Kari Rothkopf and Tori Kirk both underwent gender reaffirmation surgery in Thailand, and because both women had their surgeries overseas (not in the United States), the Illinois Vital Records division has refused to correct their documents.
This seemingly authoritarian interpretation of the state’s Vital Records Act is now being challenged by the ACLU on behalf of the two women, on the grounds that the denials are a violation of state law.
Officials with the Illinois Department of Public Health — which encompasses the Vital Records division — say their hands are tied.
“We are following the Vital Records Act, and we are simply enforcing that,” said department spokeswoman Melaney Arnold. “The part that we are particularly looking at is the definition of physician. Physician means a person licensed to practice medicine in Illinois or any other state.”
As in, one of the United States.
Joel Ginsberg, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, estimates that between 1,600 and 2,000 patients undergo major gender-related surgeries each year.
“Given that many if not most health plans will not reimburse for medically necessary transgender surgery procedures, many transgender people find it necessary to leave the country in order to get the services they need,” Ginsberg said. “So it’s both illogical and unfair to not allow people to change their legal documentation to reflect the reality about their bodies and their condition.”
(Cross-posted at Questioning Transphobia)