Why I need the Equality Act
I was born in Ohio, but I grew up in North Carolina and consider it home. I graduated from UNC and stayed until moving to Tennessee in 2010 to start Vanderbilt’s MBA program and transition from “male to female.” Now I live and work in Texas. As those four states are some of the least trans friendly, I’ve often said that I’m slowly working my way through transgender hell. But laws like NC HB2 add another layer to that inferno.
Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and others include Ohio on a list of three states where trans people can’t change their gender on their birth certificate. While Tennessee and Idaho have explicit laws against it, Ohio merely has ambiguity. A court order can technically change it, if you can get one (but Ohio won’t issue them). Which means I’d need to get a Texas court order to update my Ohio birth certificate so I can pee in North Carolina.
I can only legally use a women’s restroom in North Carolina if I successfully complete the multi-state bureaucratic nightmare above or if the facility has adopted its own policy regarding bathroom use, which they don’t have to announce. So if/when I go home this year for my dad’s 65th birthday, my parents’ 42nd anniversary, or Carolina’s homecoming (my ten year reunion) — do I guess the policy or ask the manager? Otherwise I have to use the men’s room.
I look like an average 32 year old American woman, except I’m slightly shorter and weigh a little less. The most frequent questioning of my identity is whether I’m actually 32, because people often don’t believe I’m that old (thank you, you’re too kind). I have a valid driver’s license and U.S. passport that both say ”female” — so I can live like any other gender conforming American woman, except when it comes to bathrooms in North Carolina.
No one has ever seen my genitals who didn’t want to, and despite the fact it isn’t anyone’s business, I “had the surgery” — which isn’t something every trans person can afford or access, let alone wants in the first place. I was only able to because my health plan covered it, but I don’t have an updated birth certificate.
If I’d been a Tar Heel born, all I’d have to do is file a form, include the notarized letter from my surgeon, and pay $39. In other states, I wouldn’t even need surgery. And that illustrates the absurdity of all of this. States like North Carolina and Tennessee pass laws banning local non-discrimination ordinances because ‘it’s too hard if the laws aren’t consistent.’
Yet individual Americans like me have been forced to deal with an inconsistent patchwork of state law for decades simply to exercise our basic rights. And this ignores the discrimination and harassment that comes if/when our gender expression doesn’t fit someone else’s expectations of what a man or woman should look like, regardless of what’s on our legal documents or between our legs.
I don’t want special treatment — I deserve equal treatment.
Birth Certificate laws by state: