When transgender individuals seek to update the gender marker on their birth certificates to match their other legal documents, they are bound by the laws of the state in which they were born. Many have specific requirements — some of which unfortunately include surgery that not all trans people wish to have or can afford to have — while others don’t have specific policies. Indiana does not have specific requirements for gender transition, and earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an amended birth certificate to a transgender applicant, concluding simply that he’d made a good faith effort to make his documentation consistent — and not to commit fraud.
The applicant had originally been denied an amended birth certificate by a trial court. Though he had been living as a man, started testosterone, and even undergone sex reassignment surgery, the judge didn’t feel empowered to grant the new documentation. In his opinion, he asked many questions about where to draw the line: “Can the court grant such a request merely because someone holds themselves out as a member of the other gender? If so, how long must they hold themselves out as a member of the other gender? Is gender reassignment surgery required? Is hormone therapy required? Is a medical opinion required?”
But Indiana law does provide for additions to or corrections in a birth certificate “on receipt of adequate documentary evidence.” The appellate court concluded that without specific guidance about gender transition, all that mattered was whether the petition was made in good faith. Indeed, they found that the applicant had “presented ample medical evidence regarding his gender transition.” In addition, his “genuine desire to have all identifying documents conform to his currently and social identity is apparent.”
The 26-year-old applicant will now have legal documents that consistently identify his gender with an “M,” which could very well protect him from being profiled as suspicious or denied access to various government services. Nevertheless, in a state without strict limitations or prohibitions on a birth certificate change, it still took him a full year and a half to achieve that result. He had legally changed his name in 2012, and when he first applied for the amended birth certificate in March of 2013, it was the only document left that wasn’t congruent with his gender.