The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission announced late last month that it amended its policy toward gender changes on licenses to facilitate the process for transgender individuals, allowing them to change their gender markers before their sexual-reassignment surgery is complete.
Previously, individuals who received the surgery would have to either provide documentation of the medical procedure or present a birth certificate to reflect the changed gender before their licenses could be updated. The new policy, however, allows those intending to undergo the surgery to have their new gender reflected on their licenses without either document.
Mike Horan, MVC spokesperson, said Barbara Casbar Siperstein, political coordinator at Gender Rights Advocacy Association of New Jersey, contacted the agency to inquire about what steps it could take to alleviate some of the difficulties transgender individuals who are preparing for surgery often face.
“It was basically a matter of sharing information. Barbara came to us and showed us the different steps a person goes through during a gender change,” he said. “She asked if there was a way, some type of policy change, that could better reflect what the true process is.”
Casbar Siperstein said she relayed that before individuals undergo sexual-reassignment surgery, they typically begin dressing and self-identifying as their desired — gender and could face innumerable complications if their identification cards do not reflect their new gender.
“There are these standards that people in transition are supposed to have a real-life test in the new gender,” she said, “and if you do that but can’t change your driver’s license, that’s a problem.”
With the new policy, the MVC will now only require an individual to submit a “Declaration of Change of Sex Designation” to more appropriately reflect his or her gender.
“They basically will have to attest to the fact of what gender they consider themselves to be at that time, and then that document’s submitted and the change is made on his or her license,” Horan said. “It’s a very simple policy change and was just common sense.”
Casbar Siperstein said she originally approached the MVC with her concerns a few years ago, but the agency had been undergoing a management change. She revisited the issue several months ago and said she worked with the organization’s representatives to analyze similar policy changes in other states and craft one for the Garden State.
Horan said the policy change reflects the MVC’s commitment to providing high-quality service to the diverse populations it serves.
“Obviously there is a transgender community out there and it’s important that we understand the issues that affect them, just as we try to understand the issues affecting any other group.”