Voting While Trans15 min read

Aug 18, 2018 | In the News | 0 comments

How is voting different for trans voters?

This coming midterm election is undoubtedly one of the most politically charged that I have seen in my lifetime. Whichever side of the aisle you’re on, you must admit that since the presidential election “business as usual” has changed dramatically, and many unprecedented behaviors and policy decisions have occurred. In my life as an American one thing has been made clear to me: the ability to vote is undeniably tethered to American citizenship and is to be taken seriously. Now, what if I told you that isn’t true for transgender people?

“Do you know about voter literacy tests?”

   Let’s start from a place of history and fact: voting while Black and/or poor has always been under attack. For those who would shy away from that, do you know about voter literacy tests? Until 1965, Black voters were subject to a “literacy test” to make certain they were informed and intelligent enough to vote. Do yourself a favor and click here to see what one such test looked like in Louisiana. These “tests” were stacked against the Black voter; they were a series of impossible to answer logic based questions with many different correct answers. This was of course only after the centuries of slavery and being considered ⅗ of a person, unable to vote but able to be counted in slave states. And today still there are states that create strict ID laws to “combat voter fraud” (voter fraud is virtually nonexistent) and for some inexplicable reason polling places in Black and poor neighborhoods either close early, or there is one for thousands and thousands of voters, creating long lines on a day that people still have to go to work. Desiline Victor, a 102 year old Black daughter of slaves famously stood in line for 6 hours in Texas to vote for Barack Obama.

     Now those strict voter ID laws have a new target: transgender and gender-nonconforming adults. Transgender people, especially early in their transition are unlikely to have state identification that reflect how they look in person. Ergo, while everything else could be accurate, even the photo, if a state has strict voter laws they may not be allowed to vote. Much like the literacy tests, this puts all the power in the hands of the poll worker. If that person is biased against trans people, there is a strong likelihood that the trans-person will not be allowed to vote. This article is an excellent example of just how that can happen, and how it affects the voter. Moreover, it suggests that up to 78,000 voters may be restricted from voting this fall (in a very politically charged election remember) because their state ID is 100% accurate except the letter under sex/gender. To add to this issue, many of the states with strict voter laws (read: the midwest and the south) also have very convoluted processes for trans-adults to change the gender marker on their ID. Even in super liberal NYC, the trans person must get diagnosed with a mental health disorder (gender dysphoria) then get a doctor to sign off that they are seeking treatment for their gender dysphoria, then that letter gets sent to the office where your birth certificate is kept, and once corrected on your birth certificate, you have to go with that and enough ID to get the DMV to change it. All in all it can take up to a year, and be very costly to do. If you’ve ever just had to renew your expired license, you know how exhausting the DMV can be for a routine visit, let alone something so sensitive and personal.

“78,000 trans voters could literally tip the scale in either direction, all the while those disenfranchised voters are being punished for simply voting while trans.”

   Now let’s jump back to the heart of this issue: being able to vote in America is inextricably tethered to your identity as an American citizen. Additionally, the very states that trans voters want their voices to be heard (to change the confusing process of accurate ID) are the same states that will likely restrict trans people from their American right to vote because of voter ID laws (that trans people probably also want to change). In a modern America where 3 million voters chose the other candidate, and the current president only won by approximately 10,000 votes in 3 swing states, the loss of 78,000 trans voters could literally tip the scale in either direction, all the while those disenfranchised voters are being punished for simply voting while trans.

   So what can you do? Well for starters, share the hell out of this. The everyday citizen in America isn’t well-versed on the many ways that trans people (and all queer people) are marginalized. Education is instrumental in affecting positive change. Similarly, a lack of information is a powerful tool for those in charge. Secondly, get up to date on the voter laws in your state. They probably don’t affect you if your cisgender, straight and/or White. I know that I have never had an issue, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an issue to be addressed. Lastly, get connected to local government. Start voting for people who will abolish these unnecessary and obstructive policies. Value the voices of your trans neighbors by making certain they get heard. The dangers here are very real: inaccurate voting in favor of bigoted politicians, systemic oppression of the most marginalized in our society, and deep despair and hopelessness for those disenfranchised voters. The literal future of our nation depends on all voices being heard.

How is voting different for trans voters?

   This coming midterm election is undoubtedly one of the most politically charged that I have seen in my lifetime. Whichever side of the aisle you’re on, you must admit that since the presidential election “business as usual” has changed dramatically, and many unprecedented behaviors and policy decisions have occurred. In my life as an American one thing has been made clear to me: the ability to vote is undeniably tethered to American citizenship and is to be taken seriously. Now, what if I told you that isn’t true for transgender people?

“Do you know about voter literacy tests?”

   Let’s start from a place of history and fact: voting while Black and/or poor has always been under attack. For those who would shy away from that, do you know about voter literacy tests? Until 1965, Black voters were subject to a “literacy test” to make certain they were informed and intelligent enough to vote. Do yourself a favor and click here to see what one such test looked like in Louisiana. These “tests” were stacked against the Black voter; they were a series of impossible to answer logic based questions with many different correct answers. This was of course only after the centuries of slavery and being considered ⅗ of a person, unable to vote but able to be counted in slave states. And today still there are states that create strict ID laws to “combat voter fraud” (voter fraud is virtually nonexistent) and for some inexplicable reason polling places in Black and poor neighborhoods either close early, or there is one for thousands and thousands of voters, creating long lines on a day that people still have to go to work. Desiline Victor, a 102 year old Black daughter of slaves famously stood in line for 6 hours in Texas to vote for Barack Obama.

