MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s a question that’s increasingly becoming more common.
“It was appropriate for the time when we had, it was really dangerous for trans people to be out,” MTSU student Eli Certain said. “But times have changed.”
Twenty-two states around the country now allow residents to mark an ‘X’ on their driver’s license in lieu of male or female for gender. But in Tennessee, that’s not the case.
“State law requires that when making an application for a driver’s license or a full identification license, you must indicate your gender and it must be either male or female, and that’s by statute,” Assistant Commissioner of Driver Services Michael Hogan said.
Certain is transgender, so the rule directly applies to people like him. You might ask why it matters to him — since it’s just a laminated piece of paper. But Certain will tell you the symbolism is so much more than that.
“It’s a reflection of personhood,” he said. “I’m a person just like you are, and I think that myself and people like me deserve to have that reflection of personhood.”
LQBTQ+ advocates say Tennessee has some of the most draconian laws when it comes to transgender people and the LQBTQ+ community. People within that community say this is just an example of laws being made without even consulting the people they affect.
“I think it’s really important to give a person to the concept that they have created,” Certain said. “I can speak for myself knowing that I am not a child predator, I’m not trying to manipulate the youth, and I think that those misconceptions can be rectified through proper conversation.”
Driver services says it doesn’t make the rules, it just follows them.
“Everything we do is governed by statute, so I would not say that Tennessee does not care about any of those groups,” Hogan said. “It’s just that the law states, at this time, that you must select male or female.”
Certain says it’ll take time, but fighting hate with hate won’t help other people like him. Instead, it starts with a simple conversation.