Privacy in Idaho

Idaho's transportation department has made the surprising decision (because this is, after all, Idaho) to amend its policy on driver's licenses to allow transgender people to change the sex designation on their licenses without confirmation from a surgeon that they have had sex reassignment surgery.

The ACLU of Idaho had expressed concern in support of two transgender Idaho residents who had changed the sex designation to match their gender identities only to have the state turn around and cancel their licenses when it was realized that proof of surgery had not been provided. ACLU of Idaho Executive Director Monica Hopkins said the state "did the right thing in updating its policy."

From our standpoint, [the] surgical reassignment is not necessary to operate a motor vehicle on the highway.


I'm very happy that the agency agreed to change its policy. I'm very ... grateful that I and other transgender people in Idaho will be able to get and use accurate identification going forward. 

--Erica Falls, Boise State University student who lost her license in February

ACLU staff attorney Amanda Goad had said the previous surgical requirement "went against accepted medical standards and showed a fundamental lack of understanding of transgender people's needs." That surgical requirement was instituted in April of 2011…so this was not a policy of long standing.

The state has no business dictating anyone's medical care. And we appreciate the Idaho Department of Transportation agreeing to stop requiring major and potentially unnecessary surgery as a prerequisite for obtaining accurate identification.


Only a fraction of people undergoing gender transition have surgery. It is expensive and not always considered medically necessary. Indeed there are times when it is medically contraindicated.

It was scary, going out and handing my ID to someone, and having that male marker. They see the male marker, I don't necessarily know them, or trust them. It's very dangerous.


Falls received a temporary license on Tuesday.

The other person to have his license revoked is Andrew Geske, also a BSU student. Geske, a care giver, could not afford to go without a license and therefore reapplied for a license as a female. He planned to reapply this past Wednesday.

It's major brownie points for personal liberties," Geske said. "It's really encouraging that even in a state with a fairly conservative Legislature and a long history of pretty conservative policies, all it took was sitting down and having an informative conversation to secure rights for a group that's pretty thoroughly marginalized across the board. That just felt good.


ITD estimates that it receives about 6 requests for changed gender markers annually. Before 2011 the state only required an affidavit from a doctor that the applicant was transitioning.

On Tuesday Division of Motor Vehicles administrator Alan Frew said he agreed with the ACLU that the state had overreached.

We want to be out of the business of determining gender at our DMVs. We felt this policy was much more fair and far less invasive.


The state will now require either a court order or an affidavit from a doctor.

What you [had was] a state agency basically setting a medical standard for something that isn't a medical standard. These are medical decisions that are made between a patient and physician or medical care giver.


Regardless, decisions like that should be between a medical provider and an individual. It becomes an issue for us when we have states trying to legislate what kinds of procedures people should get in order to count as a person.

--Vincent Paolo Villano, National Center for Transgender Equality

The ACLU challenged Alaska's policy in 2012, which caused the state to change its licensing rules. Wyoming still requires proof of surgery.

Inquiries led a Wyoming Department of Transportation spokesman to report that the state had no pending complaints. The only other states to require proof of surgery to modify a driver's license are South Dakota and Georgia.




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Statement against interest:

My own dealings with Idaho early in my transition are not fond memories. I took a Greyhound from Arkansas to Portland, OR to visit my relatives for the first time since I began transition. Before the trip, I had called Greyhound to ensure smooth sailing in re: restroom usage. I naively thought we had that all straightened out.

More fool me. In Boise, someone called the cops on me and I was arrested for using the women's restroom. My attempts at explanation fell on deaf ears. I was taken "downtown" and booked. Then they released me after they took all my cash for bail. I then was taken back to the bus station. I still had my ticket.

Since I had to wait for the next bus, which wouldn't be until the morning, I went to what I was informed was a local gay bar. But they seemed to have a no transpeople policy and wouldn't let me in.

Great night all around, wouldn't you say?

I do not plan to return to Idaho anytime soon.

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