CHICAGO (STMW) — A class action lawsuit was filed Tuesday claiming that the state of Illinois refuses to change the gender on birth certificates of transsexual people unless they’ve undergone genital surgery.

Lauren Grey, Victor Williams and Nicholas Guarino are transsexual people who were born in Illinois and underwent medical surgery to conform their bodies to the gender they identify with rather than the sex they were assigned at birth, according to a civil lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court.

The suit claims that the state’s Vital Records Act (VRA) allows the gender to be changed on a birth certificate if a licensed medical doctor attests that because of a surgery performed on the person, the gender should be changed.

Damon T. Arnold M.D., the state registrar of vital records and the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, routinely changed the gender on birth certificates of people who’d undergone surgery until about 2005 when a practice was adopted that the gender would not be changed unless the person underwent genital surgery, according to the suit.

The suit claims that this adopted practice violated the VRA because nothing in the act requires genital surgery before the gender can be changed on the birth certificate.

The suit claims that what is considered necessary medical and psychological treatment for transsexuals varies by individual and does not always include genital surgery, which is rarely completed for transsexual men.

Grey and Williams have changed their genders on all of their government-issued identifications except their birth certificates, the suit said. Because Guarino can’t change the gender on his birth certificate, he can’t change his gender on his driver’s license or other identification in Texas, where he lives.

Grey claims that forcing her to show an identification document that identifies her as male puts her at a significant risk for embarrassment and possible violence, according to the suit. It is also psychologically and emotionally harmful for Grey, the suit said.

The class action suit seeks a permanent injunction ordering the state to grant new birth certificates with a change of gender to Grey, Williams, Guarino and any others affected. The suit also seeks court courts, attorney’s fees and other relief.

A spokesperson for the Illinois Dept. of Public Health was not immediately available for comment.

© Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2011. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

Watch & Listen LIVE