Apparently it’s Blog About “Show Us Your Papers” Laws Day at Feministing. Get it together America.
Over the past few days, publications have jumped on the story of a Texas voter ID law, which recently went into effect after initially being blocked by the courts. Texas voters are required to provide an ID that matches their most up-to-date legal name. This may seem like a minor issue to some, but name changes can be time consuming, complicated, and expensive. Every article I’ve seen about this issue focuses on married women who’ve changed their names. The thinking is that Wendy Davis and other pro-rights, anti-bigotry politicians would be hurt most by keeping women from the polls.
A lot of my concern is about lady voters being disenfranchised, too. But I’m not just thinking about recently married women – I’m thinking about trans women (married or not), as well as trans folks in general who could be blocked from voting.
As is often the case, this law may prove more successful at keeping voters from the polls by making them think they won’t be able to vote, rather than them actually being excluded by the rule. Poll workers get to use discretion when checking people’s IDs. Unfortunately, this could end up being worse for trans folks because of widespread transphobia, whereas a majority of people think married women should change their last name, so that name change is generally viewed positively in our culture. When trans folks have been targeted this way our whole lives, it can suck to walk into a situation where we know we could be misgendered and excluded again.
The Williams Institute published a report in 2012 outlining how voter ID laws could keep trans voters from the polls:
According to the new Williams Institute report, 41 percent of transgender citizens who have transitioned reported not having an updated driver’s license and 74 percent did not have an updated U.S. passport. Moreover, 27 percent of transgender citizens who have transitioned reported that they had no identity documents or records that list their current gender. People of color, youth, students, those with low incomes, and respondents with disabilities are likely to be disproportionately impacted.
This study was covered by a couple great publications, but it didn’t blow up in nearly the way this story did when it focused on married women (who could be trans too, but who, let’s face it, most of us will assume are cis, cause that’s the culturally enforced norm).
I’ve written before about how it hurts to read feminist critique of sexism that polices the boundaries of “woman” and excludes trans women, and not see a trans critique even come up. It means that, for whatever reason, transphobia and transmisogyny aren’t issues authors and editors are thinking about when they analyze sexism. When they’re thinking about who gets targeted, they’re not thinking of me. Whereas when I see an issue that’s about name changes and legal documents, I instantly think about how it will impact trans folks, because that’s my life experience and because I know it’s a common way we get marginalized.
There’s this unfortunately too common thing that happens when a trans woman tells a cis woman about an experience of sexism and the response is, “Welcome to being a woman!” However unintentional, it’s an incredibly hurtful thing to say to a woman who’s experienced the sexism that says she’s not the right kind of woman. Cases like this almost make me want to turn that response around. Not that I’d actually treat anyone’s experience this way, especially because defining “woman” by the sexism we experience let’s the bigots define who we are. And of course, this kind of bigotry doesn’t just target women, as it can disenfranchise trans voters generally. But this sort of targeting is so central to my experience of gendered bigotry that I have a bit of a “Welcome to my bullshit” moment. So it’s notable to me when these ID rules get highlighted by feminists without acknowledgement of how they hurt trans folks.
It’s possible the Texas GOP meant to stop the votes of married women with this law. Many transphobes are so stuck on the “man in a dress” stereotype that they probably don’t know enough about our real lives to successfully, intentionally attack us like this. However, trans folks are demonized by the right with increasing frequency, and have been directly targeted with voter suppression tactics, so this could very well be aimed at us as well. Trans folks may be a marginalized minority, but there’s also a badass trans organizing community in Texas that the right certainly knows about. Regardless of intent, this law has potential to keep trans folks from exercising our right to vote, and that’s something we should be talking about as well.
Jos Truitt has been a woman who experiences sexism this whole time.