Transgender rights and identification

Transgender people usually want to change their identification card or driver’s license when they change genders. In some states, you have the legal right to do this. Learn about transgender rights and changing your ID and birth certificate.

A transgender couple poses at the park
Photo: iStock/GustavoFrazao

Trans people belong to a gender that does not match the sex they were born with. Trans people might have identification (ID) cards, financial and health records, and other paperwork that do not match their appearance. This can make life difficult. Trans people may be asked if they are “lying” or “pretending” in public situations. Because of this, many trans people choose to use their transgender rights to change their name and sex on their ID.

Trans rights state by state

Each state has its own laws about trans rights. These rights are still changing or being defined in many places. Some states let trans people change their birth certificate and ID. Some do not. You can look at a map that shows trans rights by state.

Some states protect trans people from discrimination. Discrimination is when people are treated unfairly because of their identity. Other states do not have discrimination laws.

How to change your birth certificate

Most agencies that issue IDs do not need proof that you have changed your sex through surgery. This includes the US State Department, which issues passports and birth certificates. Instead, you will have to provide proof that you have had medical treatment to start your transition. This can include hormone therapy or surgery to change your outward appearance. You can get this proof from your doctor. Then you can learn how to change your birth certificate.

How to change your ID

Some people want to change their name on their ID. The first step is to fill out a petition with the courts. (A petition is a document that asks for a change). This can usually be done online. You will fill out forms about your name change and have them reviewed by a judge. You may need to go to court to talk about the reason you want to change your name. This process can take three months or more.

When you are approved, you will need to contact an office for each type of ID separately. For example, you will need to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to change your driver’s license. You usually need to pay a fee to change your name each time. This can cost hundreds of dollars.

It can be hard to understand different ID rights and needs. Lambda Legal and the National Center for Transgender Equality can provide you with the materials and information you need.

Healthcare rights

All transgender people have some basic healthcare rights.


When a person or place will not serve someone because they are trans, it is discrimination. Doctors and hospitals cannot discriminate. They cannot turn you away because you are trans. They also cannot force you to get procedures you do not want.

Transgender rights to privacy

Transgender people have the right to privacy. If you are trans, your medical records and gender identity are private. Confidential is a word that is also used. This means that no one can share your information without your permission. You can ask doctors not to share your identity with your family, your job, your school, and any other person. If you go to a hospital or clinic, you can ask your doctor not to share your identity with other doctors and staff.

Transgender rights to insurance coverage

Insurance companies can’t deny you health insurance because you are trans. The national law supports trans people who apply for insurance. But you are not guaranteed insurance because you are trans. Companies can tell you no for other reasons.

Insurance companies have to cover basic services, no matter what your gender is. For example, if you are a transgender woman, they cannot say no to a procedure that is “for men.” Insurance companies do not have to cover hormone therapy or gender-affirming surgeries. But people with Medicare are allowed to apply for hormones and gender surgeries. You can read more about insurance, discrimination, and how to file a complaint.