West Virginia Supreme Court decision has potentially-negative impacts on life of transgender individuals

WEST VIRGINIA (WOAY) – In 2019, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals rejected an appeal from a minor from Wood County who underwent gender reassignment surgery and wanted to amend their birth certificate to reflect their gender identity. 

Allison Scott with the Campaign for Southern Equality says that LGBTQ rights have been an ongoing battle in the south, and one of the most basic rights a transgender person should have is the ability to change the gender specification on their legal documents.

According to Allison, a transgender person showing an ID that doesn’t list their correct gender identity can open up some troubling situations.

“As a trans woman myself, if I have to show any form of government identification, and it has a gender marker on it that doesn’t represent who I am, it really gets awkward. And it opens up questions about my own personal medical history.”

Having an amended birth certificate would allow a transgender person to get a new driver’s license that lists their correct gender identity. That driver’s license could then be used for most identification needs and would prevent awkward and potentially dangerous situations.

Allison says that those skeptical of the process should look at it from their point of view. 

“Maybe you have diabetes, maybe you had a liver transplant, anything. And you had to show that in several situations, would you feel comfortable disclosing your own personal medical information? I don’t know anybody that would.”

The procedure to amend a birth certificate doesn’t actually erase anything. The procedure is to cross out the old gender marker and place the new one next to it. So it can be easily identified as having been amended, but it still helps transgender people have that peace of mind.  

“We’re talking about the way you present in society. So having identification that mirrors that is just the right thing to do, and it makes our lives easier in every way.”

The decision by the Supreme Court of Appeals still has room to be challenged again. In 2018, Idaho had a policy that prevented transgender people from getting amended birth certificates, and a federal court ruled that policy was in violation of the 14th amendment. Now in Idaho, people identifying as transgender can get amended documents if they want to. There’s currently no federal challenge to the West Virginia decision, but it’s still possible to happen in the future.

West Virginia also has the highest rate of 13-17 year-olds identifying as transgender in the United States. And those teens identifying as transgender not being able to amend their documents could lead to troubling situations for them in the future in the form of harassment or discrimination.