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Oregon Bill Would Streamline Process For Transgender Document Changes

"Oregon State Capitol, Salem OR" by Joe Wolf is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Transgender people in Oregon would have an easier way to change their identity on government documents under a bill being considered by Oregon lawmakers.

Right now, to change gender identity on an Oregon birth certificate, a transgender person must go through a very public process. That includes a court hearing and even posting a public notice in the lobby of the county courthouse. It can be intimidating for someone who's worried about harassment or discrimination.

J Gibbons came out as transgender several years ago but only started the process of updating official documents last month.

"Even just trying to do the research to learn about how to update these and getting this whole packet of legal forms can be really overwhelming for transgender individuals,” Gibbons said. “So any barrier that we can remove is an amazing day."

The measure under consideration would allow transgender people to skip the court order and apply directly to the Oregon Health Authority.

The process would likely be cheaper and faster, said advocates such as Basic Rights Oregon Co-Executive Director Amy Herzfeld-Copple. But the larger benefit would be making the process more private.

"Often personal medical information is revealed in an open court that can feel really exposing," Herzfeld-Copple said. "This would create an alternative administrative process for folks to go directly to the Department of Vital Records to update their documents."

For J Gibbons, who uses the pronouns they/them, having updated documents will reduce the chances of awkward or embarrassing situations. Gibbons said going to the doctor's office can be stressful, because staffers call them by the name listed on their identification documents.

"For a transgender person, when a wrong name is used, it's not just a slip-up," Gibbons said. "It means your privacy and safety have now been compromised."

Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.