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State denies discrimination took place at driver license office

Published March 28, 2011 7:28 pm

Gender identity • Witness says transgender applicant faced discrimination.
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Although one bystander says a transgender woman was wrongly "humiliated" at the Utah Driver License Division last week, the division says an investigation revealed Monday that state employees acted appropriately.

And the Transgender Education Advocates of Utah (TEA of Utah) backs the state. Members of the advocacy group reviewed surveillance videos on Monday as part of the state's investigation.

"The employees did follow procedure," said Teinamarrie Scuderi, associate director of TEA of Utah. "There was no ridicule, [no] pointing and laughing … what we saw on the video was pretty much everyday, if you went to the Driver License Division to get your ID renewed."

On Thursday, Amber Anderton, a 29-year-old political science student at the University of Utah, visited the division's Fairpark office in Salt Lake City to renew her license. Anderton, in an interview, said a woman, who later identified herself as transgender to Anderton, was ahead of her in line. The transgender woman was waiting to be photographed, but an employee stopped to confer with a co-worker.

The two were "gossiping and giggling" about the transgender person, Anderton said, although she acknowledges she could not hear what was said. Anderton also was upset that the individual was required to remove her make-up in the rest room before she could be photographed.

"It was everyday makeup a woman would wear — base, mascara, blush," said Anderton, who complained to a supervisor at the office. "I said, 'Would you ask [another] woman to wash her face off before getting a picture taken?' He said, 'That's not a woman, that's a man.' "

Anderton said the transgender woman told her she was "livid" but she did not want to "make a scene." Anderton encouraged her to file a complaint.

"It was humiliating. I was humiliated for her," Anderton said. "It's blatant discrimination."

The incident was reported on the blog prideinutah.com and spread on Facebook over the weekend.

Dwayne Baird, a spokesman for the Utah Department of Public Safety, which oversees driver licenses, said the only complaint the division has received is the one from Anderton. He said the individual involved was seeking a renewal of a state identification card and was not applying for a gender-marker change, which state policy allows with proper documentation.

In addition to reviewing security footage, the division also interviewed employees.

"It was determined the [ID card] applicant was treated fairly and with respect and in accordance with our policy," Baird said. "If you present documentation indicating who you are, we want to take a photograph that is consistent with your identity."

Baird said the individual was asked to speak with a supervisor in a private office. The supervisor asked that make-up be removed.

Scuderi said the division has been "wonderful" to work with in recent years on transgender issues. Her group worked with the division to update its policy, a year ago, on changing gender designations on driver licenses. TEA of Utah will be training division managers throughout the state next month on working with transgender applicants.

"The have a great policy," Scuderi said. "The Driver License Division doesn't want to be vilified. They are doing their jobs. They are open to more education." —

Policy for changing gender on a Utah driver license

The Utah Driver License Division accommodates requests to change a person's gender designation on a license if one of the following is provided:

A U.S. passport with the updated gender • A gender change on a passport may be obtained by providing a letter from a licensed physician that certifies a patient has had appropriate clinical treatment to facilitate gender transition.

An amended birth certificate • Changing the gender designation on a birth certificate requires a court order, which may require that sex reassignment surgery has been completed.

For more information • Transgender Education Advocates of Utah, teaofutah.org




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