This Idaho Legislation Undermines Transgender People’s Identities

Supermajority Education Fund

March 5, 2020

On February 27, Idaho’s Republican-controlled House moved forward with legislation that will ban state residents from changing their gender on their birth certificates. Idaho is now the third state in the country to pass such legislation, following Ohio and Tennessee. Idaho’s bill will now go to the Republican-majority Senate before landing on Governor Brad Little’s desk for a signature. 

“Biological sex is a real scientific fact, and it never goes away,” Republican Rep. Julianne Young, who introduced the bill, said last week, per the Associated Press. “No amount of surgery, hormones, or other procedures can change a person’s biological sex.”

As The New York Times reported in 2018, experts have proven that anatomy does not determine gender or inform gender identity, and the idea that biological sex informs gender was abandoned long ago by the medical community. 

“The idea that a person’s sex is determined by their anatomy at birth is not true, and we’ve known that it’s not true for decades,” Dr. Joshua D. Safer, an endocrinologist and executive director of the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery at Mount Sinai Health System in New York, told the Times then. 

This is not the first time that Idaho has tried to push through this kind of legislation. In 2018, U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale scrapped the proposed law by ruling that the ban violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Allowing people to obtain birth certificates that list the sex that aligns with one’s gender identity, “promotes the health, well-being, and safety of transgender people without impacting the rights of others,” Dale wrote in her decision at the time. 

Gwendolyn Ann Smith, the founder of Transgender Day of Remembrance, told Supermajority News that this legislation “is part of a much larger pattern of hostility against transgender people, and taken as a whole, tells our transgender youth that they are not wanted, and they are not cared for and, in the worst of case, that society would be happier if they didn’t exist at all,” Smith said. Fostering an environment of hatred, Smith added, “will not stop transgender youth from being transgender—this will lead them into self-harm and even potential suicide.”

Transgender people in the U.S. aren’t just being targeted when it comes to birth certificate legislation. There are currently six states that have proposed laws that would ban transgender athletes from participating in sports events for the gender with which they identify based on legislators’ claims that transgender athletes put their cisgender competitors at a disadvantage. 

Smith added that this birth certificate legislation just makes things more difficult for trans people who already face discrimination. 

“By making it harder to correct one’s identity paperwork, it allows those who might already be hostile towards transgender people to feel empowered in their bigotry, and feel no need to show a trans person—student or otherwise—basic respect,” she said. “This just makes trans lives harder while providing nothing but support for bigotry against transgender people.”

Update, April 1: Gov. Brad Little on Monday signed into law two anti-transgender bills, this legislation and a bill that bans transgender girls and women from competing in women’s sports.