Getting To “X”: A Cedar Rapids Teenager’s Journey To The Right Gender

Kennedy High School sophomore one of the first to receive an “X” on his Iowa birth certificate.
Published: Oct. 22, 2020 at 8:03 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - If life is defined by a few, distinct moments, Wynn Greenlee was in the middle of one on a recent Saturday morning.

In his living room. With a television camera rolling and a microphone hooked up to his collar.

Being a 15-year-old is difficult enough.

On this morning, Wynn talked about who he really is and why the calls and e-mails his parents have sent and keep sending matter. Wynn knows he’s not the only one.

“It was something I needed to do for the future and to feel comfortable with my identity and just to help other people understand that,” said the sophomore at Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School.

Wynn is talking about his birth certificate. We all get one with the usual information printed out. Full name. Date of birth. Time of birth. Gender.

Two summers ago, Wynn decided he wanted to change the gender line on his birth certificate.

Renee and Chad Greenlee, Wynn's parents, look through the stack of documentation in their...
Renee and Chad Greenlee, Wynn's parents, look through the stack of documentation in their attempt to change Wynn's birth certificate gender from female to "X".(Staff)

In 2005, Wynn was born a female with a different first name. In 2020, Wynn identifies as “non-binary”, meaning neither male nor female but Wynn does use “he” or “him” as pronouns. Out of respect for Wynn’s journey, we agreed to his request to not show any pictures from the distant past or to even reveal his birth name in this story.

“We applied to get Wynn’s name changed and the sex-designation changed at the same time,” said his mother, Renee Greenlee. “We received communication back and a new birth certificate that had Wynn’s name change but not the gender change. We were confused and we figured out how to maneuver the process to get the gender designation changed.”

This led to Renee and Chad, Wynn’s father, to send plenty of e-mails and make plenty of calls to the Iowa Department of Public Health. Renee said, in August 2019, they got the affidavit in from Wynn’s doctor for the gender change to proceed. The Greenlees said a gender change request in Iowa, typically, takes a few weeks.

The weeks shifted into months. Some of the hurdles were basic logistics.

“The printer didn’t print ‘X’,” said Chad Greenlee. “It only printed ‘M’ or ‘F’. The software wasn’t available. Every time we go to register or do something, there’s another process.”

In December 2019, the updated birth certificate arrived with Wynn’s name on it and and “X” for the gender. The Greenlees believe that Wynn may be the first person in Iowa to actually request and receive an “X” on a birth certificate.

Some might see this as just a sheet of paper. This is personal and well as practical for him.

“It’s kind of frustrating because there’s been a lot of surveys in doctors' offices and it’s hard because you only have two options.”

Renee Greenlee said that Wynn has battled through anxiety and depression from these changes, calling it “devastating at times” to witness, as a parent.

“If I had to choose something that wasn’t available to me, then I would have to re-live it and step back and make a choice that doesn’t fit,” said Chad Greenlee.

The Greenlees also believe there are others in Iowa who may be facing this question as they get older and encounter forms for birth certificates, health questionnaires, report cards, school applications. The forms that we all fill out in society, many of us circling or writing in “F” or “M” without a hesitation.

The National Center For Transgender Equality looks into requirements to update gender information on state-issued documents, such as drivers' licenses and birth certificates. In April, the Center reported ten states allowed “gender-neutral”, such as an “X” on the birth certificate. Iowa was not one of the ten in the report.

When grading how friendly a state is for a gender change on a drivers' license, the Center gave Iowa and eight other states and “F” because of the requirements to made it happen.

Now Wynn and his parents have moved past the birth certificate but this is an issue they are still working through. Currently, the Greenlees are trying to get the Iowa Department of Education to offer an “X” as an option for school correspondence, such as a report card. For Wynn, seeing “female” or “F” on a report card is a reminder of that past.

This is exactly why Wynn Greenlee agreed to put on a microphone and tell us about who he is and what he is trying to accomplish.

“It was a big step and I feel like it’s very good for the future for me to be able, in a job, to say ‘yeah, this is official and this is who I am’.”

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