Governor Dannel Malloy signed a law this week that will allow transgender individuals in Connecticut to change the sex listed on their birth certificates without undergoing gender reassignment surgery.
Parker Terrell is a transgender male from Naugatuck. Female at birth, he said knew from a young age that his assigned sex didn’t match his gender identity.
“I never saw a future for myself before I identified as a trans guy. I couldn’t picture myself growing older as a woman. I couldn’t picture myself, you know, if I got married being a wife, or if I ever had kids, being a mom. It was just never anything I ascribed to personally," Terrell said.
Terrell had top surgery last July – a double mastectomy. Out of pocket, it cost over $8,000.
Although he’s been able to live and present as male, his gender identity has not been officially recognized by the state. Terrell said that’s been hard to accept. “People don’t understand it, but it’s like for the first time in twenty years I get to see somebody that matches what I’ve always thought myself to be. So I look in the mirror a lot because here’s a face that finally matches, here’s a body that finally matches," he said.
Connecticut’s law has required an individual to have bottom surgery before amending a birth certificate, a procedure that could have cost him up to $100,000. The new bill will authorize the issuance of birth certificates without gender reassignment surgery.
According to the American Medical Association, gender identities are diverse and the options for transition are as diverse as well. The new law will recognize the current standards of care defined by the AMA.
Senator Terry Gerratana is co-chairwoman of the state’s Public Health Committee. She believes Connecticut laws should support current medical understanding.
Sen. Terry Gerratana
"We have become more accepting as knowledge replaces fear, I always say, and this is a matter of knowledge and education. I truly believe that legislators have been and are very sensitive to these changes and acknowledge them," Gerratana said.
Once in effect, transgender individuals will have to get notarized documentation stating that they had clinically appropriate treatment. They can then go to the Department of Public Health to request the birth certificate change.
The measure passed the General Assembly by an overwhelming majority. And there has been little vocal opposition among the state’s social conservatives.
Kamora Herrington is the mentoring program director at True Colors, a non-profit youth program for sexual minorities.
“People are different. Some of us look different, some of us smell different, some of us act different. We’re all cool, just deal," Herrington said.
And the new bill may help transgender people deal a lot better in the workforce, Parker Terrell said.
“If I go and tell that HR person, or whoever I’m interviewing with, ‘oh, hey, I’m transgender,’ and they feel negatively about it, they could go around and tell the entire building before I have any knowledge of it and out me, right. So I’m taking that risk of being outed by someone," he said.
Currently the unemployment rate nationwide for transgender individuals is double the national average. Parker Terrell said the new measure may make it easier for transgender individuals in Connecticut to find jobs.
And he said a birth certificate validating gender identity is now another important step toward acceptance for transgender individuals.
Connecticut joins seven other states which allow sex change on birth certificates without gender reassignment surgery. The new bill takes effect on October 1.
This story is part of a partnership between WNPR News and the CPBN Media Lab.