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Having a passport or birth certificate with the correct gender can literally save the lives of trans people, study confirms

Nick Duffy March 17, 2020
Trans people with accurate IDs have better mental health

Trans people with accurate IDs have better mental health (Photo by Zackary Drucker/The Gender Spectrum Collection.)

A study has found that trans people who have ID that correctly recognises their gender have better mental health.

Published in The Lancet Public Health on Monday, the study suggests that having a passport, driver’s license, or birth certificate that reflects the gender of a trans person may improve their mental health.

Trans people with incorrect IDs more likely to face serious psychological distress.

The study, conducted by researchers at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health, is based on data from 22,286 transgender adults who participated in a US National Center for Transgender Equality survey.

According to the data, just 10 per cent of respondents had their preferred name and gender on all their documentation. A further 44 per cent had some documents that used their preferred name and gender, while 45 per cent had none that did so.

Trans people with accurate IDs have better mental health
Trans people with accurate IDs have better mental health

Researchers found that those who had accurate documentation were 32 per cent less likely to be classified as seriously psychological distressed, 22 per cent less likely to have seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 25 per cent less likely to have made a suicide plan, compared to those with no accurate IDs.

The study also notes that “those with non-binary identities, poverty-level incomes, or without gender-affirming surgeries” are much more likely to have no gender-affirming IDs.

Lead author Ayden Scheim, assistant professor in the Dornsife School of Public Health, said: “Having IDs that don’t reflect how you see yourself, and how you present yourself to the world, can be upsetting.

“It can also potentially expose people to harassment, violence, and denial of service. Despite this, the relationship between gender-concordant ID and mental health had not previously been examined in the US.”

Accurate ID for trans people ‘should be a fundamental human right’.

Scheim noted that there is a patchwork of state laws that treat gender recognition in extremely different ways, with some permitting trans people to easily change gender markers – while others are forced to spend hundreds of dollars on court fees in order to change gender markers.

The researcher said: “The process, costs, and restrictions associated with updating identification documents vary from state to state. These roadblocks prevent many people from getting the documents they need.

“Having accurate identification should be a fundamental human right. While many of us take it for granted, obtaining IDs can be very difficult for trans people. This is an area where tangible and relatively simple policy changes could aid public health.”

New York recently announced that it would drastically simplify the process of gender recognition for birth certificates and open the process up to under-18s, after a lawsuit from a 14-year-old.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the Court of Appeal recently ruled against a legal challenge seeking to permit use of a non-binary gender marker on British passports – despite international standards permitting gender ‘X’ passports, and the UK recognising them when people travel from elsewhere.

Related: Trans guy receives a heartwarming birthday surprise that he’ll literally never forget

More: birth certificates, gender recognition, mental health, passports, Trans, Transgender

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