More Feelings Trumping Fact

There’s an issue brewing in Illinois right now; one that could cause permanent records to be altered forever, with no consequence. Transgendered people are suing to have their Birth Certificates changed to reflect the gender that they feel they should be, rather than the actual gender they were born as.  Illinois currently only changes the Certificates for those who have had gender reassignment surgery. Transgender people have opposed this, because not everybody can afford the surgery, or wishes to undergo it. To make things more complicated, before 2005, the Birth Certificates were being changed without the surgery.

I have a problem with this all the way around, and not because I have a ‘thing’ against those who are Transgendered. We have just come out of a period where our country was sharply divided on the heritage of our current President. Was he born in the U.S.A. or in Kenya? Was Hawaii legally a state when he was born? Was his name even Barack Hussein Obama, or was it Barry Soetoro? Regardless where you stand on the whole “Birther” issue, the basis stands the same. Mr. Obama released his “long form birth certificate” earlier this year, putting the issue to rest for most people. And the only way he could do that is because we generally accept that Birth Certificates, along with a host of other official documents, such as Marriage Certificates and Death Certificates, are matters of federal record, and therefore, not subject to change.

Now a group wants to go and change that, because they “feel” a certain way. It is wrong.

Consider this: my husband is adopted. It’s no secret, and he’s proud of that fact. But I’m looking at his Certification of Birth. On it, it says that his adoptive parents are his “real” parents. There is no mention of him being adopted. No mention of a separate Birth Mother anywhere on the paper. Somewhere, there is a Certificate of Adoption, as well, but she is not listed on there, either. It’s as if she never existed.

I get that this used to be done to protect the birth mother, that our society was not as forgiving of young ladies who got pregnant out of wedlock for any reason. But it doesn’t reflect fact, either. What if Steve had wanted to research his medical history? He cannot do that, because there is no record, anywhere, of birth parents. What if he’d come down with some elusive disease that doctors suspected was genetic? No way of tracing that information. How does that bear out for Steve’s children? Oh, sorry, you’re out of luck?

I’m not against keeping the identity of birth parents confidential. Frankly, I’m not against Transgendered people living the way they are. But if people want to go and tamper with official documents, it should come with an asterisk (*). It should be noted that this person chose to become a female after being born male. If an adoptive mother wishes to be listed as the only mother for her child, she should have a notation that the child was adopted. If for no other reason than because it’s a fact.

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9 Responses to More Feelings Trumping Fact

  1. SKL says:

    Hm, interesting points. With the adoption thing at least, I could see this as a way to prevent undue discrimination. One thing that drives adoptive parents nuts is the way people often try to make the irrelevant relevant. Like a doctor or school insisting on more paperwork for an adopted child than one who is not adopted – with no logical explanation as to why it is needed. Once you’ve spent a few years getting your kids’ papers in order and you have a whole binder full of legal documents, you feel like that’s enough. The whole point of going through all those formalities is to eliminate complications – now and when my kids are on their own. Nowadays, most adoptive parents / adoptees have information on the birth parents separate from the post-adoption birth certificate (unless the adoptive parents didn’t want it that way). Other than the parents and the child, why should anyone else need to know this information?

    I just checked my kids’ birth certificates. While they don’t say the kids are adopted, you can probably figure that out because it lists where they were born, puts “unknown” for many details, and has a “registered” date well after the kids were born. Not sure whether that’s the case for typical US adoptions.

    I think what might make sense is to put a box on the birth certificate stating the date the data was last entered into the system. So if you were born a boy in 1980 and you have a birth certificate stating “female” dated in 2010, at least the person looking at it knows that this was not an original, contemporaneous birth certificate. Most of the time they would not need to know this anyway – aside from running for president, how often does it matter when, where, and to whom (and what gender) an individual is born?

    • Laura says:

      When I was writing this, I was thinking about things like genealogy, and future generations. I was also thinking of genetic records for the children of those who are adopted. Like I said with Steve’s records, to my knowledge, his birth parents have been kept completely anonymous. Looking at his certificate, his adoptive parents are listed as the birth parents. Which means that there is no way for Josh to trace his genetics back, in case there is something that he needs to know. For example – and this is a ‘girl thing’, but still – a young lady is far more likely to develop breast cancer if her maternal line carries a particular gene. If she does not know who her birth mother is, how can she do that research? Other things like heart disease, diabetes, etc. come into play, as well. The one time this conversation came up, I said, “there are so many more things we know now, why shouldn’t they (steve/josh) have that ability to trace their genetics back?” The reply was, “the parents were clean. They had no medical problems.” period, end of story. The birth/adoption took place in 1968, how many medical breakthroughs have there been since then?

      There is a couple in England, too… a “man” who continues to conceive and bear children. “He” is living as a man, has taken a certain amount of hormone to cause facial hair growth, etc. When he is done having children, theoretically, he could have his BC changed to reflect his gender change – even before his children are old enough to know – and where does that leave the kids? “Who was your mother?” “I have no idea… I only ever had two dads.”

      To a point, it is incumbent upon the parents to discuss these things with their children, but going down the line, to grandchildren, greats, etc., it seems to me that records should be constant and accurate.

      I agree with you, though, that you should not have to prove anything ‘extra’ for your children. Birth certificate, adoption certificate and naturalization certificate should be plenty.

