Florida banning changes of gender on driver’s licenses sparks confusion, backlash
Will Larkins, an 18-year-old Winter Park High School senior, points to the House Chamber, criticizing bills that target transgender rights during the transgender visibility day rally at Florida’s Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla, on Mar. 31, 2023. (Mickenzie Hannon/Fresh Take Florida)

013024 Transgender Driver License MH 01
'In Florida, you do not get to play identity politics with your driver’s license.'

For Jude Speegle, a 29-year-old Daytona Beach transgender activist with two children, changing the gender designation on his driver’s license in April 2023 represented a milestone in his transition. He described the six-month process of changing the name and gender on his legal documentation as mostly seamless.

“I had zero issues,” Speegle said.

No longer. Florida has announced that it will become what is believed to be the first state not to allow drivers to change the gender markers on their driver’s licenses under any circumstances. The decision came from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, run by Dave Kerner, a political appointee of Gov. Ron DeSantis. It was announced in a memo last week asserting that a person’s gender “is determined by innate and immutable biological and genetic characteristics.”

“Permitting an individual to alter his or her license to reflect an internal sense of gender role or identity, which is neither immutable nor objectively verifiable, undermines the purpose of an identification record and can frustrate the state’s ability to enforce its laws,” said the agency memo.

Civil rights and advocacy organizations said they are considering how to contest the new rules.

Sasha Buchert, senior counsel and director of New York-based Lambda Legal’s Non-Binary and Transgender Rights Project, said Florida is the first state she has heard of prohibiting people from updating the gender markers on driver’s licenses to match their gender identity.

“This just creates this really harmful situation where people are going to have to walk through the world without an ID that matches who they are,” said Buchert, who is transgender.

While Lambda Legal is still assessing the situation, Buchert said the organization is reviewing its options for challenging the policy change.

The announcement came five days after DeSantis suspended his campaign for president. It was consistent with other measures enacted in recent years by his administration and the Republican-led Legislature, including banning what activists describe as gender-affirming medical care for minors, prohibiting Medicaid from covering such procedures for youths or adults and criminalizing transgender people for using the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

The latest move confused some drivers, like Speegle, who wondered whether their licenses would be revoked or suspended because they had already switched gender designations.

“I followed the rules they had in place,” Speegle said. “Does that mean I’m now breaking the law? I could be driving with my children and get pulled over for some reason. And then what, is my license suspended?”

“In Florida, tens of thousands of people have legally updated their gender marker on their driver’s license or ID,” Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida, a state LGBTQ+ advocacy organization, said. “They carefully followed the rules to ensure their identification accurately reflects who they are and trusted this process. Now, an abrupt policy reversal has thrown their lives into chaos.”

A representative for the motor vehicle agency, Molly Best, said the new policy applies only to replacement license requests going forward. For new licenses, the memo said, misrepresenting a driver’s gender could be prosecuted as criminal fraud and result in revoking the license.

In the memo sent to county tax collectors on Jan. 26, Robert Kynoch, deputy executive director of the department, wrote that the department would rescind a “gender requirements” provision from the Driver’s License Operations Manual that allowed Floridians to change the gender marker on their driver’s licenses.

Democrats have proposed bills in Tallahassee since at least 2021 to allow for a nonbinary gender option on Florida drivers’ licenses. Republican leaders in the Capitol have blocked the bills every time, not even allowing committee hearings or legislative votes.

“This is an example of Gov. DeSantis politicizing every state agency for his own political agenda,” said Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando. “Even though he’s not running for President anymore, it’s pretty clear that his extremism is not going anywhere.”

Previously, Floridians could change the gender on their driver’s license if they submitted a signed statement from a physician confirming that they were undergoing clinical treatment for gender transition, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, a Washington-based civil rights group.

The center is one of the groups that tracks laws across states limiting transgender drivers from changing their gender designations on driver’s licenses. It said at least 20 states and the District of Columbia allow drivers to change their genders without any documentation and allow the option of a gender-neutral designation.

