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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Identity law could put transgender community at risk

Transgender individuals unable to legally change their name could face possible discrimination.

March 20, 2012

The Missouri House of Representatives recommend legislators pass a bill that would make it illegal for people to falsely identify themselves to a police officer.

The intent of the bill is to cut down on fake IDs or false statements to law enforcement, but the bill makes no mention of the effects on Missouri’s transgender community.

Often, members of the transgender community choose to change their names to better fit their gender identity, but that process can be both complicated and expensive.

In Boone County, the fees for changing one’s name amount to $185. Although this is relatively inexpensive in comparison to other counties in Missouri, the price is still not feasible for many citizens, especially college students, said Struby Struble, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Resource Center coordinator.

“If they have an extra $185, they’re going to buy the book they couldn’t afford, or food,” she said. “That’s, like, half of a lot of college students’ rents. That’s a lot of money.”

For those in the transgender community who do not have the means to legally assume a preferred name, this bill presents a bit of danger, Struble said.

If confronted by police, people who are transgender could give a preferred, but not legally recognized, name and risk arrest for lying. Or, they could give their birth name and risk outing themselves.

“Without a legal name change, a trans person can be arrested under HB 1292 for giving an officer their preferred name (the name they use in their everyday life that matches their gender identity), rather than the name printed on their identification card,” Triangle Coalition Legislative Liaison Taylor Dukes said in a letter to The Maneater.

The intent behind the bill is not malicious, Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality said. With similar bills in other states, the bill’s primary purpose is to go after those intentionally defrauding law enforcement to avoid penalty. Although transgender discrimination under HB 1292 remains to be seen, Struble and Keisling both said that discrimination is highly possible.

“It absolutely seems possible that somebody at some point might try to abuse it," Keisling said. "But in the states where it already exists, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of abuse.”

Both Struble and Keisling said what the bill needs is more clarity. HB 1292 states that penalty applies only if fraudulent information is given intentionally to avoid punishment, but they said specificity could be expanded.

“There’s ways it could be a better bill if it specifically exempted people using names they’re commonly known by,” Keisling said.

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