AUSTIN, TX (Texas Tribune) - Advocates feel a new change could cause more discomfort than success.
Joey Ovalle is a 22-year-old transgender student at the University of Texas at Austin who has transitioned into living as a man. But his driver's license, which carries his legal name and hasn't been updated to reflect his identity, still makes him nervous in some settings....not the least of which are polling places.
Texas' voter ID law, which was passed in 2011 and will face its biggest statewide test yet in Tuesday's primaries, presents an added hurdle for transgender voters. Advocates fear transgenders may be discouraged from showing up at the polls. Lisa Scheps, operations manager for Equality Texas, an LGBT advocacy group, called the law "blatantly discriminatory" because transgender people face challenges in obtaining government-issued photo ID that accurately depicts their name and gender.
To get his gender and legal name changed on his driver's license, Ovalle, who had a double mastectomy in December, would have to provide the Department of Public Safety with a court order proving that he has undergone a sex change. This type of surgery, which is expensive and rarely covered by insurance companies, isn’t accessible to a majority of the transgender community, whose unemployment rate is twice that of the general population, according to a 2011 report by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
According to the report, 47 percent of transgender Texans report having been verbally harassed or disrespected in places of public accommodation, including government offices.
Ovalle said he’s not sure what will happen the next time he goes to the polls, but that he still feels compelled to vote.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2014/02/28/texas-voter-id-laws-may-deter-transgender-voters/.