Hawaii legislative panel backs bill to ease gender switch on birth certificates

Mika Inoue, of Kahala, poses outside a hearing room at the Hawaii Legislature on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, in Honolulu. Inoue supports a bill that would lift a surgical requirement for those who want to switch the gender designation on their birth certificates. Cathy Bussewitz, AP

Mika Inoue, of Kahala, poses outside a hearing room at the Hawaii Legislature on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, in Honolulu. Inoue supports a bill that would lift a surgical requirement for those who want to switch the gender designation on their birth certificates.Cathy Bussewitz, AP

Mika Inoue, of Kahala, poses outside a hearing room at the Hawaii Legislature on Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015, in Honolulu. Inoue supports a bill that would lift a surgical requirement for those who want to switch the gender designation on their birth certificates.

HONOLULU — Mika Inoue was in college when she faced some of the scariest threats against her life as a transgender woman.

One roommate in her dormitory at the University of Hawaii at Hilo put poisonous spiders in her bed, and another wrote a death threat and stuck it in her door with a knife, she said.

Now in a better place, Inoue, 25, is hoping to avoid those situations by getting a new birth certificate that confirms with her gender identity – female – without having to undergo surgery.

“I’ve gone through physical and verbal abuse from my parents, co-workers and peers alike because of how I didn’t fit what is expected of me,” Inoue said. “These things are real.”

A bill moving through the Hawaii House would enable people like Inoue to switch the gender identification on their birth certificates without getting sex reassignment surgery. Instead, they would provide a statement from a licensed medical or mental health provider.

The bill advanced out of the House Committee on Health on Wednesday. It now moves to the Judiciary Committee.

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Having identification that’s in sync with a person’s name and appearance could reduce harassment in schools and the workplace, supporters said.

“A lot of these people are scared for their lives,” Inoue said. “When you’re going into a workplace, you’re submitting a resume, and you have one name on your resume, but your birth certificate and ID and everything else says something different. It becomes a whole lot of questions from the employer.”

But opponents argue that a birth certificate is a historical record, and that allowing people to change it could affect couples contemplating a marriage or officiants performing the ceremony.

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