ORANGE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- Katie Jenifer believes the fate of her daughter's life is in the hands of North Carolina lawmakers. She is pleading for their support.
"There's only so much I can do to protect her," said Jenifer. "I really need these folks to come alongside me and say your kid matters to us and we want to protect her. Until that happens, I'm always going to live with a level of fear for my child's safety."
The Orange County mom is a fierce advocate for her 14-year-old transgender teen. Her daughter is one of three plaintiffs listed in a 55 page federal lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal. The lawsuit challenges North Carolina's law requiring transgender people to have reassignment surgery in order to change their gender marker on their birth certificate. Jenifer calls it discriminatory.
"Some people just don't want surgery, shouldn't be forced to do that and some people physically can't have surgery for some reasons maybe it's their physicality that may not make them a good candidate for surgery," she said.
Carl Charles with Lambda Legal is one of three attorneys working on this case. He said North Carolina allows people to update gender markers on their driver's license without gender affirming surgery.
"If I'm a transgender person and I go through the process for securing employment. I present myself as the person I am. I say, this is who I am, my driver's license says I'm a man. You look at me and perceive me as a man. Suddenly, I hand over my birth certificate and that is not correct, that employer can look at me and not give me the job," Charles said. "So actually, the state's policies are a mismatch, which makes this birth certificate policy stand out in a glaring and discriminatory way."
According to Charles, the lawsuit is in its first steps of litigation and will take time to get a response, while Jenifer waits out a response that could impact her daughter's destiny.
"There's no one way to be trans or non-binary, so that shouldn't' be a barrier to getting your identity documents to reflect are as a person," she said.