Bill to ease gender change on birth certificates advances in Hawaii legislature

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HONOLULU — Switching gender on birth certificates could get a lot easier for transgender people in Hawaii.

A proposal to allow people to change gender on their birth certificates without having to undergo surgery cleared a legislative hurdle Thursday, sending the bill to the full Legislature for a vote on the brink of a legislative deadline.

The breakthrough was an emotional moment for Kaleo Ramos, a transgender man who contemplated suicide as a child when he didn’t feel at peace with life as a girl. Ramos said the legislation is just the beginning for transgender equality in Hawaii.

“I cannot express how much this will mean to our community,” Ramos said. “We lost so many people along the way to suicide, and we don’t want to lose any more.”

The change will improve the lives of many in the community who can’t afford or don’t want to have surgery, he said.

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Under the proposal, instead of having a sex change operation people could get a note from a medical provider saying the person’s birth certificate doesn’t reflect their gender identification. Having identification that reflects one’s outward appearance is critical when applying for jobs and signing up for services, advocates say.

“It means the world to a lot of people to allow them to lead the life that they’re meant to lead and to get really basic necessities,” said Rebecca Copeland, a volunteer parent advocate with Equality Hawaii.

If the bill passes the full Legislature, Hawaii will join at least six states with a similar law.

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