The following is an experience of mistreatment that Krystal Etsitty received at a Utah Driver’s License Division location. To share your experience and help in a needs assessment survey about the gender queer community of Utah, go to tinyurl.com/6tuqlw2.
I decided to renew my driver’s license on Valentine’s Day this year so I went down to the West Valley office at 2780 W. 4700 south. To get myself ready, I logged onto the Driver License Division website to know exactly what type of documentation I would need. I got everything ready and had all the paperwork filled out to make the whole process go that much faster. I walked in and handed the documents to the employee who took my picture.
She had no problem with the female gender marker on my license and the fact that I identify as female. She looked over everything I brought in and took my photo, treating me exactly like everyone else already had been treated.
My number was called and I approached the gentleman in the window.
“What can I do for you today,” he asked, in a cheerful, upbeat voice.
“I just need to renew my license,” I replied as I handed him my birth certificate, which indicated that I was a male, my driver’s license, which indicated female and was a product of the old policy that allowed me to self-identify, my Department of Transportation card and my social security card.
I had already spoken with people at the Utah Pride Center who told me that due to new regulations I would either have to get a new birth certificate, take a passport or allow the DLD to change my driver’s license marker back to male. I didn’t have a passport and I didn’t want to go through the hassle of getting one or a new birth certificate, so I decided to simply allow them to change my gender marker.
The old process to change it was so much simpler and I didn’t have any problems whatsoever when I first changed the marker from male to female. In fact, it was the DLD that said you are obviously female and they changed my marker to female. I remember that day like it was yesterday, it’s one of those things that stay with you; a feeling of confidence that you pass as female. I am sure other transgender people feel a time and a moment when they are accepted as their true self.
He began typing on his computer and pulled up my information.
“We’re going to have to change your gender marker to male to match your birth certificate,” he said, growing colder and sterner.
“I figured you would have to do that. It’s totally fine, go right ahead. I don’t really understand because my old license already says I am a female and it’s been fine for years, but go ahead,” I said, trying to keep everything friendly.
“Until you get your birth certificate changed, we can’t allow that on your license,” he said, with an enormous shift in attitude. I felt like I had made him really mad.
As he typed, I tried to start idle conversation about a funny-looking toy he had on his station. I just wanted to lighten the mood. But he wasn’t budging. I just stayed calm as he finished typing.
He pulled up my photo and said, “We may have a problem.”
“What is it? Is my photo bad? Do I need to do it again?” I asked.
“I’ll be back,” he retorted, and left.
He came back with a woman, who I assumed was his supervisor. She told me I could not have a license, “looking like that.”
“What is wrong with me?” I asked, starting to register the shock.
“Your makeup is what’s wrong. You’re a male and males don’t look like this,” she said.
I was taken aback and paused for a moment to regain my composure. She handed me a piece of paper that said ‘Processing of transgender sex designation change requests.’ When I read this I thought to myself, I’m not requesting my gender marker to be changed. But to them I needed to, and they took it upon themselves to change it to match my birth certificate.
By this time I felt so humiliated and embarrassed. I felt singled out and that everyone could hear what she was saying. My heart fell and I didn’t want to turn around. I was afraid everyone knew exactly what was going on because she was speaking very loudly. I felt sick and dizzy. I couldn’t even think, and stuttered words escaped my mouth as the woman interrupted me.
“Read the bottom. It says, ‘At no time will an applicant be photographed when it appears that they are purposely altering their appearance in a way that would misrepresent their identity,’” she said.
“This is not right. This is stupid. How can you say I am misrepresenting myself. You just saw me not a minute ago and wouldn’t know I was male until now,” I replied, growing frustrated. “The girl that took my picture thought I was female because my picture on my old license looks like the person in front of her. I look like this every day to my family, my coworkers, my friends and all my other identifications, such as Sam’s Club and Costco and my work identifications are this way.
I pointed out that some people who normally have beards and long hair could shave and dye their hair before coming in and no one would know the difference. I also pointed out she was wearing makeup and altering her own true identity.
“Well, women wear makeup. Men don’t,” she said.
“Some men wear makeup too,” I replied.
“We’re not going to give you your license unless you remove your makeup and take another photo,” she said, ending the discussion.
I was so humiliated and angry. How can someone know what you look like if they’ve never seen you before? This policy is wrong and discriminatory. I pointed out that if I had brought in a passport with an ID saying I am female, no one would have a problem. To get a passport’s gender marker changed is a simple process and only requires a note from your doctor.
“Well, we know now that you’re a male because your birth certificate says so. We will not give you a license unless you have a birth certificate that indicates you’re female,” she said.
By this time I was so sick of arguing that I told them I would simply get a license from another state where it is simpler.
The man handed me my paperwork and I began to leave. As the supervisor asked the man if he had anything scanned or saved, he said no and I could tell she was frustrated that my information wasn’t saved.
I sheepishly left the office; humiliated, I couldn’t even look at the others who were in line. I drove away, shaken and feeling worthless, violated and just plain upset. I told my son and others about the situation as the only way to vent my frustration.
Ironically, I went to the DLD in January to obtain my driving record at the same location. I used my driver’s license for identification, looking almost exactly as I did when I visited to renew it. No one questioned my looks or gender marker on my first visit. I represented Krystal Etsitty exactly as she appeared on her state identification and they gave me my driving record without any problems.