By Mikki Gillette
When Elijah Lydy was pulled over for a routine traffic stop, the officer questioning him expressed doubt as to whether the license Lydy had given him was authentic. Elijah’s a transgender man, and the photo, taken early in his transition, no longer resembled him physically.
Shaken by the encounter, Lydy went to his local DMV field office to have the photo updated, but the clerk he met there turned him away, telling him he’d have to wait until his license expired in 2022 to have the update made. Although Oregon’s state code and DMV policy both state that a transgender person in Lydy’s position is entitled to a new ID photo, the employee serving Lydy that day was apparently unaware of the rule.
Upset at the rejection, and frightened about being perceived as an imposter or deceiver again (as he had been by the police officer), Lydy shared his troubles on social media, where Basic Rights Oregon’s Policy Director, Andrea Zekis, read his post. She immediately reached out to Lydy, asking him to contact her, and offering to help intervene in whatever way she could.
“Our job is to advocate for policies that can help transgender people navigate their lives with as little difficulty as possible,” Zekis says. “Their lives shouldn’t be any more difficult than other people’s because they’re transgender.”
Zekis gathered the information and shared it with Basic Rights’s policy team, where a plan was made to contact the appropriate officials who could help address the mistake.
Within days, a DMV Field Officer had issued an apology to Lydy, along with an invitation to have his driver’s license photo updated free of charge. Moreover, a reminder was sent to all Oregon DMV Field Personnel about the state’s rules concerning the needs of transgender license holders around photos.
Though it ended happily, Elijah Lydy’s story is an important reminder that legal equality does not always translate to lived equality for LGBTQ Oregonians. While laws are in place to secure recognition for, and outlaw discrimination toward, transgender people in our state, the awareness and implementation of those laws has not always kept pace.
At Basic Rights Oregon, we work every day to help bridge that gap, and ensure that LGBTQ people in every community, every county and every corner of our state experience the opportunities and protections to which they’re entitled. For Andrea, helping Elijah Lydy underscores what fairness and equality mean.
“Transgender people’s lives should work the same way everyone’s life works,” she says. “Everyone else has an ID that matches who they are. Transgender people should, also.”
Mikki Gillette is the Donor Outreach Coordinator for Basic Rights Oregon. To learn more about how to invest in LGBTQ equality, contact Mikki at firstname.lastname@example.org.