     Now those strict voter ID laws have a new target: transgender and gender-nonconforming adults. Transgender people, especially early in their transition are unlikely to have state identification that reflect how they look in person. Ergo, while everything else could be accurate, even the photo, if a state has strict voter laws they may not be allowed to vote. Much like the literacy tests, this puts all the power in the hands of the poll worker. If that person is biased against trans people, there is a strong likelihood that the trans-person will not be allowed to vote. This article is an excellent example of just how that can happen, and how it affects the voter. Moreover, it suggests that up to 78,000 voters may be restricted from voting this fall (in a very politically charged election remember) because their state ID is 100% accurate except the letter under sex/gender. To add to this issue, many of the states with strict voter laws (read: the midwest and the south) also have very convoluted processes for trans-adults to change the gender marker on their ID. Even in super liberal NYC, the trans person must get diagnosed with a mental health disorder (gender dysphoria) then get a doctor to sign off that they are seeking treatment for their gender dysphoria, then that letter gets sent to the office where your birth certificate is kept, and once corrected on your birth certificate, you have to go with that and enough ID to get the DMV to change it. All in all it can take up to a year, and be very costly to do. If you’ve ever just had to renew your expired license, you know how exhausting the DMV can be for a routine visit, let alone something so sensitive and personal.

“78,000 trans voters could literally tip the scale in either direction, all the while those disenfranchised voters are being punished for simply voting while trans.”

   Now let’s jump back to the heart of this issue: being able to vote in America is inextricably tethered to your identity as an American citizen. Additionally, the very states that trans voters want their voices to be heard (to change the confusing process of accurate ID) are the same states that will likely restrict trans people from their American right to vote because of voter ID laws (that trans people probably also want to change). In a modern America where 3 million voters chose the other candidate, and the current president only won by approximately 10,000 votes in 3 swing states, the loss of 78,000 trans voters could literally tip the scale in either direction, all the while those disenfranchised voters are being punished for simply voting while trans.

   So what can you do? Well for starters, share the hell out of this. The everyday citizen in America isn’t well-versed on the many ways that trans people (and all queer people) are marginalized. Education is instrumental in affecting positive change. Similarly, a lack of information is a powerful tool for those in charge. Secondly, get up to date on the voter laws in your state. They probably don’t affect you if your cisgender, straight and/or White. I know that I have never had an issue, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an issue to be addressed. Lastly, get connected to local government. Start voting for people who will abolish these unnecessary and obstructive policies. Value the voices of your trans neighbors by making certain they get heard. The dangers here are very real: inaccurate voting in favor of bigoted politicians, systemic oppression of the most marginalized in our society, and deep despair and hopelessness for those disenfranchised voters. The literal future of our nation depends on all voices being heard.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Nathaniel Gray

Nathaniel Gray

Founder, Writer, and LGBTQ+ Empathy Mentor

Nathaniel is a social worker, mentor for parents of LGBTQ+ youth, and facilitator/empathy mentor. He started out in NYC as a singer/dancer/actor from the heartland (O-H-I-O) getting his BFA in Musical Theater from Pace University. After years of performance, Nathaniel turned to working with youth, as an educator and administrator at Fusion Academy. Since then he has completed his Master’s in Social Work at Fordham University and started The Proud Path, as well as worked with the Ali Forney Center and the Hetrick-Martin Institute, agencies addressing LGBTQ+ youth homelessness. His mission is to learn everything he can about the coming out process to assist others through it, and develop empathy within those who never have to.

Nathaniel Gray

Nathaniel Gray

Founder, Writer, and LGBTQ+ Empathy Mentor

Nathaniel is a social worker, mentor for parents of LGBTQ+ youth, and facilitator/empathy mentor. He started out in NYC as a singer/dancer/actor from the heartland (O-H-I-O) getting his BFA in Musical Theater from Pace University. After years of performance, Nathaniel turned to working with youth, as an educator and administrator at Fusion Academy. Since then he has completed his Master’s in Social Work at Fordham University and started The Proud Path, as well as worked with the Ali Forney Center and the Hetrick-Martin Institute, agencies addressing LGBTQ+ youth homelessness. His mission is to learn everything he can about the coming out process to assist others through it, and develop empathy within those who never have to.

Wanna hear Nathaniel’s coming out story?

Sign Up For Updates

Sign up today to stay in the loop on all the new blog articles, Nathaniel’s speaking engagements, and new modules for families, educators and peers!

Need a Speaker?

Nathaniel has spoken to kids as young as 5 about how being different is awesome, and to MSW students and educational administrators about empathizing with LGBTQ+ youth and everyone in between.

Premium Courses

Ready to get started right now? The Proud Path Bundle is vital for any parent with an LGBTQ+ child. This work will bring you closer to your child, and your child closer to pride.

Contact Us     |     Privacy Policy

The Proud Path helps with Parenting an LGBTQ+ Child

Keep me in the know!

 

I'm so excited that you're starting your very own journey on The Proud Path! My new course bundle is available now!

Everyone on my mailing list will get a free Q&A with me soon and has access to my free course, Why Is This Important!
Get signed up below!

You'll be redirected shortly to get started!