BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Transportation Department this week agreed to new regulations allowing transgender drivers to change the sex designation on their driver's licenses without a note from a surgeon, after two people complained that previous policy violated their civil rights.
In April 2011, the highway agency began requiring a signed surgeon's note signifying the individual "had undergone a complete surgical change of gender."
Early this year, two people were blocked from getting their driver's licenses.
Through the American Civil Liberties Union, they complained this was an invasion of their privacy as well as an arbitrary requirement, since only a fraction of people undergoing a gender transformation do so through surgical intervention.
Idaho's agency will now require a court order or doctor's affidavit attesting to a gender change, according to a policy director Brian Ness signed Monday. That's similar to requirements in most states.
Erika Falls, one of the two people who complained, has been without a driver's license since February after having it revoked.
A student at Boise State University, Falls said losing her license was an enormous inconvenience: Her partner had to take her to class and applying for jobs became a hassle. And simply sticking with her old Idaho driver's license with a male gender marker on it was out of the question, because it put her personal safety in jeopardy, she said.
"It was scary, going out and handing my ID to someone, and having that male marker," Falls said. "They see the male marker, I don't necessarily know them, or trust them. It's very dangerous."
She finally received her temporary license Tuesday.
The other person, Andrew Geske, received his temporary license with a male gender marker in January, only to receive an ITD revocation letter shortly thereafter, on grounds he had submitted no surgical proof.
Geske, also a BSU student, said he didn't have the luxury of going without a license — he's a caregiver for a family member — and he re-applied for a license as a female.
With this week's change, he plans to re-apply again Wednesday.
"It's major brownie points for personal liberties," Geske said. "It's really encouraging that even in a state with a fairly conservative Legislature and a long history of pretty conservative policies, all it took was sitting down and having an informative conversation to secure rights for a group that's pretty thoroughly marginalized across the board. That just felt good."