Have you heard about New York City’s new municipal ID?
Thanks to the collaborative work of SRLP, Make the Road, NYLAG, and the Urban Justice Center, among many other community-based organizations, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law a new bill creating a Municipal ID. This city-based ID would be available to all applicants who are residents of New York City, regardless of immigration status, and would be tied to a number of benefits. Importantly, this ID will also help transgender New Yorkers, who often face obstacles obtaining an ID that affirms their gender identity, by allowing people to self-attest their gender without medical documentation.
The city plans for the card to be issued with three options: male, female, or blank, with the only proof of gender required being a statement by the applicant that affirms their gender identity. This was a key requirement that SRLP and our coalition members fought to win. In some jurisdictions, municipal IDs do not show any gender, which poses a risk for transgender people who lack any other form of identification that affirms their gender identity. We felt this wouldn’t go far enough in affirming and protecting our community members. We wanted to ensure that community members’ safety would not be contingent on undergoing any medical procedures. Providing gender-affirming documentation increases transgender people’s safety and ability to access employment, housing, and benefits without harassment or violence.
While this is an important development, I want to make sure you also know about its serious limitations, particularly for transgender people who are low-income, people of color, and immigrants.
The NYPD agreed to accept the municipal ID on one condition: That the agency issuing the ID maintain copies of all application materials for two years. The NYPD will be able to access this information simply by requesting a court order, which means that information about vulnerable community members will be available to the police for a period of two years after a person applies. This poses an even higher risk for undocumented transgender people, who are already vulnerable to targeting by police and immigration authorities. The NYPD will report on whether the document hold is necessary when the policy is reviewed in December 2016.
While our work isn’t done, this is an important move toward accessible and affirming identification for the transgender community. We look forward to seeing the rollout of the ID and working with our coalition partners to remove the two-year documentation hold and ensure the protection of our most vulnerable community members.
Thank you for supporting us to achieve this crucial win for our community! Let’s continue to pressure our city government to provide an ID that reduces vulnerability and violence for all New Yorkers!