‘I Feel Freerer’ Says North Carolina Voter After Getting ID 

Deana Brotherton, a trans woman who became unhoused in North Carolina, struggled to obtain a state ID due to bureaucratic barriers and financial constraints. With the help of VoteRiders, Deana successfully obtained her ID in January 2024, enabling her to access essential services and vote in North Carolina’s upcoming elections. After she successfully secures stable housing, Deana plans to work with VoteRiders to change her name and gender marker. 



‘I Feel Freerer’ Says North Carolina Voter After Getting ID
Deana and her service pup, Sophie

In October 2023, forty-six-year-old Deana Brotherton lost her apartment in North Carolina and became houseless. Without a North Carolina state ID, she was unable to apply for housing assistance and had to seek temporary lodging at an emergency women’s shelter. 

Many people mistakenly think getting an ID is easy. The truth is that for millions of Americans, it’s not. 

To get an ID, you first need the underlying documents — like a copy of your birth certificate — which Deana did not have. To get a new copy of her birth certificate, Deana would have to navigate bureaucracy and paperwork that can be extremely complicated, time-consuming, and confusing. She would also have to pay for her birth certificate — a cost she could not afford as someone who was now unhoused. With no car, Deana also didn’t have a reliable way to get to the Vital Records Office or her local DMV. 

At nineteen years old, Deana suffered a traumatic brain injury after being hit by a drunk driver. It took her almost twenty years to recover. 

“I have a lack of social, economic, emotional, and human support,” Deanna explained.  

“When I’m doing everything myself, I get maxed out. It’s because of my brain trauma. I can only deal with so much. I’m overwhelmed all the time.” 

Fortunately, Deanna was able to find some much-needed support at a community health fair at the LGBT Center of Raleigh in December 2023. The fair offered a range of free services including sexual health testing, clothing and voter registration drives, and a booth offering ID information and assistance. Bingo. Deana approached the booth and spoke to Jenny McKenney, VoteRiders’ North Carolina Coordinator, about her situation. 

Jenny assured Deanna that VoteRiders could assist on multiple fronts. Not only could VoteRiders help her track down and pay for a copy of her birth certificate, they could also cover the cost of a new North Carolina ID, arrange and pay for transportation to and from the various offices, and help her update her name and gender marker. Deana was thrilled.

Deana has identified as a trans woman her entire life and is eager to change her name. 

“It would be awesome not having to hear the name ‘Damian’ when I go to cash a check,” she said. “It would be awesome to hear, ‘Deana,’ my female name, when they call me name at the DMV. It would make me feel more complete. It’s weird having to say to people, ‘By the way, I’m a girl, but you’re going to have to use a male name because it’s legal.’ “ 

While Deana has not yet had the ability to change her name, hormone therapy has allowed her to feel more confident. 

“When I started taking hormones six years ago, I felt this whole new respect from people because I felt like this was my proof that I’m for real,” she explained. “People tend to think that somebody taking hormone pills is being artificial, going against God, changing my humanity. No. We’re all born like an unlocked iPhone. At the very last second, right before we’re born, the X-Y chromosomes decide the little body part down there. And then while we’re growing up, it’s our hormones that tell our DNA what to do. DNA is like a Duncan & Hines recipe and the cook is either male or female. All I’m doing is telling my DNA what the correct way is.”

Deana’s journey with hormone therapy has not been easy.  

“I don’t have anybody helping me with these hormones, no one to assure me that the results are on point,” she said. “It’s hard to find somebody who’s knowledgeable or comfortable with trans people. It’s 2024. I don’t understand. Trans people have always been here. We didn’t just pop out of the woods, so why would an endocrinologist stay away from trans people? They should treat the health and well-being of all humans.“

In addition to facing barriers to equitable healthcare, trans and nonbinary people also face hurdles when it comes to accessing the ID they need to register and vote safely. In April 2023, North Carolina reinstated a law requiring ID at the polls, after it was previously struck down for being unconstitutional. If Deana is asked for ID when she goes to vote in North Carolina’s runoff election on May 14 and every election after that, she’ll have her new North Carolina ID to show. Like many voter ID law critics, Deanna feels these laws are intentionally discriminatory. 

“Why do I have to show ID to exercise my right to vote?” She asked. “What matters is that I’m a citizen and I have the right to vote. I don’t think they need to know my race, my gender, or what I look like. It’s another way to discriminate.”

When Deana’s name and gender marker are finally updated, she will have the ID she needs to cast a ballot with complete confidence. For Deana, voting is a way to be engaged, a way to take action, and a way to shape her environment. 

“If you have a beating heart, you should take part,” she said. “People get mad that everybody is always buried on their phones. Well, guess what? Give me something productive, make me feel a part of it and I’ll forget my phone. People check out if you don’t give them something to check in to.” 

Thanks to Jenny and VoteRiders’ North Carolina volunteer team, Deana successfully secured a new copy of her birth certificate and received her North Carolina state ID in January 2024. 

“I’m able to do a lot more now that I have an ID,” Deanna explained. ”Being able to show a plastic card to identify myself is like getting into a club as far as life goes, and getting services and getting things done. I can go to the Raleigh Housing Authority and apply for housing. My ID was also very instrumental in making sure I enrolled in the Affordable Connectivity Program before the cutoff. I can also now sell my phone at EchoATM and make a few bucks and then I can go downtown and get a free Obama phone. I can volunteer, apply for things, and go to food pantries. I feel freer.”

While Deana is eager to change her name as soon as possible, she has decided to focus on using her new ID to secure stable housing first. Once she is securely housed, she then plans to shift her focus and work on changing her name and updating her gender marker. She looks forward to the day when her legal name is Deana, her legal gender is female, and she has keys to her very own apartment. When this day comes, Deana plans to pay a surprise visit to her mother. 

“I want to surprise my mom — as her daughter,” she said. “Hopefully I have my apartment keys in my pocket too. My mom’s been there with me every step of the way. We’ve been like two buddies since I popped out of her. I know that’ll be an amazing moment for her and an amazing moment for me.”

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