Making it easier for transgender people to get new birth certificates

Published: August 5, 2013

WASHINGTON — Kaprice Williams has been waiting four years for a new birth certificate.

Williams, 50, transitioned from male to female when she was 15, but some essential legal documents still do not recognize her as a woman.
That had not been an issue until a job interview went sour when her paperwork revealed she is transgender. Efforts to change her birth certificate had stalled because Williams, a native of Washington, has not had sexual reassignment surgery and cannot afford thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees.
Those obstacles are about to become history: Last month, the District of Columbia Council passed the country’s most liberal policy for updating birth certificates, one that transgender activists hope will become a nationwide model. The mayor is expected to sign it Tuesday.
Activists say the tremendous boost to gay marriage provided by the Supreme Court’s rulings in June ultimately will benefit everyone in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. This, they say, is the time to focus on the needs of transgender people, who are seen as the most vulnerable of the four groups.
"Now we have momentum at our back, and we really need to use this time effectively to gain as many protections as possible for transgender people," said Fred Sainz, vice president of the Human Rights Campaign, a Washington-based LGBT rights organization.
The Washington measure eliminates requirements for surgery and a court order that, transgender rights attorney Lisa Mottet said, make it too expensive and inaccessible for most transgender people to complete a legal transition.
Williams said she could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
"I’m glad to finally get this so I can move on with the rest of my life," she said. "These are basic needs, and you can’t do too much without proper credentials."
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