A Tale of Two Bills

This legislative session, Illinois Representatives are considering two bills that would have a profound impact on trans and intersex young people across our state.  These bills are polar opposites of one another in terms of how they conceptualize sex and gender. One is informed by clear data that shows us that gender expansive people experience overwhelming harassment, discrimination, and violence.  This data also shows us that when identity documents don’t reflect someone’s affirmed name and gender, these barriers increase.  The other bill, based on unfounded fear of gender expansive young people in gender-segregated facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms, would contradict nationally and internationally recognized understandings of gender and of how to best support the healthy development of youth.

On February 11, 2016, State Representative and long-time Alliance Advocate, Greg Harris (D-Chicago) introduced House Bill 6073. If passed, this bill would amend the Illinois Vital Records Act to make the process for changing the sex designation on an Illinois Birth Certificate consistent with other Illinois and Federal processes for changing the sex marker on identification. Currently, the law requires individuals who want to change their birth certificate to have an affidavit from a physician stating the individual has had an “operation.” This language is outdated and inconsistent with recommendations from The American Medical Association, American Psychological Association, World Professional Association for Transgender Health, and the National Association of Social Workers.

In December of 2015, Township High School District 211 entered into a settlement agreement with the Federal Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights after the Department found that District 211 was in violation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act by refusing to allow a transgender high school student access to the locker room consistent with her gender identity.  Following this decision, Representative Tom Morrison (R-Palatine) introduced House Bill 4474 which seeks to supersede Illinois and Federal Civil Rights Law by amending the Illinois School Code to require that Illinois schools designate restrooms and changing areas for use by a student’s chromosomes and anatomy assigned at birth.

For decades, Illinois has been a leader in protecting transgender rights. Our state was one of the early states to ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity and we were the first state to allow a way to change the sex designation on a birth certificate. Nearly 60 years later after our surgery-based policy was adopted, we have fallen behind 11 other states and Washington D.C. which have all modernized their processes for changing a birth certificate – processes that are now consistent with the Illinois State Identification Card, U.S. Passport, and with the Social Security Administration. 

We know that transgender individuals – and particularly youth in schools - continue to face severe and blatant discrimination. We know that transgender young people face increased violence in schools, including physical, emotional, and structural violence. We also know that transgender young people don’t have equal access to education when their school environment denies their identity. To overcome this discrimination, it is critical that transgender Illinoisans are able to obtain identity documents without unnecessary obstacles like surgery.  It is critical that we act to support the passage of House Bill 6073 and, while doing so, remind our state Representative that House Bill 4474 is based on unfounded fear of trans and gender expansive people, that it violates existing state and federal laws and, instead of supporting inclusive environments where every student can learn, it stigmatizes gender expansive young people and promotes violence.

Get Informed - Learn about these bills and other like it. Educate your community by holding informational sessions and skill shares.

Get Connected - Learn who your State Representatives are and contact them, tell them that you want them to support House Bill 6073 and that you want them to vote no on House Bill 4474.

Get Registered - If you are 18 and over get registered to vote!  If you are under 18 you can still push elected officials by writing letters that explain how these bills, if passed, would impact you and/or your friends and community.

Get Engaged - The Alliance works with schools and districts throughout the state of Illinois by providing Professional Development, Trans Inclusion Policy, and Youth Engagement. Support the Alliance's work by visiting our website, liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter and making a donation.