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Former Fargo resident sues Alabama for alleged transgender discrimination

Darcy Jeda Corbitt speaks during a rally in Fargo on June 19, 2016. Forum News Service file photo

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A former Fargo resident is suing officials in her home state of Alabama, alleging discrimination against transgender people.

Darcy Jeda Corbitt, 25, is one of three plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday, Feb. 6. Corbitt v. Taylor is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, and claims Alabama's requirements for changing the gender designation on driver's licenses makes it difficult or impossible for transgender people.

Corbitt moved to Fargo in 2015 and was a health psychology doctoral student at North Dakota State University for two years, during which she launched an advocacy nonprofit, the Darcy Jeda Corbitt Foundation.

She moved to Auburn, Ala., last summer to study at Auburn University, and tried to trade in her North Dakota license for an Alabama ID on Aug. 16. She said the clerk's demeanor changed when the woman saw Corbitt was previously listed as male in Alabama records.

"This clerk chose to publicly humiliate me by loudly discussing my gender identity, the most intimate part of my life, in a room full of strangers," Corbitt wrote on her website, adding that the clerk referred to her as "he," "him" and "it."

Corbitt was told she wasn't eligible to change the gender on her license. She said the experience made her feel "filthy and dirty," and she felt trapped by an official who held power in the situation.

"It was this really weird experience of sitting here and having to be respectful to this human being that was being so absolutely cruel and disrespectful to me," she said.

According to the suit, Alabama is one of nine states that requires gender reassignment surgery or a court order that includes proof of a surgery before it will allow a gender change on a license.

An attorney with the ACLU of Alabama said it's "baffling" because surgery is not required federally. "Surgery is not what all transgender people need, want or can afford," Brock Boone said in a written statement.

Corbitt said the suit aims to make Alabama update its policies. Even if successful, a legal victory might mean little for her because she doesn't plan to stay after college.

"There's people who are stuck here, and they need this," she said.

Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson is the Features Editor for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He previously wrote for The Forum and the Grand Forks Herald.

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