We need to humanize this discussion because the transgender experience is universally human and we deserve self-determination. Once we are able to do that, we bring humanity back into the conversation in every office, school, and family dinner table.
It matters because we aren’t going anywhere.
It matters because I shouldn’t have to decide between explaining myself or keeping a painful secret at every transaction that requires identification.