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Video: For Trans People, It’s Difficult and Costly to Update an ID. But It Can Also Be Dangerous Not To.

A confusing web of state policies determine if and how a trans person can update their IDs. And not doing so can increase the risk of discrimination and violence.

Voting. Boarding a plane. Driving. Buying a drink. Filling out paperwork for a new job. These are all situations where showing a driver’s license or state-issued ID can be nerve-wracking or even dangerous for transgender people.

If a person’s picture, name or sex listed on an ID don’t match the way they present themselves, they may be denied services, harassed and even attacked.

A new investigation by ProPublica found that when many transgender people are killed, local law enforcement often only use the name and sex listed on that person’s ID while investigating the murder. Across the nation, we found, some 65 different law enforcement agencies have investigated murders of transgender people since Jan. 1, 2015. And in 74 of 85 cases, victims were identified by names or genders they had abandoned in their daily lives.

This is called deadnaming and becomes a problem when police investigate these crimes. Many people who may know the victim will only know the name they used in their daily life.

But updating a name or gender marker — that little M or F on an ID — can be incredibly complicated. The laws across the United States that determine how a transgender person can update their IDs are confusing and often contain onerous requirements. In some states, trans people are required to have expensive and irreversible surgeries just to make that change on their ID.

These obstacles can be debilitating — and costly — for people who experience discrimination simply for being transgender. And these obstacles can delay justice.

For those that do get their gender marker updated, it can be life-changing. Trystlynn Barber, a trans woman in Reidsville, Georgia, told us she collapsed by her mailbox and cried when she got her updated birth certificate in the mail. “It’s the most amazing feeling,” she said.

In our latest Vox and ProPublica collaboration, we see how burdensome requirements for updating IDs have affected two transgender women in the South.

This story is the 12th installment in Vox’s collaboration with ProPublica. You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube. And sign up here for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to get more stories like this right in your inbox as soon as they are published.

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Ranjani Chakraborty

Ranjani Chakraborty is a Vox-ProPublica video fellow.

Portrait of Lucas Waldron

Lucas Waldron

Lucas Waldron is ProPublica’s visual investigations producer.

Portrait of Ken Schwencke

Ken Schwencke

Ken Schwencke is a journalist and developer on ProPublica’s news apps team, covering hate crimes and white supremacist movements.

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