Who’s the Expert on My Gender? The Importance of Self-Attestation

by Michaé Pulido and Arli Christian

A few weeks ago, Massachusetts became the seventh state to improve its policies by removing the requirement for a health care provider’s signature on the gender marker change form for state-issued IDs and records.

In just the last year, Oregon, California, and D.C. removed the provider signature requirement for driver’s licenses and state IDs, and California, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington removed the requirement for birth certificates. These amazing advancements are symbolic of a larger shift in our state governments accepting people’s ability to know and report their own gender.

NCTE strongly advocates for policies and legislation across the country that allow trans people the autonomy to self-identify on their ID documents.

Why is self-attestation is so important for the progress of trans equality?

Self-attestation is when an individual reports information on an application that does not need to be verified by any secondary source, like a doctor or physician.

Self-attestation is generally already used on state IDs and licenses for information such as height, weight, hair color, and eye color. Trans people themselves know their own gender identity — in fact, they are already the ones who report gender to health care providers. Requiring a healthcare provider to “certify” what someone tells them is their gender is belittling, expensive, and entirely unnecessary.

For many trans people, self-attestation would allow them to have an ID document that represents them accurately and holistically without having to seek out a provider to approve the legitimacy of their own identity.

A Department of Motor Vehicles. Photo credit: Omar Bárcena/Flickr

Requiring health care providers, judges, or other officials to verify someone’s gender puts unnecessary barriers in place for trans people who just want an accurate form of identification.

Seeing a health care provider can be costly and sometimes unattainable for low-income people or those without insurance. Often, providers may require multiple visits before they feel comfortable certifying a gender change, and may charge for signing a form or writing a letter. Finding a provider who is trans-competent can also be challenging, particularly for rural folks, and can further create financial strain due to travel cost.

Self-attestation removes these costly and unnecessary barriers to gender-marker changes and simply allows trans people to represent themselves.

A more streamlined gender marker change process makes accurate IDs accessible to more people, reducing discrimination, harassment, and violence for more trans people.

Data from the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey — a national survey of nearly 28,000 trans adults — shows that a lack of proper identification is a major factor in discrimination.

Nearly a third of respondents who showed ID that did not match their gender presentation were verbally harassed, denied benefits or service, asked to leave, or even physically assaulted.

Allowing self-attestation will make accurate IDs a possibility for more people and reduce the amount of violence and discrimination experienced by trans people.


Self-attestation policies reflect the growing sentiment that our government should not be in the business of policing gender. These policies are an important step toward ensuring all trans people have documentation that reflects their authentic selves.

Trans people know what’s best for themselves and how their gender should be represented on their IDs. NCTE looks forward to continuing to fight for improved gender change policies across the country.


Michaé Pulido is an undergraduate intern at NCTE.

Arli Christian is the State Policy Counsel at NCTE.

Trans Equality Now!

A joint project of the National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund and the National Center for Transgender Equality. Also at ncteactionfund.org and transequality.org.

National Center for Transgender Equality

Written by

We’re the nation’s leading social justice advocacy organization winning life-saving change for transgender people. Also at https://transequality.org.

Trans Equality Now!

A joint project of the National Center for Transgender Equality Action Fund and the National Center for Transgender Equality. Also at ncteactionfund.org and transequality.org.

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