In Which I Attempt To Get a New Driver’s License


I moved from Wisconsin to Illinois a year ago, but I had no reason to update my driver’s license until now. I have gotten a new job and for complex reasons it requires that I have a driver’s license with my current address on it so I went to go get this done.

Getting a valid ID can be complicated for a lot of people, but for trans* people who have had our name and/or gender changed on their identification this kind of process can sometimes have additional complications.

So I went to the local DMV with my old license, my social security card, and several bits of mail to prove my address. My driver’s license from Wisconsin has had my current name and gender for ten years – I changed my name through the common law process in 2004 and my gender indicator a few years earlier than that. The federal government finally changed the information through social security in 2012, though it definitely took some work to get that done.

Unfortunately there were problems at the DMV today. There are always problems. Today I’m going to spell out just ONE example of how institutionalized transphobia limits and frustrates the lives of trans* people. This is only one example, but things like this happen to us every day.

In this case apparently Illinois does not consider my old ID to be proof of my birth date. I have no idea why. They need some other proof of birth date. Ideally, a birth certificate, but there were other options:

1) Birth certificate: I was born in Idaho, a state that does not allow me to change the name or gender on my birth certificate. Gender cannot be changed ever and gender transition is not considered a valid reason for a name change. So my birth certificate does not match the name or gender on my driver’s license. I have mine, but I cannot use it for anything.

2) Passport: I do not have a passport specifically because of the birth certificate issue. I probably should get around to taking care of that, but it’s going to be an even bigger hassle than this process is.

3) A military ID is considered valid proof of birth date – but transgender people are not allowed to serve openly in the US military.

4) Adoption records are valid, and I am luckily adopted! However, I was adopted in Idaho, so nevermind, that won’t work either.

5) Various immigration related paperwork would work, but I’m not an immigrant.

6) A certified school transcript. Hey! I could get one of those! Yes! So I talk to my current University and find out…. They do not include birth dates on transcripts. I asked if they could do it once for me, they said no. Luckily I transferred from a previous college, so I called my old college and HOORAY! They can send me an official transcript with my birth date on it within a week for a nominal fee. I paid the fee and now I wait.

Let’s consider another other option here. I COULD use my old birth certificate along WITH a proof of a legal name change, but since I changed my name in Wisconsin through the common law process I can’t. That process is legal in Wisconsin, but is not legal in Illinois. I would have to go through the whole court process here (which I may do in order to get my passport) but that process is much too long and expensive to do before getting this license. Remember: I need my updated driver’s license in order to do my new job. I need it NOW.

What if I had not been a college student at a school that would send the kind of transcript I need? What if I had attended college before my transition, rather than after it? I certainly would not be able to do this process with my high school transcripts, since I attended a religious school that has previously refused to send transcripts in my current name. I recognize my student status as privilege that I have but many do not.

What if my boss was not willing to wait while I struggle with this process? While Illinois does have non-discrimination laws that include gender identity (and my company also includes it in their policies) that does not mean that companies are required to wait around for me while I struggle with my identity paperwork.

So now I will wait for my transcript, which will probably take about a week to arrive. Then I can get my new ID and finally get to work. While I wait I am earning no money.

A final note here: The proof that my previous school used to verify my date of birth was the exact Wisconsin driver’s license that Illinois is refusing to recognize as my proof of birth date. There is bureaucracy at it’s finest for you.

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  1. I’m contrasting this to me changing an out of state license. I had the same problem, but because I’m cis and have never changed my name, I have a passport with my current name, correct gender, and date of birth*. If I needed to, I could ask Massachusetts for a copy of my birth certificate, again with the correct name and gender.

    * Somewhere in my piles of boxes.

  2. You said, of getting a passport, that “it’s going to be an even bigger hassle than this process is.” Check your assumptions at the door, please, and do go try; it is *totally* worth it, as it trumps many things, and (as a bonus) gets you treated better by TSA quite often. I haven’t had to show my birth certificate in any of the last *three* states I’ve moved to–and one of those was my birth state of TX. The passport was the *first* place I got my gender marker changed, just months after a legal name change in Maryland. Super, super easy. Give it a try.

    • Thank you… As soon as I can afford to both go through a court name change (required) and can afford the passport fees, I intend to. To be honest, cost has been the major holdup on this but once I’m actually working at this job it’ll help!

      I appreciate your comment!

  3. Wow, what BS they put you through! People need to know about the crap transgender people go through just trying to live their daily lives. Thanks for sharing!

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