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New Transgender Rights Case in Illinois

Katie Rotondi,
LGBT Project
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January 28, 2009

In a lawsuit we filed yesterday in Illinois, two transgender women asked the Cook County Circuit Court to order the state to issue them new birth certificates that reflect their appropriate gender following gender confirmation surgery (sometimes called sex reassignment surgery). The Illinois Department of Vital Records has refused to change the gender marker on their birth certificates because their reassignment surgery was performed outside the United States. Illinois is the only state to bar the option to change one’s gender on their birth certificate if the gender confirmation surgery is not performed by a United States-licensed physician. After carefully weighing their medical options, Victoria Kirk and Karissa Rothkopf, the two plaintiffs in today’s suit, both decided it was best to have their gender confirmation surgery in Thailand. “After making the difficult decision – with the advice and support of my physician and a therapist – to have surgery to conform to this identity, it was disheartening to learn that the state of Illinois would not issue a new birth certificate that recognizes me as a woman simply because I elected to have surgery overseas,” Karissa said. Kirk v. Arnold argues a birth certificate is a fundamental document for any individual, and it is critical that it accurately reflects one’s gender. Denying these women the ability to secure an accurate birth certificate is in opposition to the advice of medical experts who recommend that persons who transition their gender identity ensure that all aspects of their lives reflect that gender identity. “There’s this piece of paper that is wrong, it says I’m someone I’m not,” said Victoria. In addition, refusing to provide an accurate birth certificate poses everyday challenges that are unnecessary and dangerous. Having a corrected gender marker is important when a birth certificate is required to start a new job, get a driver’s license, enter a federal building or board an airplane. To learn more about this case, watch our video of Karissa Rothkopf and Victoria Kirk explaining how this legislation has impacted their lives and their gender confirmation surgery.

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