Two Democratic lawmakers are trying to give transgender and non-binary Arizonans the chance to more accurately represent themselves on state-issued documents — in life and in death.
House Bill 2492 would offer driver’s-license applicants a third gender option, “non-binary,” to indicate they don’t identify as male or female.
House Bill 2582 would require death certificates to reflect gender identity, one’s emotional and psychological sense of gender, including when it appears to conflict with a person’s anatomy.
“I want to be able to say that Arizona’s on the front lines of recognizing diversity,” said Green Valley Rep. Rosanna Gabaldón, who introduced the death-certificate bill. “I want to see a time when we can look back at this and wonder why anyone had a problem with it.”
Neither bill has received a hearing, which means it’s unlikely either piece of legislation will be considered after this week.
‘Recognized under the law’
Though Arizona doesn’t require proof of transition surgery to change the gender marker on a driver’s license, trans applicants must submit a doctor’s letter saying they are “irrevocably committed” to a gender transition.
Non-binary residents have no process for getting their preferred gender marker on a license, as they do in California, Oregon and Washington, D.C.
“HB 2492 is incredibly important because it would allow non-binary transgender Arizonans to be recognized under the law,” said Ashton Skinner, transgender-outreach coordinator for One Community. “This bill gives me hope for the future of our state.”
Phoenix Rep. Ken Clark, who introduced the legislation, said Arizona needs it for two reasons: “One, you should simply have the right to identify how you identify. But I also think there’s a practical element: If you’re at the hospital and you’re unconscious, and the doctor can see on your ID that you might identify in a different way, that may help indicate treatment.”
Nearly 70 percent of Arizona respondents in the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, which focused on trans and non-binary people, did not have an official document with their preferred name and gender.
More than 30 percent of respondents who had shown an ID with a name or gender that didn’t match their appearance reported being “verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave, or assaulted.”
‘It’s a matter of dignity’
Trans people seeking to update multiple forms of ID can spend years and hundreds of dollars on the process. To then have a different gender recorded on their death certificates would be the ultimate insult, Gabaldón said.
The LGBT community has likened misgendering someone who died to spitting on that person’s grave.
“It would be so demeaning,” said Josef Wolf Burwell, director of Phoenix-based Peacework Medical Projects, which provides health care to marginalized groups.
“It’s not fair, and it doesn’t dignify us for who we are and how we’ve lived our lives with tremendous authenticity and with great effort,” he said. “I’ve changed my name with 38 entities or institution, and those are just the ones I’ve counted.”
In addition to requiring that new death certificates reflect gender identity, Gabaldón’s bill creates a process for changing gender markers on existing death certificates.
Registrars would have to amend certificates when presented with a document that “memorializes a gender transition.” Such documents could include IDs, court documents, health records or written instructions from the deceased.
“When the name matches and identity matches, it’s a matter of dignity. It’s a matter of respect,” Burwell said. “It really shouldn’t be this hard.”