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Trans Ohioans Are Asking for Basic Human Dignity

Trans Flag at March
Trans Flag at March
James Esseks,
Director, LGBTQ & HIV Project,
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April 6, 2018

Stacie Ray knows firsthand how dangerous it can be to have ID documents that don’t reflect who she is, especially when they out you as transgender to other people.

For instance, in 2016 Stacie attended a new job orientation along with 10 other new employees, and they were all required to present their birth certificates. When a human resources staffer called Stacie up in front of all the other new employees and examined her documents, the staffer said, “Why doesn’t your gender match?” That’s because while Stacie is a woman, she was assigned male at birth, and her Ohio birth certificate still says she’s male. Ohio is one of just three states, plus Puerto Rico, that refuse to update the gender marker on birth certificates, at any time, for any reason.

The consequences for Stacie were severe: She was outed to her co-workers as transgender and they started calling her “the freak of the company.” Another female co-worker told Stacie that if she ever encountered Stacie in the women’s room, she would “beat [her] ass.” The intense shunning and harassment led Stacie to quit that job just two weeks later.

The following year, Stacie was working as a truck driver and sought a higher paying job that required a hazardous materials endorsement for her commercial driver’s license. That endorsement in turn required a background check from the Transportation Safety Administration . At the first appointment for getting the background check, Stacie gave the TSA both her Ohio driver’s license, which correctly showed her as female, and her Ohio birth certificate, which still said male. The TSA not only told her it wouldn’t do the background check because of the discrepancy in the gender markers on her Ohio documents, but it also outed her as transgender to others in the waiting area.

Humiliated and in tears, Stacie drove directly to the Ohio Board of Health, Office of Vital Statistics, which handles birth certificates, explained what she had just been through, and asked for a corrected birth certificate. They said, “We will never change it.”

Stacie, however, has had enough.

Last week, she and three other courageous transgender people born in Ohio sued the state over its intransigence around updating birth certificates. The ACLU, ACLU of Ohio, and Lambda Legal, which have brought the case together, argue that the state’s policy violates individuals’ equal protection, privacy, and free speech rights. But at its core, Ohio’s policy refuses to treat Ohioans with basic human dignity. That’s all Stacie and the other plaintiffs are seeking, and it’s what they deserve.

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