Changing gender on documentation poses challenges

Violet Rue, a pre-chemical engineering student, recently had her birth certificate changed to reflect her preferred gender.

Sydney Sullivan, News Contributor

Community reflects on importance of identification that matches preferred gender identity.

Violet Rue, a pre-chemical engineering student at Oregon State University, went to her local courthouse on Jan. 2 to get a document notarized. Within a week of doing so, Rue received a new birth certificate reflecting her preferred gender.

Policies for changing gender markers on birth certificates vary from state to state resulting in rather complicated pathwork processes for those wanting to accomplish this, according to the Transgender Law Center webpage. 

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“It was definitely the most validating thing I’ve ever done,” Rue said. “I’m lucky to live in a state that actually recognizes that I exist.” 

Rue has friends living outside the state of Oregon who have experienced struggles related to laws which prevent trans-identifying people from expressing their preferred gender on their birth certificates and other official identification documents.

“Imagine people saying you just can’t exist or you cannot talk a certain way or be who you know yourself to be,” Rue said.

Cindy Konrad, director of the Pride Center at OSU, said that individuals are required to provide a birth certificate for many occasions. Konrad herself had to provide a copy of her birth certificate to get an Oregon driver’s license to replace her Wisconsin license. 

Having identification documents that reflect a person’s preferred gender is extremely important, Konrad added. “I think when the way that people read your gender and the gender on your documents don’t match it leaves an opening for discrimination,” Konrad said.  

Konrad also said that not having a birth certificate that reflects a person’s gender and gender expression forces people to reveal the gender that is listed on their birth certificate, which may not be the gender they identify with. 

“Transgender people and especially trans people of color can experience violence when they are outed,” Konrad said. “When you don’t have control of when you are outed and who you are around, sometimes violence is the result of that, so it’s a safety thing as well.”  

The Pride Center aims to assist transgender individuals by providing them with resources and information on legal processes, Konrad said. The other six cultural resource centers on campus also provide resources and information.

Rue said that the Pride Center has helped her by creating a safe space where individuals are not turned away from voicing their identities. Rue has experienced instances where her friends have been misgendered in public and attests to the fact that having documentation with the correct gender identities can help eliminate instances like this.

In addition to the OSU Pride Center, PFLAG also works to create a safe space for individuals of all identities in Corvallis, said Tom Johnston, the facilitator for the Corvallis/Albany chapter of PFLAG. Johnston said that the chapter provides support for diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.

“Only with respect, dignity and equality for all will we reach our full potential as human beings, individually and collectively,” Johnston said in an email.

Johnston said the Corvallis chapter is a great center point for activities happening within the LGBTQ+ community. If someone wants to organize a march or a Pride Festival, they generally start with PFLAG because they have been around quite some time and have access to resources. 

“As an example, I help put together a Pride Panel every quarter for a Human Sexuality class at Linn-Benton Community College. I was originally called because the instructor knew that PFLAG was a good place to start,” Johnston said in an email. “I have had a variety of folks join me each time on that panel.” 

Although the Corvallis/Albany chapter of PFLAG does not have a center in which individuals can spend time, Johnston said that members are always willing to talk.

“As long as there is one individual needing someone to talk to, we think we must continue to be available. And that, I believe, is very important,” Johnston said in an email. 

Johnston said the ability to change the gender on people’s birth certificates is important, as it ensures that documentation matches an individual’s actual identity.

“How is it not important to have your birth certificate agree with your gender? Don’t all of us want our paperwork to align with reality?” Johnston said in an email. 

PFLAG is able to assist individuals with the emotional difficulty of processing paperwork in order to change the gender on their birth certificate and other legal documentation, Johnston said.

“Our organization is supportive of an individual’s right to change their gender on their birth certificate,” Johnston said in an email. “However, our support would be limited to emotional support for the individual/s impacted.”

Rue said that for those struggling with their identities right now, the process gets better, and though it may seem difficult at times, there is always hope.

“Even if your family is not supportive, even if you don’t have a giant group of friends, there is someone, no matter who you are, that cares about you and cares that you exist and is willing to be there to help you through it,” Rue said.