How does a transgender woman demonstrate that she is truly a woman for the purpose of college admission?
In general the requirement for this would be for a legal identity document that signifies gender. In the US, Birth Certificate, Driver’s License, or a Passport would all likely be accepted. Policies will, of course, vary by institution.What it takes to update each of those documents is also highly varied. If it were me, right now, my target document would be a passport. Passports are powerful, they’re federal, and you can use them to not only prove identity but to prove citizenship which is frequently necessary when you’re looking for work. Most importantly though, the US passport requirements to update your gender marker are reasonable.RequirementsYou must apply using Form DS-11, unless you are replacing a limited-validity passport in your correct gender (see below). In addition to the regularly-required documents*, submit the following:ID that resembles your current appearancePassport photo that resembles your current appearanceA medical certification that indicates you are in the process of or have had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transitionProof of legal name change (if applicable)*See Apply in Person for all regularly-required passport documents.Medical CertificationA signed, original statement from a licensed physician must be on office letterhead and include:Physician’s full name, address, and telephone numberMedical license or certificate numberIssuing state or other jurisdiction of medical license/certificateLanguage stating that:He or she has a doctor/patient relationship with youHe or she has treated you or has reviewed and evaluated your medical historyYou have had, or are in process of having, appropriate clinical treatment for transition to the updated gender (male or female)The statement must include, “I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of the United States that the forgoing is true and correct.”I want to zero in for a second on “appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition.” What does that mean? Does it mean hormones? Does it mean surgery? Does it mean any surgery or just genital surgery? Does it mean therapy? Answer: Yes.The WPATH standards of care make it clear that not every available medical intervention is appropriate for every case of gender dysphoria. A person may not experience genital dysphoria or they may find that hormones in combination with a social transition are sufficient to their needs. The decision of what’s appropriate for a given individual is made by exactly the right people: the individual and their doctor. The State Department will take the doctor’s word on it.For other documents like a drivers license or a birth certificate, in the US, you’re looking at individual state laws and each state is free to set their own standards. In some states, it isn’t possible for a trans person to gain legal recognition of their gender identity. That’s why I point to passports.Updating identity documents is hard. Only 11% of trans people in the US have updated all of their identity documents. Meanwhile the vast majority (68%) haven’t been able to update any of their documents. Doctors cost money, hormones cost money, and providers can be thin on the ground. To the uninitiated who’s never had to navigate the required government bureaucracy it might seem trivial. If a case study helps to understand, here’s my experience:When I started HRT I started by getting a list of endocrinologists who would accept my health insurance. Then I started calling to see if any of them would accept trans patients for HRT. Some of them just said ‘no.‡ One clinic (eight doctors) wouldn’t talk to me, they wanted to speak to my primary care provider for a referral. I didn’t have one but my therapist called in a referral. They told her what they wouldn’t tell me: Only one of their doctors would see trans patients, and he only treated trans men. Another hospital had decided that because they didn’t have a complete trans health program, they didn’t want to be a “hormone mill” and I couldn’t get care there either.I wound up seeing a naturopath (N.D. instead of M.D.) My insurance wouldn’t cover a naturopath so I paid her out of pocket. She wrote my prescriptions under “general endocrine disorder” so that my insurance would at least cover those (my policy specifically excluded gender affirming care.) When I went to Social Security to update my name and gender marker I had a court order for name change and a letter from my doctor. They wouldn’t take the letter because she wasn’t an M.D. or D.O. I told my doc, she said that she’d been having that problem with providing letters and that she could refer me to an M.D. who would write me a letter after an intake exam for about $250. For an exam I didn’t need, with a doctor I’d never see again to get a letter I already had that was signed by someone with a slightly different credential.I work in tech, I’m white, college educated, middle class, married and I live in a progressive urban area. That puts me ahead of a lot of trans people. So when I say that I had trouble getting through the process, stop for a moment and ask what that would have been like if I’d grown up to work on the family farm in Elk City Oklahoma. I’ll let you Google that to find the nearest provider of gender affirming care and how far away that is.Identity documents are a big freaking deal. Not having proper identity documents puts you at all kinds of risk. Imagine being a bearded guy named Jim who has to present ID that shows a woman in makeup named Jane every time you stop at the store for a bottle of wine. Imagine getting pulled over for a busted tail light in the same situation only this time your drivers license doesn’t match the registration on your car (yes, I have a mismatch on my registration and my drivers license. Strangely enough the DMV would give me new ID with a letter from my doctor but I can’t update the registration without a conference call with the bank that issued my car loan.) Now imagine being a black trans woman with a name that doesn’t match the registration on the vehicle when you get pulled over‡ how likely is it for that person to wind up in jail for “stealing” her own car. How likely is she to be placed in a men’s jail? How likely is she to be shot?Identity documents are important and the process for trans people to update their documents isn’t uniform from state to state, from government agency to government agency or even within the same government agency (seriously DMV?)But for getting into college, more likely than not, it’s going to take some form of updated ID and right now, the best shot for many trans people in the US is to update their passport.Footnotes Gender Designation Change