Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Students, faculty raise eyebrows at new DMV memo blocking sex changes on Florida licenses

According to a new memo issued by the Florida Highway and Motor Vehicles Department (FLHSMV), individuals cannot change their sex classification on a new license or state-issued ID, sparking a conversation on the effect of anti-trans legislation in the state of Florida.
IR08 Gender Requirements 1.26.24 memo - DocumentCloud
IR08 Gender Requirements 1.26.24 memo – DocumentCloud

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) made it clear that transgender individuals in the state of Florida would no longer have the option to change their gender marker on a driver’s license in the memo released Jan. 26 to county tax collectors. However, this memo is not supported by statutory authority. 

The memo was a reversal of “IR08-Gender Requirements,” an issuance requirement that previously allowed individuals to affirm the gender markers on their licenses as they wished. This memo would not require trans individuals who already have a license with their affirmed gender identity to rescind their licenses, only forbidding new license holders from altering their sex classification. 

Molly Best, the Director of Communications for the FLHSMV, explains the nature of this reversal and what it means for individuals seeking new licenses or obtaining replacement licenses in Florida.

“Expanding the Department’s authority to issue replacement licenses dependent on one’s internal sense of gender or sex identification is violative of the law and does not serve to enhance the security and reliability of Florida-issued licenses and identification cards,” she said. “To obtain a license, the FLHSMV requires satisfactory proof of identity, including your biological sex, to the Department.”

Florida Rep. Doug Bankson, who represents Orange County, sponsored a bill of similar nature in the House, HB1639, which would have required transgender people to identify with their sex assigned at birth on any license and forbid trans individuals from getting mental health counseling according to their gender identity. 

The bill also would have changed the circumstances under which health insurers could offer sex-reassignment prescriptions and procedures.

The HB1639 bill died in the Committee of Rules on March 8. and Bankson did not comment by the time of publication.

History major Ximena Dipietro, who is trans, is among many others worried about recent policies and legislation in Florida that affect the future of the trans community. 

“This wave of transphobic legislation directly harms the trans people and further politicizes our community and mobilizes us to take action, but it also pushes more and more people to start seeking refuge in different states,” Dipietro said.

A recent slate of implemented anti-trans legislation includes HB1521, which restricts bathroom usage based on biological sex, and SB254, which restricts gender-affirming care treatments. 

Courtney Dutkowski, an FAU graduate from the College of Social Work and Criminal Justice who is currently researching the effects of this legislation on transgender individuals, also expresses her distaste for this legislation, analyzing how the actions of representatives across the state have severely affected the rights of trans individuals. 

“Awful doesn’t begin to describe it. It is easy to say it is just politics and people are just right left– that’s it, we just side with whatever we side with – and that’s that,” Dutkowski said. At some point, I do not understand how you can justify politicians’ actions with pieces of the legislature like this.” 

Jair Moreira, a Ph.D. student at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who teaches political behavior, says the recent influx of anti-trans legislation is one of many that seek to oppress marginalized communities, contributing to the ideology of  “us vs. them.”

“People who do not identify as a part of these communities see the existence of trans individuals as an attack on their own identities, although it is not an attack at all, it seems to be to many people to be an attack on their religious identity and how they define the American identity,” Moreira said.

Dutkowski believes this legislation will affect the day-to-day lives of individuals who identify as trans.

“It is apparent that they want to make people afraid to be their authentic selves,” Dutkowski said. “If you have to present your license to do everyday tasks, what will happen when an officer sees your license and it does not align with how you present? I think it is scary for a lot of people to be potentially forcibly outed, especially when knowing the amount of violence against trans people, but especially trans women of color, face in their daily lives.”

According to the Williams Institute at UCLA’s School of Law, transgender individuals are four times more likely than cisgender individuals, or individuals that align with their biological sex,  to be victims of violent crime.

Jane Caputi, professor of Gender and Sexuality studies at FAU, said core American values include freedom of expression and the pursuit of happiness, and how the introduction and passing of anti-trans legislation completely disregards these values. 

“Core American values include equality, freedom, happiness, and personal responsibility,” Caputi said. These values are disregarded when laws deny people’s human rights to get an education that includes their own experiences, to be treated with equality and respect, and to be allowed happiness by being able to define themselves, including on their driver’s licenses.” 

Caputi believes that these restrictions on the self-expression of transgender individuals are, in a sense, attacking parts of the democratic processes prominent within the U.S.

“For individuals to be healthy, we must be able to be ourselves – as long as we are not harming others. And society, too, is healthier if it honors freedom for individual expression and encourages acceptance of individual differences,” Caputi said.

Moreira believes in advocating for the LGBTQ community in the face of these adversities.

“People have to understand that legislation like this is not just an attack on the LGBTQ+ community, but also an attack on all Americans to decide who they are for themselves,” Moreira said.

Gabriela Quintero is a staff writer for the University Press. For more information on this story or others, contact her at [email protected].


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