Bruce Jenner Highlights the Legal Struggles of Transgender People

Bruce Jenner has become the most famous American to date to come out as a transgender woman. Last week, the Olympic gold medalist and star of the show Keeping up with the Kardashians appeared for a groundbreaking interview with Diane Sawyer. During the interview, Jenner shed light on a few of the many legal struggles that transgender people in the U.S. face.

Bruce Jenner Transgender RightsGender identity discrimination is prevalent in the United States. In South Carolina, the motor vehicle agency has a new policy in place after a transgender teenager sued the state for discrimination and violation of her freedom of speech in a September lawsuit. Agency workers did not allow the teen, Chase Culpepper, to be photographed for their license photo wearing makeup. The agency supported its stance with a 2009 agency rule that did not allow license photos to be taken when a person is “purposely altering his or her appearance so that the photo would misrepresent his or her identity.” Culpepper’s victory will result in license applicants to be photographed as they usually present themselves even if their daily appearance does not “match traditional expectations of an applicant’s gender,” according to court documents.

Despite eighteen states plus the District of Columbia having laws that prohibit discrimination against transgender people, most of the protection available for transgender people has resulted from court decisions that stem from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Constitution’s equal protection clause. The American Civil Liberties Union believes that the First Amendment, which protects the censoring of speech by the government, “should also protect individuals’ right to wear clothes or groom themselves in ways that express their personal sense of gender.

Updating Identity Documents

Jenner has decided not to share his new name with the public yet. In order to legally change one’s name, a court ordered name change is usually necessary.

During his interview, Jenner mentioned that he plans on changing his gender marker on his driver’s license. Changing the gender marker on a driver’s license is a process that varies by state. In some states a court order is required and a letter signed by a physician stating that the person has or is currently undergoing gender transition.  A similar process is necessary for changing birth certificates and passports. However, four states (Idaho, Ohio, Tennessee and Kansas) do not allow the changing of gender markers on birth certificates.

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