Illinois Moves To Make Updating Birth Certificates' Gender Markers Easier

Apr 5, 2016

Illinois lawmakers are moving to make it easier for transgender individuals to change the gender marker on a fundamental document: their birth certificates. Democrats on a House committee approved the legislation Tuesday on a partisan vote of 8 to 6.

Alexandria Dinardo, who was born and raised in Springfield, was born male; that's what Dinardo's birth certificate still says.

"This bill would mean that I can finally be me. I can finally say: I am a female," Dinardo said. "I don't have to worry about walking down the street and somebody: 'oh, you're a guy. Oh! You were never supposed to be a woman.' First of all, it's not your prerogative, it's not your business. Second of all, I feel who I am should not be determined by a piece of paper."

Illinois allows the sex on a birth certificates to be updated only if someone has re-assignment surgery. This legislation would instead mean a transgender person could get their gender changed with a doctor's declaration.

That makes it too easy, says Ralph Rivera of the Illinois Family Institute.

"The families I represent know clearly that biologically, you're born either a male or a female," Rivera told legislators.

Rivera says the measure doesn't include any limits, so someone could have his or her birth certificate changed, and then a few years later get a doctor's approval to have it switched again.

Advocates say it's a matter of keeping up with medical advancements; drug therapies mean surgery is no longer required. Maya Zimmerman says she would like to have sex change surgery, but she can't afford it.

"My financial circumstances, however, should not be a road block to being fully recognized as a woman," Zimmerman said. "I've been able to update my state ID so that it's accurate ... but the fact that my birth certificate - that fundamental document - does not match my ID can cause confusion, and even worse in those situations when one is asked to provide both form of identification."

Separately, legislation stalled that would require transgender students to use school bathrooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate - no matter their gender identity.