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Codename ANGIE: The AEGIS National Gender Identification Explanation Card (1991)

Codename ANGIE: The AEGIS National Gender Identification Explanation Card (1991)

©1991, 2013 by Dallas Denny and Margaux Ayn Schaffer

Source: Denny, Dallas, & Schaffer, Margaux. (1991). Codename ANGIE: The AEGIS National Gender Identification Explanation Card: A modest proposal for cooperative action. Unpublished paper, American Educational Gender Information Service, Inc.




In 1991 transsexual and transgendered people were routinely arrested when identified on the street. In some places anti-crossdressing or anti-masquerade laws were still on the books—and even when they weren’t, police officers would sometimes haul in transpeople on general principal. Happily, this situation was rapidly changing, and, after discussion with others at the IFGE conference, AEGIS decided not to release the ANGIE card.


Codename ANGIE

The AEGIS National Gender Identification Explanation Card

A Modest Proposal for Cooperative Action

By Dallas Denny and Margaux Ayn Schaffer

American Educational Gender Information Service



She got started later than planned, and it took the customary two hours to get ready, so by the time Janice reached the mall, it was nearly nine o’clock and the stores were all closing. The presence of a security guard made her nervous, so she found her way back to her car and drove home.

It had been Janice’s second time out. Although she was thrilled at having actually driven while dressed, she was feeling a bit unfulfilled because of her late start, and so she fell back on Plan One.

Plan One was what Janice did the first time she went out.

It was after eleven when she let herself out of the apartment and started down the sidewalk. In one hand she clutched her purse; in the other, a letter to a friend. Janice was on her way to do something no genetic female would do—she was making a midnight trip through a questionable section of the city, wearing her best clothes, to mail a letter that did not require immediate mailing.

The swirl of her skirts around her legs, the click-clack of her heels on the sidewalk, and the occasional whiff of her perfume intoxicated Janice, so she didn’t see the patrol car cruising slowly down the street. The first indication she had that something was amiss was when she found herself in the glare of a spotlight.

Officer Marks thought it a bit odd that a nicely-dressed woman would be out on the sidewalks at such a late hour. She scanned the area with the spotlight and then used it to pin the figure in place. “Ma’am, are you okay?” she asked through the loudspeaker

Janice, yanked from her reverie, squinted and squirmed in the bright light; startled, her anxiety level, already high, went hypercritical. She stood there dumbly, unable to answer, shaking, casting about with darting, scared eyes, looking for all the world as if she were about to run.

Marks, who up to now had been concerned about the woman, began to be suspicious. She took a closer look. Was it really a woman? Or was it a man, perhaps even the perpetrator of that convenience store robbery on 8th Avenue two hours earlier? She repeated the question. This time, the suspect—she was now thinking of Janice in different terms—answered, and Marks’ suspicions that this was not a woman were confirmed. She called for a backup unit.

“Please stand in place and put your hands behind your head,” she said through the loudspeaker, and, unbuttoning the strap which secured her pistol in its holster, she began to climb out of the car.

The Problem

Transgendered persons frequently find themselves having to explain and justify their status to the authorities. Whether they are detained by the police while crossdressed, required to show their identification when cashing a check or applying for government services while in an androgynous state, or are simply asked to explain themselves and their actions, they must present their case in such a way as to avoid trouble. Many transgendered persons are quite capable of handling such situations; many more, however, are not. They may lack the necessary self-knowledge, they may not have the communication skills, or, like Janice in our vignette, they may be simply too insecure and frightened to behave in a rational manner. The resulting timidity is easily perceived by others, who may, like officer Marks, misattribute the individual’s intentions and motives and move in for the kill.

What our community needs is a universal way for transgendered persons to identity themselves, making it clear to questioning parties their crossdressing or androgynous appearance is merely a personal expression, is not a disguise or costume, and is not done for criminal reasons or for purposes of sexual solicitation.

