I’m continually surprised by the number of people who aren’t even aware that your driver’s license identifies you with the gender binary — either “M” or “F” … perhaps because those folks have never had to suffer the indignity of being challenged when trying to use a bathroom or changing room when buying clothes.
They have never had to spend anywhere from several hundred to maybe several thousand dollars to have their gender marker changed.
Texas isn’t exactly a friendly place for transgender people. We face opposition at every turn; in fact this past legislative session, four bills were sent to committee that would have criminalized bathroom usage and created a slew of unintended consequences.
Richard Peña and Debbie Riddle authored those bills using fear as reasons why transgender people should be unfairly punished. Thankfully, those bills failed. The truth is, that in the 200 or so municipalities or school districts where laws respecting the rights of transgender people using the restrooms with which they identify, there have been no significant increases in public safety issues. Frankly, it’s a non-issue.
It’s more critical now than ever before that our I.D. match who we are and how we present.
I will never forget the day I received my court order legally changing my name to Leslie and my gender to female. I cried in the judge’s chamber and thanked the judge for changing my life. It’s that big a deal.
Recently, a renegade bureaucrat at the Texas Department of Public Safety became a one-woman crusade against name and gender changes. The DPS began requiring paperwork they were not legally entitled to; asking for a copy of the name and gender petition when she was sent a fingerprint card in order to do a background check. She began asking for surgeons’ letters, neither of which are required.
Nothing that indicated a gender marker change was being processed.
The majority of name and gender marker changes in Dallas County are done through one local attorney, Katie Sprinkle. (Full disclosure: She is also my partner, whom I love dearly.)
Katie knew she had the law on her side. She hit the books and pulled up statutes pertaining to background checks, name changes and what was required to be sent to DPS. The brief was 10 pages of compelling and unambiguous evidence that the employee at the DPS was over-stepping … to put it politely.
Katie presented this brief to Presiding Civil Judge Craig Smith and he agreed — even going so far as to call the DPS and speak with the renegade employee and her supervisors, telling them to knock it off.
The other 12 civil court judges in Dallas County were all in agreement.
This is huge! It affects more than just the petitions of those transgender residents of Dallas County, but everywhere there are judges that will sign gender correction orders.
You won’t likely hear about this anywhere else. It was done quietly, with dignity, behind the scenes.
Recently, there has been an epidemic of Texas functionaries from county clerks to our attorney general threatening to thumb their collective noses at the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Constitution — so it comes as little surprise that the laws of Texas can be considered by some at DPS as mere suggestions.
I’m so proud of Katie. She doesn’t go around tooting her own horn but she has been a tireless advocate for the
Transgender community in North Texas. She founded a legal clinic at Resource Center serving members of GEAR and has done pro-bono work or reduced-fee services of all kinds for the transgender community. She even makes her name and gender paperwork available to do-it-yourselfers at no charge.
She and I joined others from Resource Center a couple of weeks ago in speaking to members of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Texas and sharing the challenges of the transgender community. Katie also works in cooperation with Equality Texas and Lambda Legal. She puts herself out there. She truly cares.
So here’s a big giant thank you to Katie Sprinkle and the judges in Dallas County who realize just how important it is to have the simple dignity of identification that matches who we are.
It’s our license to live — it’s good to know there are people out there to help make sure that license doesn’t expire.
Leslie McMurray, a transgender woman, is a former radio DJ who lives and works in Dallas. Read more of her blogs at lesliemichelle44.wordpress.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 17, 2015.