      • SKL says:

        If the birth parents want to be anonymous, then does that trump the child’s right to medical info? I don’t know. Not everyone has medical info, and that’s just the way it is. The chances of my girls having any clue of their genetic risks is very slim, and we’ll just have to deal with that.

        Geneology – are blood connections more important than legal ones? Another interesting question. I think it may depend on the child. Some adoptees really want to see their adoptive family as their family for all intents and purposes. Others want to respect a more complex family tree. But from my perspective, my kids’ family is my family, not the family of the women who bore them.

      • SKL says:

        Personally I think birth certificate should be enough if it lists me as their mother (except where citizenship is specifically relevant).

  2. Joy says:

    I agree that changes should be able to be made to birth certificates but there should be an asterisk or something to indicate that a change was made. There could be a code. Because I agree with the medical issues. I also suppose there are some people who may want to keep silent about giving a child up for adoption. Even with all the “16 year old “mother” shows” on TV, there are still people who may want to finish college or for other reasons that are unknown to us, rape or incest, want to give up a child and rename anonymous.

    But then you have other cases that aren’t dramatic. When Paul adopted Jason his birth certificate was changed. I didn’t ask for it. It just came in the mail but I had no intention of keeping that a secret. I’m just not that way. I have a hard time with secrets so we planned to tell Jason when he started Kindergarten and we did and we were nothing but honest whenever he came to us with questions.

    Now. With transgender people. I may be wrong here but while I think it would be okay to make changes if they were noted but if not, I think those certificates should stay the same. People may not agree but if I gave birth to a boy, how can that change? While I realize “feelings” may be hurt and I sympathize but as a woman, how can what you gave birth to change? I’m thinking of the mother now and not the child. I personally could give a rip what it says but sometimes all this changing does nothing more than to make secrets and make things more confusing. If you do make a change like this in your life do you plan on never telling anyone? How can what your birth certificate matter to you or anyone you may know who would see it? It’s not like you have to show them very often.

    I have nothing against transgender folks and if you want to make that change that’s perfectly fine with me but that’s up to you if you’re changing and your parents still gave birth to you as what sex you were at birth. Otherwise how can we take these serious documents seriously? I really do feel these kinds of changes are nothing more than fuel for keeping secrets. What if in 100 years someone is doing a family tree? Doesn’t that change the whole tree? It doesn’t just change for that person. It changes what a mother and father gave birth to but also whether you have a grandson or granddaughter, niece or nephew. Cousins and brothers and sisters. Now what about if a father did this or a mother? That changes your parent if your a child born of that union. I think this kind of a change is too much. But, I think it would be okay like I said if it’s noted somewhere for future reference. I really think changing stuff like this should be really thought out. Adoptions are one thing but transgender change just has too many people involved.

    If none of that makes sense, sorry. It made perfect sense in my head.

  3. Nikki says:

    Well, I’ve been thinking about this post all day and I still don’t know where I stand, if anywhere. I guess I don’t care, either way. On one hand, I say a document like that shouldn’t be changed at all. Can people change their eye color? Yes. Skin color? Yes. But should they be changed on a birth certificate? I don’t think so. That isn’t the way you were born.

    But then there is this other hand. I can see some major discrimination happening by employers, if a man walks in with a BC that says she’s in fact a woman by birth.

    I just don’t know.

  4. Phyllis says:

    I don’t think birth certificates should be changed to reflect a transgender situation. It is an official document and should remain the original. I know I haven’t been on any job interviews lately, but is a birth certificate one of the documents required to be shown?I agree that if the gov. does, indeed, allow changes to happen that information should be reflected by a code or asterisk. After all, it is being changed after the fact.

    I do believe that for adoptees a medical history of the birth parents should be available. As medicine has progressed many, many more genetic problems have come to light. Regardless of whether the parents desire to remain anonymous a complete medical history should be taken along with blood tests before the time of adoption. As others have pointed out there are future generations involved here and those generations not only need the info, but are entitled to have it!

    • SKL says:

      Well . . . usually you’re talking about a young birth mom with little medical history. I didn’t have any medical history of note when I was young. Still don’t, unless you count the medical history of my extended family. Most medical issues don’t surface until we’re older. And even if a birth mom provided a “complete medical history” and blood tests in 1968, I wonder how much good that would actually do now. I always thought that when adoptees talked about wanting a medical history, they wanted access to what happened after the adoption. Like, did birthmom and half of her siblings develop diabetes or cancer in middle age? And that is one of the reasons many people now prefer “open adoptions.” Which of course have their pros and cons.

      Ideally, one would hope the birth mom would want to do all she could for the child, including providing a medical history. But, some women are unwilling to do that for whatever reason. I don’t like the idea of “requiring” it. I’d rather not have any extra factors making abortion seem more attractive than adoption.

    • Zoe Brain says:

      It’s fair enough to require that a BC be unchanged, as an historical document of what was thought to be true at the time, even if factually wrong.

      But if so, it should not be available to the public. Neither should metafiles giving corrections due to Intersex conditions, paternity suits, adoption, witness protection programs, name changes, clerical errors etc.

      Only an Identity Document which gives currently accurate information should be valid and publically available to prove Identity. For security clearances etc, and to update the ID document, the original and metafile of changes should be examinable by a very few cleared people, depending on circumstances.

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