Governor Kitzhaber has signed House Bill 2093, making Oregon just one of a handful of states to remove the onerous surgery requirement imposed on transgender Oregonians seeking an accurate birth certificate. Transgender Oregonians will now be able to access a legal change of gender without costly, undesired or unobtainable surgeries. Additionally, the Social Security Administration announced they will remove the surgery requirement for transgender people nationwide seeking to amend their gender marker on a social security card. (Although there is not marker on the card, the information is recorded in an internal database.)
“This is a critical step toward safety and equality for transgender Oregonians,” said Basic Rights Oregon Transgender Justice Program Manager Tash Shatz. “This legislation brings Oregon in line with federal law and regulations for passports and the Social Security Administration, as well as standards of care outlined by the American Medical Association,” said Jenn Burleton, TransActive Executive Director.
Oregonians change their birth certificates every year after changing their name, adopting a child, or correcting errors, and now transgender Oregonians have access to that same process. As of January 1, 2014 Oregon will simply require appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition—a course of treatment to be decided between a doctor and patient. To learn more about Oregon’s new law, see the “Frequently Asked Questions” at the end of this post.
“As a transgender woman, it took me a year to get my birth certificate changed. I was relieved when it finally happened because this vital document finally reflects who I was at birth. Now I know that wherever I go, whatever job I apply for, if questions ever come up about my social Security, all my important documents will tell people who I really am,” said Portland resident Emily Pittman Newberry.
Birth certificates are more than a piece of paper: they are a gateway to access Social Security benefits, to obtain professional certification, to register for schools and colleges, and in countless other situations. Having inconsistent documents can impose serious barriers to finding meaningful employment or housing, and creates barriers for parents of transgender children and youth seeking accurate school records. Removing the surgery requirement is an important step forward to removing those challenges.
Prior to this change in the law, most transgender people were unable to obtain a legal change of gender or obtain an accurate birth certificate because many health care plans categorically exclude gender affirming surgical health care. The surgical requirement presented barriers for parents of transgender children and youth trying to access accurate school documents. The removal of the requirement will allow for accurate birth certificates for those who can’t have or don’t seek surgery as part of gender transition and for low-income or uninsured transgender people.
This victory is a testament to Oregon values of safety, inclusion and equality for all, and it’s an important move forward on the road to justice for transgender communities. To learn more about Basic Rights’ ongoing work for transgender justice, click here. To learn more about TransActive’s work for transgender children, youth, and their families, click here. And for information from the National Center for Transgender Equality regarding the Social Security Administration development, click here.
Frequently Asked Questions
When does this change take effect?
The removal of the surgery requirement becomes effective on January 1, 2014.
What documentation will I need to obtain a legal change of gender court order?
You will need a letter from a health care provider stating that 1)you have had appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition, and 2) that you have completed sexual reassignment. Under HB 2093, “completed sexual reassignment” no longer consists of surgery alone—it includes any treatment deemed appropriate by your health care provider.
What documentation will I need in order to obtain a birth certificate with a new gender marker?
You will need a court ordered legal change of gender. A letter from a health care provider alone is not necessary and is insufficient documentation without the court order to obtain the amendment.
Will the court order I send to Vital Statistics be returned to me?
No, it will be in your interest to obtain multiple copies of the court order when it is issued.
Will the department of Vital Statistics issue a new birth certificate, or amend the old one?
Vital Statistics will issue a new certificate reflecting the information submitted on the court order.
Will my old name and gender information be accessible?
The replacement for the record must be substituted for the original record of live birth. The original document will be placed under seal and is not subject to inspection, except upon the order of a court of competent jurisdiction in this state or as provided by rule of the state registrar.
Can I obtain a name change and a legal change of gender at the same time?
Yes, you can save time and money by obtaining the name and a legal change of gender in the same court proceeding.
What does “Appropriate Clinical Treatment” mean?
From the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE): The new policy recognizes that people’s medical needs vary, and that treatment options must be decided by health care professionals on an individual basis. You are entitled to an updated gender marker if you have had the clinical treatment determined by your health care providers to be appropriate, in your individual case, to facilitate gender transition. No specific type of treatment is required, and details of your treatment should not be included in the letter from your physician to SSA. NCTE encourages you and your doctor to only state in the letter that you have had the clinical treatment determined by your health care providers to be appropriate. Details about surgery, hormone treatment, or other treatments are unnecessary and not helpful.
What are the steps I need to go through to amend my birth certificate if I was born in Oregon?
You must obtain a court ordered legal change of gender, and then submit the materials to the Department of Vital Statistics:
1. Obtain a letter from a provider stating that you have undergone treatment and completed sexual reassignment (Surgery as treatment is not required: surgical, hormonal or other treatment appropriate for that individual for the purpose of gender transition is what is now required)
2. Obtain the court forms needed to obtain a court ordered legal change of gender (Forms located in the Family Law Section of the Multnomah County Courthouse, Room 211—Fill out forms in black ink) You may change your name in the same legal proceeding.
3. File the petition in the county within which you live. The county will issue a court hearing date.
4. Attend the court hearing with all documents (Petition forms, letters from a physician).
5. Send a copy of the Name change/Gender change court order (letter from surgeon is insufficient (will not be returned to you) along with $50 to: Oregon Vital Records, PO Box 14050, Portland, OR 97293-0050, Attn: Amendments.
6. The department of Vital Records will issue a new birth certificate with the proper amendments and will seal the old certificate from inspection.
Oregon Health Authority’s Changing a Birth Certificate Website:
Transgender People and the Social Security Administration: http://www.transequality.org/Resources/SSAResource_June2013.pdf
Social Security Administration guidelines for interviewing transgender people, assuring appropriate pronoun usage, confidentiality, and respect and dignity: