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Illinois to allow transgender individuals to update birth certificate gender marker

By Brynn Cassie West| Chicago Phoenix
Tuesday, July 31, 2012
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Civil rights advocates filed a court-supervised agreement Monday that will make it easier for transgender individuals in Illinois to get accurate birth certificates reflecting their gender.

The agreement asks to end the requirement for genital surgery in order to change the gender marker.

“This agreement reflects a basic understanding that the government should not be in the business of telling transgender Illinoisans what kind of surgery they need to undergo,” said John Knight, director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project at the ACLU of Illinois.

There is still a requirement for a type of surgery to be performed but the specifics of that surgery are left up to the individual’s physician, according to Melaney Arnold, Public Health Communications, Illinois Department of Public Health.

“The vital records code now requires a licensed physician to appropriately complete the affidavit, attesting that the applicant has undergone an operation, by reason of that operation the gender should be changed on their birth record,” said Arnold.

Operations that would potentially fit this criteria would include a double mastectomy, hysterectomy, orchiectomy, or facial feminization surgery. This is a step forward for many transgender individuals who could not afford the cost of genital reassignment surgery, are worried about the results or do not feel the need to undergo such procedures.

While the paperwork still requires approval from a licensed medical physician, the state sill have much less involvement in the daily lives of transgender individuals as a result of this decision.

“Its going to be the licensed physicians medical opinion,” Arnold said.

The decision also has a retroactive component for those who have already been denied a change to their birth certificate because they did not meet the previous surgery requirements, but meet the new ones. The Illinois Department of Health will notify those who have been denied a gender marker change going back to 2008, for which the department has records.

The Department will also issue a statement on their website clarifying that genital reconstruction surgery is no longer a viable requirement.

Accuracy of records is increasingly a necessity in our daily lives, according to the ACLU’s Knight. The possibility of being outed via official records has long been a concern of the transgender community.

“Having an accurate birth certificate is critical today,” said Lauren Grey, the lead plaintiff in the case. “The agreement filed today clears the way for many people born in Illinois to get an accurate birth certificate that will make their lives safer and more secure.”

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