Dr. Houlberg, right, pictured with State Representatives Litesa E. Wallace left, and Kelly Cassidy, middle.

This morning, our Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Magda Houlberg, gave testimony in support of HB 1785, which would remove the requirement for surgery in order for someone to change the gender marker on their birth certificate. Below is a full transcript of Dr. Houlberg’s testimony.


Hello, I am Magda Houlberg and I am the Chief Clinical Officer at Howard Brown Health. As the largest LGBTQ organizations in the Midwest and one of the nation’s largest providers of transgender health services we have received hundreds of requests for medical letters that support changing gender markers on vital records.

Vital records like birth certificates can impact a person’s ability to access healthcare services. If a transgender person doesn’t have vital records that match their gender identity, they can be denied coverage for needed medical care. As transgender people seek to secure their rights within the workplace, rights to travel and right to personal safety this is more important than ever.

Currently, the requirement for surgery puts patients at risk. In order to change the gender marker on their birth certificate, the client must have undergone a gender-affirming “operation”, and have gotten a signed affidavit by a physician. Few patients have received surgery or have access to surgery. Percentages from 2015 US Transgender Survey show that depending on the type of surgery, we estimate only 1%-20% of transgender people have had access to surgical interventions that would qualify them for a birth certificate change. 

Some trans and gender non-conforming people don’t want to have surgery, or need to delay surgery for personal/medical reasons. However, they need accurate birth certificates right now. People shouldn’t be forced to have surgery they don’t want, or else be denied access to vital records that match who they are. The bill supports our patients by affirming who they are, regardless of whether or not they can afford to have surgery.

Attacks on rights and protections for transgender people have impacted their rights in the workplace, freedom to travel and access to basic medical care. If a transgender person presents as a woman, but they have an ID or Driver’s license that lists “M” as their sex, they could face prosecution, job and housing discrimination, and risks to their personal safety. 

In the first few months of 2017 in the US, 7 transgender women of color have been murdered including Keke Collier, a resident of Illinois. She is the second transgender Illinois resident to be murdered in the past 6 months.  The violence against transgender women of color continues to escalate across the U.S. 

HB 1785 reduces the serious risks of discrimination, harassment, embarrassment, and assault people born in Illinois face by making it possible for them to correct their core identification document – their birth certificate – so that it matches their identity.