HB 87, Birth Certificates, and Genitals

Genitals. Genitals. Genitals. If there is one thing cis people obsess over, it is the genitals of others. Well, mostly when those genitals are attached to someone who is trans*. It almost seems like they want to know what we are packing at all times, or what we used to be packing. They like to ask invasive questions about our junk, how it functions, what it looks like, and how we use it. Our genitals are a constant fixation for cis people. In fact, our genitals are such a fixation that people pass laws involving them.

This is obsession has made itself known in Utah under the bill, HB 87, which seeks to dictate which restroom people can use in schools on the basis of their ‘phenotype’. The legislation uses the word phenotype to mean the gender of an individual on their birth certificate. Since birth certificate genders are based on assumptions based on the genitals of children, the bill’s writer, Michael Kennedy, uses phenotype to mean genitals. Those who are trans* need to have their genitals examined by a physician and have a letter saying they are phenotypically male or female. Convoluted language aside, this bill is downright ridiculous.

The bill designates a child’s (since this bill is for school bathroom use) genitals as the sole decider of whether or not they can use the correct bathroom. While it offers and covers alternatives for trans* children, many court cases have decided that the whole separate but equal mandate isn’t actually true. The bill makes sure to say that a child has no say over their own personal identity as a deciding factor as to which bathroom they can use. Yes, that is correct, Kennedy explicitly made sure the bill took the entire personal decision out of the hands of the person whose body is being invasively examined. Apparently, trans* people wishing to use the bathroom in peace is not something that is allowed.

For a trans* child to use the correct bathroom, IE the bathroom of their identified and actual gender, they must have invasive, life altering, and extremely expensive genital surgery. Basically, this bill is expecting the parents of trans* children to be rich in order to use the correct bathrooms. This bill also expects that trans* people wish to have genital surgeries, which is not always the case. This bill, in an attempt to protect cis children, further marginalizes, others, and demonizes trans* children. These children are not being protected and are in fact, being forced to be seen as perpetually dangerous, why else would they not be allowed to use the designated bathrooms?

This bill comes on the heels on another genital obsessed bill, New Jersey’s birth certificate issue. Currently, in the state of New Jersey, a trans* person requires genital surgery in order to change their marker on their birth certificate. A bill to revise this and make the only requirement a doctor’s letter stating medically appropriate transition had taken place. This could mean anything from hormones, surgery, or even just socially transitioning. This revision passed both the state Assembly and the Senate only to be veto’d by Chris Christie because of the lack of fraud protections.

I was born, raised, and currently live in New Jersey. Thus, I have a New Jersey birth certificate. This law, driven by the state of my genitals, personally affects me. Now, Christie said that the lack of fraud preventions was his main concern. I now have a driver’s license that says Male, a birth certificate that says Female, and eventually I will have a Social Security card that says Male as well. I am signed up for Selective Service. So, who exactly is helping creating a more fraudulent system? As someone who does not want genital surgery, I will unable to change my birth certificate. My documents will never completely match. This idea of fraud prevention is actually so incorrect that it creates a state in which fraud is more likely to happen.

However, I do not think Christie meant document fraud, identity theft, or anything of that. In fact, I have a feeling Christie’s idea of fraud is the same idea that Kennedy has about how genitals dictate the ‘real’ gender of an individual. Christie and Kennedy are both operating under the assumption that a trans* person’s identity is inherently perverse, and harmful to oneself and to others. They both operate under the idea that the truth is tied to the state of one’s genitals and nothing more. Christie’s fraud is tied up in the assumption and cissexist notion that genitals hold supreme power over self and that the real fraud is the identity of the trans* person. Christie and Kennedy both hold tightly, white knuckled, onto the idea that trans* people are walking frauds; mockeries of the genders they identify as.

If this were not true, laws such as HB 87 would not exist, even on the drawing board. Christie would not have vetoed the revisions to birth certificate amendments due to the idea of fraud. HB 87 would not be a thought. The birth certificate amendment would have gone through, without an issue. People would be free to assert their identities over the thoughts and opinions of others. However, as HB 87 so eloquently puts it how society sees us “does not mean an individual’s own opinion”. We do not own our bodies. We do not own our identities. Once again, we are laid open for public examination and dissection. We are expected to be subjected to rigorous interrogation, double standards, and deconstruction. We cannot create ourselves. We cannot label ourselves. We are not our own, in the eyes of society.

Laws like HB 87, and the refusal for people to amend birth certificates in the absence of invasive and non-reversible surgery show how people see trans* people. We are not who we say we are. We are frauds. We are liars. We are deceivers. We are a potential threat to cis people because of this. We should not be allowed in gender segregated spaces without showing we are truly dedicated to the ‘delusion’ that we are who we say we are. Cis people want some type of confirmation that we are dedicated to what we say we are. Cis people want to be able, without a shadow of a doubt, to say “Josie really does think she is a guy” or “Joey really does think he is a girl” to give them some piece of mind that we can embody our ‘delusion’. This cannot be accomplished without cis people deciding the rules as to how to allow us to be seen. This cannot be done without cis people being the gatekeepers and lawmakers.

Of course, this does not ever cover people who do not fit into the cissexist binary. Those of us who are non-binary, in whatever way, or not truly who we say we are. Cis people set those laws, and they are keen on keeping them that way. This is something that is so persistent, there are even trans* people who believe that those of us who do not conform to these notions are not actually trans*. We are the mentally ill ones, for not adhering to the cissexist binary, standards, and notions. If we do not want bend to the will of those who demand validation on our own bodies, we are ‘setting us back’.

Of course, this is not to say that those of us who are binary, want surgery, and so on, are part of the societal cissexist problem. No, the problem lies in the assumption that trans* people are a monolith. The problem lies in the assumption that trans* people all want the same things, all identify the same way, and all navigate the world in the same way. The problem lies in assuming people are just a small fraction of their parts, as opposed to their whole. We are not defined by how others determine to categorize us, we are defined by how we wish to define ourselves. There is no one in the world who knows us better than we do. While Kennedy, Christie, and the whole of society may tell us one thing, we are still here. We still exist. We are still fighting. And we will not stop.


Author: Lucian Clark

Lucian Clark was born and raised in South New Jersey. Recently they published their first novel, a dark romance, titled Cemetery Drive. Their works have been featured across numerous platforms such as The Advocate and in anthologies like Werewolves Versus and Postcards From The Void. They've also been featured on several podcasts to talk about horror, activism, and their writing. With a passion for all things spooky, horrific, and queer, Lucian can often be found on social media talking about werewolves, rats, and My Chemical Romance. When not actively writing or reading, Lucian is also the curator of the queer horror website, GenderTerror, which features original art, stories, interview and more. They can also be found playing video games or with their pets (currently some rats and a cat). They are active in local and national social activism with a focus on LGBTQ+ rights and reproductive justice.

One thought on “HB 87, Birth Certificates, and Genitals”

  1. Wouldnt this issue be solved everywhere by simply outlawing communal bathrooms? I see absolutely no reason why each bathroom stall cant simply be its own room, with a normal, full length door opening directly into the hallway. Its how bathrooms in houses are, I dont have a single bathroom for males and another bathroom for females. I have two bathrooms for everybody. Why should schools be any different? And dont say “money”, because I highly doubt that passing this bill will be free.


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