Lambda Legal has filed a lawsuit on behalf of four transgender individuals and a transgender rights organization challenging Kansas’ arbitrary ban on allowing birth certificates to be updated to reflect gender transitions.
Currently, only Kansas, Ohio, and Tennessee block people born in the state from ever updating the sex marker on their birth certificates under any circumstance. Several others require transgender people to undergo gender confirmation surgery before they can make such a change — a procedure not all transgender people require and not all can afford.
The plaintiffs explain in the suit that having birth certificates that don’t match their gender identity requires them to out themselves in various settings, making them more vulnerable to discrimination and harassment. For three of them, this has created barriers when it comes to finding and maintaining employment, because they must out themselves even to prospective employers.
Luc Bensimon, a 46-year-old trans man, explained in a statement that the ban on birth certificate changes “complicates every aspect of our lives.” Referring to discrimination he already experiences as a result of having a mild form of cerebral palsy, he noted, “Having to present a birth certificate that incorrectly identifies me as female makes it easier for people to discriminate against me based on my gender identity, on top of the discrimination I already confront based on my disability.”
The fourth plaintiff is Jessica Hicklin, who is incarcerated in Missouri. Earlier this year, she won her fight to receive transition-related care in prison, but she still faces obstacles in terms of how she is treated in the prison system. Prison officials still refer to her with male pronouns, the complaint explains, which she believes is based upon “the incorrect designation of her sex as male on her birth certificate.” She describes “being trapped by a piece of paper” and hopes that having a birth certificate that matches her identity will improve her rehabilitation and ability to reenter society.
Kansas’ practice of denying these gender changes is not codified in any law or policy, though it is consistently enforced. This is despite the fact that the state has no restrictions on allowing transgender people to obtain driver’s licenses and state identification cards that properly display their gender identity. In fact, Kansas does not even impose the burdensome requirement of having obtained surgery to obtain such changes. But the ban still applies to birth certificates.
The complaint notes that this practice doesn’t align with other accommodations Kansas makes when it comes to birth certificates. For example, it’s quite easy to obtain new birth certificates in a number of circumstances, such as for a name change or as part of a child’s adoption. Cisgender people can also easily correct the sex marker on their birth certificate if it was incorrectly recorded at their birth, but the same option is not available to transgender people.
Lambda Legal won a victory in a similar case in Idaho earlier this year. Like the plaintiffs in the Kansas case, the two individuals in Idaho had successfully updated their driver’s licenses and social security records, but they could not update their birth certificates to match. Idaho agreed to the change, but a federal judge still noted in her decision that such discrimination was unconstitutional.