Parents of transgender kids speak out on gender-change rules

Amie Schofield and her daughter look on during a hearing at the Utah State Capitol Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018, in Salt Lake City. Parents of transgender and intersex children in Utah are asking state lawmakers to keep allowing their kids to officially change their gender on birth certificates. Amie Schofield said Wednesday she fears her 4-year-old daughter could be bullied or ostracized if school records reveal her birth certificate says she was born a boy. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Amie Schofield’s 4-year-old daughter loves floral dresses and pigtails, but her mother worries she could be bullied or ostracized if school records reveal her birth certificate says she is a boy.

Schofield was among parents of transgender and intersex children in Utah who on Wednesday asked state lawmakers not to bar their kids from officially changing their gender on birth certificates.

Amie Schofield speaks during a hearing at the Utah State Capitol Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018, in Salt Lake City. Parents of transgender and intersex children in Utah are asking state lawmakers to keep allowing their kids to officially change their gender on birth certificates. Schofield said she fears her 4-year-old daughter could be bullied or ostracized if school records reveal her birth certificate says she was born a boy. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

“It’s terrifying. It’s the biggest worry, to be outed,” she said. Her daughter is intersex, with anatomy that isn’t solely either gender, she said. A doctor decided the baby was male, but Victory has always identified as a girl, her mother said.

The panel of lawmakers Schofield spoke to later voted to keep studying a proposal that includes a requirement for people to be 18 before they change their gender on state documents.

People, including those under 18, can change their gender on state documents now through a court order under a decades-old law, but the process can vary from judge to judge.

Republican Sen. Todd Weiler proposed the plan to standardize the gender-change rules after two transgender people appealed to the Utah Supreme Court when a judge wouldn’t let them change their driver’s licenses. The case is still pending.

Republican Sen. Todd Weiler speaks during a hearing at the Utah State Capitol Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018, in Salt Lake City. Parents of transgender and intersex children in Utah are asking state lawmakers to keep allowing their kids to officially change their gender on birth certificates. The plan to standardize the gender-change rules surfaced last year after it emerged that some Utah judges weren’t allowing transgender people to change their driver’s licenses. The proposal failed under questioning from both conservatives and LGBT groups, but its sponsor, Weiler, says the issue can’t be ignored. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Nearly 200 people have successfully changed their birth certificates over the last six years, state officials said.

Among those was Drew Armstrong’s son Tyler, a self-described conservative Mormon who tried for years to coax his daughter toward feminine clothing before the child came out as transgender at age 12. The formerly shy, suicidal teen emerged from his shell and thrived as a young man, Armstrong said.

Still, Tyler lived in fear that his new friends would find out he was transgender since his school records had his old name. Getting an official gender change eased those worries as he begins to get his driver’s license and apply for college, his father said.

“These kids are vulnerable. They aren’t flamboyant drag queens, they want to fit in. They really want to fly under the radar,” Armstrong said.

The proposal to update state law with a standard set of rules for changing gender failed under criticism from both sides last year, but Weiler said that doesn’t mean the issue is dead.

“The landscape has shifted and the Legislature has remained silent,” he said. “I do think it’s our duty to wrap our arms around this very difficult issue.”

Conservative activists spoke against his plan again Wednesday, saying it could wrongly take power away from judges to decide whether to grant gender changes and make it harder to get needed medical information on gender at hospitals.

LGBT groups, meanwhile, are concerned about a provision that would retain someone’s old gender on the birth certificate as well as the age requirement.

Weiler said he’d be open to dropping the age to 15, but he’s concerned about allowing gender changes on documents for younger children.

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