For Jude Speegle, a 29-year-old Daytona Seashore transgender activist with two youngsters, altering the gender designation on his driver’s license in April 2023 represented a milestone in his transition. He described the six-month course of of adjusting the identify and gender on his authorized documentation as largely seamless.

“I had zero points,” Speegle mentioned.

Now not. Florida has introduced that it’ll turn into what’s believed to be the primary state to not permit drivers to alter the gender markers on their driver’s licenses below any circumstances. The choice got here from the Florida Division of Freeway Security and Motor Automobiles, run by Dave Kerner, a political appointee of Gov. Ron DeSantis. It was introduced in a memo final week asserting that an individual’s gender “is decided by innate and immutable organic and genetic traits.”

“Allowing a person to change his or her license to mirror an inner sense of gender function or id, which is neither immutable nor objectively verifiable, undermines the aim of an identification report and may frustrate the state’s capacity to implement its legal guidelines,” mentioned the company memo.

Civil rights and advocacy organizations mentioned they’re contemplating contest the brand new guidelines.

Sasha Buchert, senior counsel and director of New York-based Lambda Authorized’s Non-Binary and Transgender Rights Venture, mentioned Florida is the primary state she has heard of prohibiting individuals from updating the gender markers on driver’s licenses to match their gender id.

“This simply creates this actually dangerous state of affairs the place persons are going to must stroll by the world with out an ID that matches who they’re,” mentioned Buchert, who’s transgender.

Whereas Lambda Authorized remains to be assessing the state of affairs, Buchert mentioned the group is reviewing its choices for difficult the coverage change.

The announcement got here 5 days after DeSantis suspended his marketing campaign for president. It was in keeping with different measures enacted in recent times by his administration and the Republican-led Legislature, together with banning what activists describe as gender-affirming medical look after minors, prohibiting Medicaid from overlaying such procedures for teens or adults and criminalizing transgender individuals for utilizing the toilet that matches their gender id.

The most recent transfer confused some drivers, like Speegle, who questioned whether or not their licenses could be revoked or suspended as a result of they’d already switched gender designations.

“I adopted the principles they’d in place,” Speegle mentioned. “Does that imply I’m now breaking the regulation? I might be driving with my youngsters and get pulled over for some motive. After which what, is my license suspended?”

“In Florida, tens of 1000’s of individuals have legally up to date their gender marker on their driver’s license or ID,” Nadine Smith, government director of Equality Florida, a state LGBTQ+ advocacy group, mentioned. “They rigorously adopted the principles to make sure their identification precisely displays who they’re and trusted this course of. Now, an abrupt coverage reversal has thrown their lives into chaos.”

A consultant for the motorized vehicle company, Molly Greatest, mentioned the brand new coverage applies solely to substitute license requests going ahead. For brand new licenses, the memo mentioned, misrepresenting a driver’s gender might be prosecuted as prison fraud and end in revoking the license.

Within the memo despatched to county tax collectors on Jan. 26, Robert Kynoch, deputy government director of the division, wrote that the division would rescind a “gender necessities” provision from the Driver’s License Operations Handbook that allowed Floridians to alter the gender marker on their driver’s licenses.

Democrats have proposed payments in Tallahassee since not less than 2021 to permit for a nonbinary gender choice on Florida drivers’ licenses. Republican leaders within the Capitol have blocked the payments each time, not even permitting committee hearings or legislative votes.

“That is an instance of Gov. DeSantis politicizing each state company for his personal political agenda,” mentioned Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando. “Although he’s not operating for President anymore, it’s fairly clear that his extremism will not be going wherever.”

Beforehand, Floridians might change the gender on their driver’s license in the event that they submitted a signed assertion from a doctor confirming that they had been present process scientific therapy for gender transition, in keeping with the Nationwide Middle for Transgender Equality, a Washington-based civil rights group.

The middle is without doubt one of the teams that tracks legal guidelines throughout states limiting transgender drivers from altering their gender designations on driver’s licenses. It mentioned not less than 20 states and the District of Columbia permit drivers to alter their genders with none documentation and permit the choice of a gender-neutral designation.

The State Division below the Biden administration started permitting transgender vacationers in 2021 to alter the gender designation on their U.S. passports with none documentation.

Kerner, appointed final yr by DeSantis because the division’s government director, instructed officers to substantiate insurance policies and procedures aligned with “statutory regulation and the division’s inherent authority,” mentioned Greatest, the division consultant.

“In Florida, you don’t get to play id politics together with your driver’s license,” Greatest mentioned.

Just like the change affecting drivers’ licenses, a invoice within the Florida Home filed by Rep. Douglas Michael Bankson, an Apopka Republican, and Rep. Dean Black, a Jacksonville Republican, would require Floridians to incorporate their intercourse at start, not gender, on state-issued IDs. There is no such thing as a Senate model of the invoice but.

Speegle testified in opposition to the invoice final month throughout a legislative listening to in Tallahassee.

“Their techniques are working,” Speegle mentioned. “Loads of us are afraid, however there are many people who find themselves keen to face up.”


Amanda Friedman reporting. Recent Take Florida, a information service of the College of Florida School of Journalism and Communications, produced this story. Friedman might be reached at [email protected]. You may donate to help our college students here.

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