Kansas is currently one of three states, including Ohio and Tennessee, that does not allow transgender people to amend the names and assigned genders on their birth certificates. That restriction is about to change.
Democratic Governor Laura Kelly withdrew opposition to a lawsuit by Luc Bensimon, a transgender man, and others seeking the right to correct the gender and name on their birth certificates. The decision will benefit many other transgender people in the state who are struggling to have their documents reflect their identities.
Bensimon is Black and has cerebral palsy. He was assigned female at birth, which, he told The Guardian, led to a struggle for recognition. He is 47 and transitioned in his 30s, but his birth certificate still says he’s female.
Documentation that does not match a person’s identity presents challenges. Job applications require proof of U.S. citizenship. If an applicant does not have a passport, they must provide their birth certificate.
A birth certificate with an assigned name and gender in conflict with a person’s identity not only causes confusion, but also automatically outs them. Nyla Foster, a Black transgender woman who also spoke to The Guardian, said this outing by paper documents has made employers question the documents’ legitimacy and caused her to fear discrimination.
“Having a mismatch between your identity documents really exposes transgender people to discrimination when it comes to employment, education and everyday parts of their lives,’ she said.
Black transgender women face an alarming amount of violence in this country. This week, Denali Berries Stuckey became the twelfth Black transgender woman to be murdered this year alone.
Related Story: Arrest Made in Murder of Transgender Woman Zoe Spears
This change will also benefit transgender women who in male prisons due to the sex on their birth certificates. The article also profiles Jessica Hicklin, who was born in Kansas but jailed in a men’s prison in Missouri for a murder she committed as a teenager. She won a federal case last year, forcing the prison system to allow her — and other transgender prisoners — the medical support she needed to physically transition. When she first entered prison, she said, she endured years of sexual assault. Changing her birth certificate would allow her to move to a women’s prison.
The lawsuit determined Kansas’ strict policy violates transgender people’s rights to due legal process, equal protection under the law and freedom of speech.
“It was time for Kansas to move past its outdated and discriminatory anti-transgender policy,” Kelly said in a press release. “This decision acknowledges that transgender people have the same rights as anyone else, including the right to easily obtain a birth certificate that reflects who they are.”