Antonia D'orsay

REAL ID & Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Filed By Antonia D'orsay | March 01, 2010 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: comprehensive immigration reform, National ID card, REAL ID, trans agenda, transgender, transphobia, transsexual

I suspect you'll be hearing about Comprehensive Immigration Reform off and on over the next few weeks.

If for no other reason than I'll be talking about it.

The good and the bad.

One of the bad parts has me worrying a great deal, as compromise is inevitably the name of the game here, and there's one compromise being floated that not only gives me reason to oppose this, but to do so because it is not in the interest of trans folks.

I have documentation of my citizenship and Identity. As my recent article "What if..." pointed out, though, that documentation is subject to revision for many trans people by others who get a wild hair up their hind end.

Also, I'm aware that there are expectations of others out there in the world -- privilege, we call it -- of what my body is supposed to look like as a result of that documentation, and who will use what they perceive as a disparity between my physical form and their idea of how that form should be as an excuse to create havoc in my life.

When I travel, I travel with all my documentation. Everything. Birth certificate, court orders, social security card, DD-214 (I'm a veteran), ID, etc. I take it with me because I genuinely have reason to fear that someone will decide that all of it does not apply to me.

One of the goals of a particular immigration reform organization is to reach a compromise with those who oppose it. One of the compromises they've proposed is a national ID card. In short, they are pushing for REAL ID.


Personally, I have issues with the notion of a national ID card. I find it's duplicative -- we should just issue passports to everyone if we are going to do that, and be willing to surrender them at any time when asked for our papers.

I also consider being asked for my papers to be something of a fascist issue (you are property of the State kinda stuff) that I oppose on multiple grounds (religious, included).

REAL ID, as it's set up, right now, does not allow for the fact that not everyone can get an appropriate ID if they are trans. In effect, this means that REAL ID does not allow for trans people to change their markers (sex or gender), and creates a de facto barrier to recognition of their identities and social description. This can have broad consequences in a society where people decide what your genitals look like based on your name (and that's assuming it even allows for a change of name, since state courts do not have jurisdiction to my knowledge over REAL ID provisions).

The legislation being proposed does not take this into account, and the explanation I'm hearing is that "they'll go back and fix the details later".

Well, no, you won't. Or, more accurately, that simply is not good enough, not broad enough, and not useful enough for me to be willing to recommend or even hint at being in favor of it.

Indeed, I will go so far as to say that it actually makes things worse than they are now, and right now things are so screwed up that many trans folk find themselves unable to obtain a decent passport or even half-assed documentation.

We lose jobs because we are told that our markers do not match the SSA database. We have judges who deny us marriage on preemptive judgment without fact finding regardless of what our IDs or even the state itself says.

And I would hope that most other trans folk would see it similarly, as it means that suddenly all of us -- regardless of when we transitioned or what our documentation says now -- would have to go through it all again, and prove something we've already proven once before.

It would, in effect, undo all the work on documentation that trans folks have done over the last 60 years.

And if that's scary, well, good. Fear mongering it may be, but those are all pretty straightforward things that many trans folk deal with on a daily basis and when it comes to undocumented trans folk, well, it gets a thousand times more difficult and far more complicated.

This Is a Compromise?

And this is supposed to be a good compromise. I can't agree to that. I can't see many trans people agreeing to that unless this national ID card takes the most broadly structured model of law in the US as the rules.

In other words, no surgical intervention needed, no letter required, and simply a national level court order needed at the same cost as the lowest price in the US presently to do it.

That means, of course, creating an entirely new court system. It means taking a power the states already have away from them. It means doing the very things that the opponents of trans lives would like to see not done.

But if something like that were to be explicitly stated in the measure as it's being suggested, then I could, possibly, find a reason to support it, since it does advance the issue, it makes things easier overall, and it solves a large problem that we have.

It would have to apply to all records, as well. All states would have to be willing to completely replace the birth certificates. They would have to recognize the legal sex markers and gender markers.

That would undermine previous rulings in courts on broader issues, outside of immigration.

Combined with the oft spoken of "path to citizenship", it would give the undocumented a means by which they could readily and easily attend to the issue of their documentation, regardless of the status of their entry.

I live with a trans woman who had to apply for asylum and cannot get her documentation changed because of much of this stuff. So I am very much in favor of serious reform that actually attends to the issue, but I'm not willing to trust someone to do that "down the road" as trans people have been told down the road for 100 years now and we're still waiting.

And as long as I can draw breath and speak out, I'll never say that two in the bush are better than one in the hand.

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Margaretpoa Margaretpoa | March 1, 2010 6:46 PM

It frightens me too, particularly in light of the woman whose identity was pretty much revoked, (I live in Texas as well). I hope that you forwarded Phyllis Frye's email to her. She is the one that got my marker changed and she is the one I'll go back to if a problem crops up in the future.
All of my markers, all of my documents have been changed but that doesn't mean that somebody can't come along and arbitrarily change it all back and National ID is nothing but a way to consolidate control over US citizens. People who want things like that aren't known to be accommodating or for making reasonable compromises.

I am a strange one. Where I work, the business is run hero style, i.e., if there is a problem with rules, people work very hard to work around the problem, and then they get rewarded for successfully working around the problem. I, on the other hand, am the type that pushes the problem so hard that people finally decide to fix the rules and thus the problem, instead of coming up with a work around. So if a request says "gender", I reply "F" and if a request says "sex" I reply "M".

When I filled out the form for joining "Community Response Emergency Team" for the county I live in, the application form asked "gender". I scratched out gender and put "sex" and marked "M". I then added the words "gender - female, I am transgendered".