Testifying in support of the bill were Brook Shelley, Oblio Stroyman, J Gibbons, Ed Reeves, Neola Young and Erica Wegener.  

Today, the Oregon House Healthcare Committee heard impassioned testimony from community members, advocates and Basic Rights Oregon leadership on a bill that will help reduce discrimination for transgender Oregonians who are unable to update their name and gender identity documents.

1st panel“HB 2673 will protect the privacy of transgender Oregonians when they update their name and gender on their identity documents, while reducing cost and paperwork,” said Amy Herzfeld-Copple, Co-Executive Director. “While the Trump Administration seeks to roll back protections for transgender youth, Oregon’s legislature has an opportunity to continue its leadership on equality and reduce discrimination for nearly every transgender Oregonian.”

Due to a lack of societal acceptance and outright discrimination, many transgender Oregonians continue to experience severe economic hardship and instability. Updating personal documents to reflect name and gender changes is critical to reducing discrimination because it makes it easier to get a job, housing and access to medical care.  The 2015 U.S. Trans Survey estimates only one in 10 transgender individuals has accurate IDs. Many transgender people avoid or delay the process due to safety concerns, cost and the onerous nature of the process.

“Many transgender Oregonians fear being publicly outed because the current court order process requires they disclose sensitive medical and personal information in open court and post similar information on a public bulletin board,” said Nancy Haque, Co-Executive Director. “Some courts also require the disclosure of evidence of gender transition. This creates an undue safety risk for many transgender Oregonians, who already experience significant rates of harassment and violence.”

HB 2673 would provide a centralized administrative option for people who are transgender to update their Oregon birth certificates directly through the Oregon Health Authority’s Center for Health Statistics. The center manages millions of vital records and completes thousands of updates every year. HB 2673 will streamline the process, protect privacy and make it more affordable for transgender people with Oregon birth certificates. The current court process can cost several hundred dollars to thousands depending on attorney fees. OHA’s current fees for administrative changes is $60.

Letters of Support:  Oregon Health & Science University, Outside In, Lotus Rising Project in Southern Oregon and Trans*Ponder in Eugene submitted letters of support for the bill.  Six advocates and community members testified in favor of the bill, including Brook Shelley, Co-Chair of the Basic Rights Oregon Board; J Gibbons, a community member; advocate Neola Young; Erica Wegener, Transgender Services Coordinator at Outside In; Oblio Stroyman, Executive Director of Trans*Ponder in Eugene; and attorney Ed Reeves from Stoel Rives LLC. Below are excerpts from testimony in support of the bill:

Brook Shelley, Basic Rights Oregon’s Board Co-Chair: “As a senior engineer, I am one of the fortunate ones. When I decided to leave Texas, a state that does not recognize my gender, my skills were sought after by companies across the country. I chose Oregon because of the robust technology industry and the value our state puts on equality. However, we are not done.”

J Gibbons, Transgender Oregonian from Portland: “Due to not having any updated identity documents I knew the staff would call me by the wrong name, and misgender me. Then when I would be called back to the examination room they would yell out the wrong name for the whole waiting room hear. And the 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. You have the power to improve these circumstances and improve the lives of transgender people like me.”

Neola Young, Community Advocate: “For a population that already suffers disproportionately from hiring discrimination, unemployment, and poverty, every extra step and every fee can create barriers to getting accurate identity documents. For any Oregonian to update their name, including transgender Oregonians, they must get a court order, which involves many steps including a public posting and questions before a judge in open court. However, there is a significant difference in changing your last name from Smith to Jones, and changing your first name from Jennifer to Jack. The latter example greatly increases one’s risk because it reveals deeply personal information because of the gendered nature of names”

Erica Wegener, Transgender Services Coordinator at Outside In: “Transgender communities are at such high risk for violent attacks and harassment. The thought of having to announce their name change to the world is enough to make someone stay at home rather than going to the court house, especially if they are uncertain of the county policies or how they might be treated by staff.  I encounter these issues every day and work to ameliorate them for our clients. This bill represents a step in the right direction.”

Oblio Stroyman, Executive Director of Trans*Ponder in Eugene: “Our court hearing should be a day of celebration, marking all the obstacles we have overcome; a time when we will be seen as who we are, rather than a day of full of fear, red tape and potential violence.”

Ed Reeves, Attorney, Stoel Rives LLC: “I have seen firsthand how important it is for my clients to have documentation that reflects who they are, and function as the basis for other needed document changes at the local, state and federal level.  It is almost indescribable the sheer relief and joy it has brought to my clients over the years.  Not only is attaining accurate documentation personally meaningful, it also reduces a transgender person’s likelihood of experiencing discrimination.”