'Stop The Gatekeeping:' Trans Coloradans Applaud ID Rules But Say More Can Be Done

Dec 17, 2018

Jade Koch doesn't like showing people her Colorado driver's license.

Sitting on the couch in her living room, Koch pulls out the 2 by 3.5-inch piece of plastic from a pocket on her phone case. Next to her black and white portrait, underneath the sex category, a little "F" indicates female.

For as long she can remember, she said, the tiny marker has been a huge burden.

"I've been shot at," she said. "I've been jumped. I have been physically assaulted on more than one occasion. That one little marker genuinely makes all the difference and prevents a lot of that."

The 26-year-old Fort Collins resident identifies as agender or nonbinary, meaning neither male nor female. Koch uses she-her and they-them pronouns.

To accommodate people like Koch, the state recently started offering a third, gender neutral "X" option on driver's licenses. It's only the fifth state to do so.

"That one little marker genuinely makes all the difference."

Since Nov. 30, the Colorado Department of Motor Vehicles has issued at least 28 such licenses. It will likely issue more as awareness increases around the new rules.

To get the marker, license holders must present a special Change of Sex Designation form with a doctor's signature to the DMV. Other than the special form, the process works like a typical license renewal.

The Colorado Board of Health plans to vote on a new, similar set of rules for birth certificates Dec. 19. The new guidelines eliminate the need for proof of sexual reassignment surgery, a qualifier that was approved by the state back in 1984.

Both rule changes, many advocates say, represent a step forward for trans rights. Most states still lack gender-neutral options for any identifying documents, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Mike Hartman, executive director of the Colorado Department of Revenue, which oversees the state's DMVs, said he hasn't seen any hiccups in the process.

"The feedback has been overwhelmingly supportive," he said. "The community organizations we speak with are appreciative of the change and feel that it is a good step in the right direction."

Daniel Ramos, president of the LGBT advocacy group One Colorado, said it sends a broader message to the community.

"This is just another way to continue to send a message that all are welcome in Colorado," he said. "That we value people and that we want to make sure that we're eliminating many of these costly barriers."

"We just need to stop the gatekeeping."

But for some, like Jade Koch, finding the right doctor to sign off for them has been difficult.

She said she's called around to doctor's offices, but they're either booked up or not familiar with the DMV's new form.

"I've had doctors flat out say, 'Nope, I will not. Find someone else,'" she said.

She said she hopes to get her ID changed soon, but it would be easier without having to get a doctor's signature. Several states, like California and Minnesota, do not require signatures to change one's gender.

"We just need to stop the gatekeeping (in Colorado) with, 'Oh, you need to go see a medical professional and have this form,'" she said. "If we can just do away with that and just believe trans people, that would be lovely."

Koch may get her wish. LGBT advocacy groups are working with Colorado to adopt yet another set of rules that allow people to self-affirm, meaning they wouldn't need a doctor's signature.

Hearings on those are set for early next year.