Caitlyn Jenner has successfully changed her gender in the eyes of the law. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Gerald Rosenberg approved Jenner’s petition to legally change her gender and name on Friday.
Jenner, who was not in attendance at the hearing, announced she would transition in an interview with Diane Sawyer. She then revealed her name change –- from William Bruce to Caitlyn — in Vanity Fair magazine, where she appeared on the cover.
Jenner’s transition gained widespread publicity and media coverage and has drawn attention to the struggle faced by many in the transgender community. Now that Jenner’s transition has been officially recognized she can apply for government documents that bear her new name. But while getting the ability to change the name on her driver’s license seems to have gone smoothly for her, many in the transgender community face daunting discrimination when trying to achieve the same feat.
As ThinkProgress’s Bryce Covert wrote in an article about a woman fired for being transgender:
Getting a driver’s license updated can be difficult; more than 40 percent of transgender people across the country go without an ID that matches their gender identity, and 11 percent say they were denied in an attempt to update it. But having an ID that doesn’t reflect someone’s gender identity is correlated with much higher rates of discrimination and harassment.
And discrimination against transgender people comes in many forms. Just this week, a woman was profiled and humiliated by airport security because she is transgender.
I am being held by the TSA in Orlando because of an "anomaly" (my penis)
— Shadi Petosky (@shadipetosky) September 21, 2015
The fact that Jenner had an operation to change her sex may have also helped her cause in seeking a legal change. Among those who have had some type of surgery, 81 percent have successfully updated their driver’s license; just 37 percent of those without any surgery have done the same. Certain states refuse to allow transgender people to legally change their gender without surgery. This has been called a “vindictive move to punish the LGBT community” by Garden State Equality’s Troy Stevenson.
But for many, surgery is an unwanted expense. Many transgender people either do not want or cannot afford sex-change operations. The World Health Organization has called for an end to forced surgery.
The Center for American Progress, which houses ThinkProgress, released a report in 2012 arguing that accurate gender identification on government documents is a human right. As the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights has put it, “It is clear that many transgender persons do not fully enjoy their fundamental rights both at the level of legal guarantees and that of everyday life.”