Transgender community in Arkansas feels 'attacked' over birth certificate bill

Bill keeps trans people from changing gender

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Should transgender people be allowed to change the gender on their birth certificates? That's the question before the Arkansas legislature.

Thursday, Republican Senator, Greg Standridge, withdrew his one-sentence "bathroom bill" that many said targeted the transgender community. That same day, another bill was filed that would only affect the transgender community. This time, when it comes to their birth certificates.

"I can't believe I'm still having to fight for simple things like this, that other people don't even have to think twice about,” said Wolfe Espinosa-Villegas, a trans man.

Representative Mickey Gates filed House Bill 1894 Thursday.

It reads "To require that birth certificates list the biological sex of an individual as determined at birth; and to prohibit amendment of a birth certificate to change the biological sex."

Those in the trans community said the bill feels like an attack.

"I've never heard of a gender marker change ever harming anybody or impacting society in a terrible way,” Espinosa-Villegas added.

Arkansas' transgender "bathroom bill" was pulled after both the Governor and tourism officials said they wouldn't support it. That moment, a win for the transgender community, only to be firmly brought back down to reality Thursday, when HB1894 was filed.

"It definitely has to be a moral authority issue. I don't know if it is hatred, or scapegoating, or if somebody needs to take the blame and we are the easiest population,” Espinosa-Villegas said.

Representative Gates wouldn't respond to our requests for comment on the birth certificate bill. Changing the sex on your birth certificate already comes with obstacles: you have to get a court order from a judge, and letter from a doctor stating they performed a surgery. Reverend Gwen Fry, of Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition said this bill is bad for Arkansas

"What folks are doing through legislation is, they're trying to make us invisible once again in the community at-large. And they're attempting to legislate us out of existence,” she said.

The transgender community has some of the highest suicide rates in the country. Fry said bills like these exacerbate that issue.

"We have seen that since the elections back in November. The suicide rate, especially with adolescents, and young people have increased. It's directly caused, I believe, by the way society sees transgender people," she said.

She offers a solution.

“I would offer an opportunity to educate the legislature, the General Assembly, to learn more about the transgender community. To turn it from the picture that's been painted by someone else and actually develop a relationship with those in the transgender community," said Fry.

No word on when HB1894 will make an appearance in committee.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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