NORFOLK, Va. - 2020 seems to be the year of many firsts, including the first election Nyonna Byers is registered to vote in.
"This is something that I've been wanting to do for so long," she said.
As a transgender woman and advocate she knows the road to this point isn't always easy. Using her experience to take action for others Byers and the folks at Minority Aids Support Services in Norfolk are helping the LGBTQ community to register to vote.
Byers said for transgender voters, the first hurdle to clear is having valid identification.
"If your information doesn't match then you're not going to be able to vote and your vote counts. So it's very important to have all of your documentation with your name change [and] your gender destination all to match each other," she said.
According to The Potential Impact of Voter Identification Laws on Transgender Voters: 2020 General Election by the UCLA School of Law, about 42% of voting-eligible transgender people in 45 states have no ID documents that reflect their correct name and/or gender.
"When it comes to getting your name changed it can be difficult through the courts and with COVID going on [and DMV appointments backed up] this is really putting a halt to everything that's going on," Byers said. She said this could hurt voter turnout.
Another challenge is understanding how to vote. For fear of discrimination or harassment Byers said some in the LGBTQ community don't seek out help. She hopes the voting resources at Minority Aids Support Services can change that.
"We need to get out there and vote especially if we want to be able to have good healthcare, if we want to be able to have fair housing, if we want to be able to do all the things that the same individuals that are not LGBTQ community can do. We need to get out there and vote," Byers said.
Click here to access the services that MASS offers.