A Victory for Transgender Rights in Alaska

If you are a transgender person living in Alaska, life just got a little bit easier thanks to the ACLU of Alaska  and an anonymous plaintiff, K.L, who had the courage to challenge the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on their invasive requirements for correcting the sex marker on driver’s licenses.

K.L is a respected pilot for a shipping company. Her U.S. passport, medical certificate to operate as a pilot, airman certificate, and work identification all identify her as female, but the DMV cancelled her license citing a need for proof of surgery. With the help of the ACLU, K.L filed a case against the court arguing that the surgical requirement was a violation of her right to privacy—and won.

“All Alaskans must be able to obtain a driver’s license that accurately reflects their gender and avoids disclosure of sensitive personal information unrelated to their ability to safely drive a motor vehicle,” said Jeffrey Mittman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Alaska. “The government should never needlessly intrude into mandating specific medical procedures.”

On a very simple level, the rule change means that people will be able to obtain a license consistent with their gender identity without having to undergo surgical procedures that are—in many cases—too expensive, too dangerous, unnecessary, and unwanted. But it also means that starting a job, voting, traveling, or going out for a drink—all activities that require identification—will no longer force people to “out” themselves to strangers, putting them in the line of fire for potential discrimination, harassment, or assault. It means that people will not be forced to reveal the intricacies of their medical history to the state in order to drive a car and, furthermore, a recognition that the state should not be in the business of determining the “legitimacy” of anyone’s gender identity.

While we have a long way to go when it comes to ensuring the safety, equal treatment, and understanding of transgender Alaskans, K.L. and the ACLU’s victory moves the ball in the right direction. Check out the ACLU page to learn about the case or contact Jeffrey Mittman at the ACLU of Alaska: jmittman@akclu.org.

Tiffany McClain is Pride Foundation’s Regional Development Organizer in Alaska. Email Tiffany.

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