New York To Change Gender Options On Birth Certificates

By BTL Staff

NEW YORK - The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the New York City Council introduced policy and legislation recommendations Oct. 7 that will remove the surgical requirements for transgender residents in New York City to correct their gender markers on their birth certificates.

New York recently revised its birth certificate policy in June under Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. With the State Department of Health's leadership, outdated and invasive surgical requirements for transgender residents was removed from the policy. As the city handles its own certificates, additional legislation had to be implemented. The regulation will also remove any requirement to prove other medical treatment such as hormone therapy.

"Having such a critical document that correctly reflects your gender identity is a basic human right that too many transgender people have been denied for far too long," said Council Member Corey Johnson, who spearheaded the work and introduction of the policy. "Practically speaking, these measures will transform the lives of transgender individuals in so many ways that other people take for granted - from accessing government benefits and health coverage, to getting a job and using appropriate facilities."

"You don't realize the importance of having a birth certificate that accurately reflects who you are until you face the challenges that transgender New Yorkers regularly struggle with - harassment, denials of service, employment problems and other endless bureaucratic nightmares caused by a single ineradicable mark on their basic proof of identity," said Donna Lieberman, New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director. "We applaud Council Member Johnson and the Department of Health for taking this important step toward eliminating the discrimination faced by transgender New Yorkers in their everyday lives."

The New York Civil Liberties Union, Empire State Pride Agenda, Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, Sylvia Rivera Law Project, New York City's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, the New York Legal Assistance Group and many community leaders came forward to work towards the passing of this bill.

Changing this rule will bring New York City up to speed with many Federal agencies and states that already offer similar guidelines. For instance, in 2010, the U.S. Department of State updated its policy regarding Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, a federal birth certificate for U.S. Citizens born abroad, and U.S. passports to require that a person's treating or evaluating physician write a letter certifying that the person has undergone appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition. No proof of surgery is required.

Similarly, the Social Security Administration has eliminated its surgical requirements for amending gender markers. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 40 percent of transgender people have faced harassment when presenting identity documents that did not reflect their gender identity and gender expression. Fifteen percent reported being denied entry or asked to leave because of gender mismatches and 3 percent reported facing physical assault due to a mismatched ID card.


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