The optimal way to justify one’s transgendered status to others is a letter from one’s therapist, explaining why the person is wearing the clothing of the other biological sex, and perhaps even explaining that in order to satisfy the requirements for sex reassignment the individual must live full-time in the gender of choice. A letter like this, when shown to officials, will go a long way towards ensuring considerate treatment.

Such letters should, of course, be carried at all times. Unfortunately, they are bulky and often impractical to carry on the person. And while most transsexual persons have therapists, some, and most crossdressers, do not.

To address this issue, a number of support groups around the country routinely issue identification cards for their members. This is an honorable tradition dating back to Dr. Harry Benjamin’s time. Although the cards don’t carry the weight of a letter from a therapist, they look official, and they have the advantage of being small and easy to carry.

Law enforcement officials, when they encounter such cards, often temper their actions; we know this because those who carry the cards have told us so. And the cards have the advantage of giving security and peace of mind to persons who are crossdressed, making them less likely to appear to be behaving in a guilty manner in public.

Unfortunately, such cards lack standardization and overall sanction. One group’s cards don’t look like another’s. Law enforcement officers may think the cards are official, but in reality they are not. They are admirable efforts, but they lack overall endorsement by our community.


The Proposal

We think it is time for the community to develop a universal identification card. For want of a better acronym, we are calling it ANGIE—The AEGIS National Gender Identification Explanation card (OK, OK, so we tried to think of a cute acronym). The ANGIE card will contain identifying information about the individual, the individual’s therapist, and relevant contacts in the community, as well as medical information and information and procedures for contacting family and friends in case of a medical emergency or death. It will designate an individual to contact in the event of legal difficulties. The card will also contain a brief description of the varieties of transgendered behavior, suggestions to the officer on how he or she should act and which pronouns to use, and an address and telephone number to contact for further information.

The ANGIE card, when folded, will be of a size to be easily and discretely carried in the billfold or purse.

We plan to make ANGIE available free of charge (with stamped, self-addressed envelope) to all transgendered persons, and in bulk at cost to support groups and national gender organizations. ANGIE will also be attached to our forthcoming booklet, “How to Deal With the Authorities: A Guide for Transgendered Persons.” We plan for the booklet and card to be available by January, 1993.

The card will be thoroughly discussed in a booklet we are preparing for law enforcement and other social agencies, and in a poster which we will be distributing to police departments throughout the country. This booklet and the poster will also be available in bulk to support groups and other gender organizations. This booklet and poster will also be available by January, 1993.

The significance of the ANGIE project is this: it will provide a universal, easily discriminable identification card which law enforcement and other officials can be trained to recognize and respect, and it will provide the means (the booklets and poster) to educate both consumers and officials to recognize the ANGIE card. Transgendered persons will have the ability to identify themselves when they have a need with a card that has the official sanction of the gender community and is relatively widely recognized by those outside the community.

We hope the various factions of the gender community will consider adopting ANGIE as a universal form of identification, to serve as a supplement to the aforementioned therapist letter.

We would like to point out that we are not interested in running a registry. The individual’s name would appear nowhere but on the ANGIE card. No lists of cardholders would be kept, by us or by social agencies, for the simple reason that there would be no such list. Carrying the card would be an individual decision, and it would be shown only in times of distress or need. The purpose of the card would be solely to help to explain the transgendered status of the bearer.

We would also like to point out that not all transgendered persons will feel the need to carry the card—but it would be there for those who want and need it.


Necessary Action

Before we finalize ANGIE or the booklets and poster, we would like the input of transgendered persons, of therapists and other service providers, and of support groups and other gender organizations. We are developing a prototype of the card, and we and it will be available for comments at the Texas “T” Party. We plan to have an open forum in our room in April, 1992 at the IFGE Corning Together Convention in Houston. We are open to suggestions for a better name than ANGIE, as well as what to include (and not include) on the card and poster, and in the booklets.

We are compiling a list of organizations and individuals who support ANGIE. We would appreciate your endorsement of this important project, for we do not want it to be an AEGIS project—it goes far beyond one organization. We want ANGIE to be—it must be—a cooperative project of the entire gender community.