By J Gibbons
I publicly came out as transgender several years ago and started using a different name. I was finally living as the person I had always known myself to be. My name represents who I am, an identity I have spent considerable time and effort struggling to come to terms with and present truthfully to my friends and family.
Currently, none of my identification documents have my correct name, nor do they reflect who I am. As a working-class person, the cost of updating my identity documents was out of reach for years. Even if I could come up with the money some years ago I didn’t know where to go or who to talk to, the process was confusing and cumbersome. Another requirement that stopped me is the rule to publicly post name change documents. I have feared for my safety because I am transgender, so as you can imagine having to go into a government building where my old feminine sounding name would be publicly announced and posted is prohibitive.
I am challenged in countless ways, because my identity documents do not truly reflect who I am.
After saving my money and building up the courage, I began the process to change my name starting in January. This was sparked by an infection for which I needed urgent medical care. It took me 48 hours after realizing I was sick to muster the courage to go to the doctors. Due to not having updated identity documents I knew when I checked in the staff would call me the wrong name, and address me with the wrong gender. Then when I would be called back to the examination room they would yell out the wrong name for the whole waiting room hear. Finally, that now likely uncomfortable nurse might ask me deeply personal questions about things that don’t relate to me—all because my ID is wrong. These situations are exhausting and are made worse when I was just trying to see a doctor for my infection.
That’s why Basic Rights Oregon’s lobby day this year is so important to me and transgender Oregonians just like me. We’ll be fighting not only to ensure that our state agencies enter into contracts only with companies that provide equal benefits to all employees regardless of gender identity, but also to streamline the process of changing your name and gender so that’s it’s safer, more affordable, and streamlined.
These bills will be enormously beneficial for transgender Oregonians, and could literally save lives. For folks like me, the opportunity to have our true identities reflected on all of our ID documents will be a welcome relief from the danger that we currently face when our ID documents are out of line with who we are.
J Gibbons is a transgender activist in Oregon and a longtime volunteer with Basic Rights Oregon.