The State Department under the Biden administration began allowing transgender travelers in 2021 to change the gender designation on their U.S. passports without any documentation.

Kerner, appointed last year by DeSantis as the department’s executive director, instructed officials to confirm policies and procedures aligned with “statutory law and the department’s inherent authority,” said Best, the department representative.

“In Florida, you do not get to play identity politics with your driver’s license,” Best said.

Like the change affecting drivers’ licenses, a bill in the Florida House filed by Rep. Douglas Michael Bankson, an Apopka Republican, and Rep. Dean Black, a Jacksonville Republican, would require Floridians to include their sex at birth, not gender, on state-issued IDs. There is no Senate version of the bill yet.

Speegle testified in opposition to the bill last month during a legislative hearing in Tallahassee.

“Their tactics are working,” Speegle said. “Plenty of us are afraid, but there are plenty of people who are willing to stand up.”


Amanda Friedman reporting. Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, produced this story. Friedman can be reached at [email protected]. You can donate to support our students here.

Fresh Take Florida


  • Dont Say FLA

    February 2, 2024 at 7:30 am

    What difference do the contents of your pants make for driving anyways? Get rid of gender entirely from driving licenses. It’s nobody’s business, and 70% of folks have expressed great dis-interest in knowing about the gender/identity of others.

    • The Dude

      February 2, 2024 at 8:30 am

      Get rid of male and female restrooms. Get rid of male and female dressing rooms. Get rid of male and female lockerooms. Get rid of male and female sports. Just have sports with no identity. You are a moron.

      • Dont Say FLA

        February 5, 2024 at 11:51 am

        Dud you may not have realized this post is about driving licenses.

  • Michael K

    February 2, 2024 at 8:56 am

    Cruelty is the point with these politicians. They can’t stand to see someone happy who does not conform to their straight and narrow worldview. Non-conforming people, LGBTQ people, and non-binary people have always existed, in every culture, throughout history. And in some cases, persecuted and killed simply for being who they are, while celebrated, revered, and accepted in other cultures.

    Why can’t we live and let live? Why is one party so insistent on torturing small minorities and making so many lives miserable? Meanwhile, your insurance rates are rising…

    • Impeach Biden

      February 2, 2024 at 9:01 am

      Insurance rates rising? Just part Bidenomics we are all living under. Biden no blaming grocery stores for “greedflation”. I’m not sure Biden can even balance his own checkbook.

      • Michael K

        February 2, 2024 at 9:14 am

        whatabout whatabout whatabout

  • PeterH

    February 2, 2024 at 10:04 am

    This should be a fun workload addition for employees at the DMV. It would be wise to remind our legislator stupids and our wingnut fearless leader that most residents of Florida including transgender residents were not born in this State and therefore have already altered birth certificates and USA passports documenting their preferred gender …… not their often contradictory anatomical gender at birth.

    Republicans are incapable of logical reasoning and repeatedly shoot from the hip without thoroughly vetting any policy.

    This policy reeks of hypocrisy and desperation to win elections at the expense of a small disenfranchised minority. Independent voters like myself will take note!

    Republicans are America’s worst enemy!

    Vote all Republicans out of office!

  • the Truth

    February 2, 2024 at 10:30 am

    Great, you are what you are born as,,,, time to crack down on these crack pots

    • Michael K

      February 5, 2024 at 1:46 pm

      And what harm does this cause you?

  • Tony the Greek

    February 5, 2024 at 1:30 pm

    Meanwhile, my f**king house and auto insurance went up like crazy ($5000 this year, $2800 last year) but yet, it’s all the trannies fault.

  • Flash Light

    February 5, 2024 at 9:02 pm

    WHEN, JUST WHEN? will marginalized persons in Florida get to live in peace per our Declaration of Independence which states as an unalienable right “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”%

Comments are closed.


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