Senator Jennifer Boysko has introduced her bill to modernize the gender-marker change process for Virginia’s trans community before, but with Democrats in control of the General Assembly, it might actually become law this time.
The Senate passed a bill earlier this week that would allow a person who changed their sex to have a new birth certificate issued without requiring surgery, something that the transgender community said will help eliminate problems experienced when their legal identification doesn’t match their gender presentation.
Senate Bill 657 would allow a person to receive a new birth certificate to reflect the a change of sex, as well as allowing the individual seeking a new birth certificate to list a new name if they provide a certified copy of a court order of the name change.
“I just think it’s important to try to make life easier for people without being discriminated [against] or bullied,” said Sen. Jennifer Boysko, D-Fairfax. “Allowing an individual who is transgender to change their birth certificate without having to go through the full surgery allows them to live the life that they are due to have.”
Current Virginia law requires a letter from a health care provider stating that a transgender individual’s “sex has been changed by medical procedure,” according to Equality Virginia. Elsewhere in the Code of Virginia, according to Lambda Legal, that “medical procedure” is specifically defined as surgery. In 2019, Business Insider reported that the average cost for gender-confirming surgery is around $25,000. And according to 2015’s US Transgender Survey, transgender people are more likely to lack health insurance and access to health care than the general population, making this cost out of reach for many lower-income trans people.
The bill requires proof from a health care provider that the individual went through “clinically appropriate treatment for gender transition.” The assessment and treatment, according to Boysko’s office, is up to the medical provider. There is not a specific standard approach for an individual’s transition. Treatment could include any of the following: counseling, hormone therapy, sex reassignment surgery, or a patient-specific approach from the medical provider.
A similar process is required to obtain a passport after change of sex, according to the State Department.
Once the paperwork is complete, it is submitted to the Virginia Department of Health vital records department, Boysko said.
Boysko said her constituents have reported issues when they need to show legal documents in situations like leasing apartments, opening a bank account, or applying for jobs.
This is the third year that Boysko has introduced the bill. Neither bill made it out of subcommittee in previous years, but Boysko believes the bill has a better chance of becoming law this year.
“I believe that we have a more open and accepting General Assembly then we’ve had in the past, where people are more comfortable working with the LGBTQ community and have expressed more of an interest in addressing some of these long overdue changes,” Boysko said.
Vee Lamneck, executive director of Equality Virginia, a group that advocates for LGBTQ equality, said the organization is “really pleased that this bill is moving through.”
“This bill is really important for the transgender community,” Lamneck said. “Right now many transgender people do not have identity documents… this is really problematic when people apply for jobs or try to open a bank account.”
There are 22 other states in America that have adopted legislation similar to this, including the District of Columbia, Boysko said. The senator said that “it’s time for Virginia to move forward and be the 23rd state.”
On Tuesday, the Senate also passed Boysko’s bill requiring the Department of Education to develop policies concerning the treatment of transgender students in public elementary and secondary schools, along with a bill outlawing conversion therapy for any person under 18 years of age.
The bills now advance to the House of Delegates, where they must pass before heading to the governor’s desk.
Written by Rodney Robinson, Capital News Service. Additional reporting by Marilyn Drew Necci. Top Photo: Sen. Jennifer Boysko, by Adam Hamza, via CNS