There's nothing worse when traveling than getting stuck at customs, borders, or airport security because of some minor infraction. For transgender travelers, carrying documents that may not match their authentic gender can often lead to extensive questioning or other complications from border agents or transportation authorities.
Now that California's Assembly Bill 1121 has come into full effect, transgender Californians will be able to rest easier when it comes to traveling and showing their IDs. Authored by out lesbian Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown last fall, AB 1121 makes it easier and more affordable to request legal name and gender changes.
Instead of obtaining a court order as previously required, trans Californians now only need to submit a form and a doctor's note to the state Department of Public Health with a very manageable $23 fee to change the gender listed on their birth certificates. Those seeking a legal name change will no longer have to attend an in-person court hearing or publish the name change in a local newspaper.
As a result, trans Californians can now obtain more accurate and consistent legal identification documents. In addition, once one's birth certificate is changed, AB 1121 also makes it easier to get a driver's license and passport that show the correct name and gender.
"I'm always worried about travel," Sara Angel, a trans college student living in Toronto who grew up bi-nationally, told the Transgender Law Center. "Changing my identity documents will help me travel more safely and with a peace of mind that I truly cherish. I'm so excited it will be easier and less expensive to achieve this."
California is just the most recent state in a group including New York, Iowa, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Washington, D. C. to make amending birth certificates easier. Hopefully, the rest of the nation will soon follow.