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Proposal Would Allow Transgender New Yorkers to More Easily Change Birth Certificate

Nina Liss-Schultz

For transgender people in New York City, changing the gender on a city birth certificate could become much easier under a set of proposals that would move the definition of gender transition away from sexual anatomy and toward gender identity.

For transgender people in New York City, changing the gender on a city birth certificate could become much easier under a set of proposals that would move the definition of gender transition away from sexual anatomy and toward personal gender identity.

The proposals, introduced Tuesday by both the city council and the de Blasio administration, will allow trans people in the city to change the gender on their birth certificate without showing proof of surgery, hormone therapy, or other medical treatments.

Instead, trans people interested in altering their birth certificates can do so with a note from any of a number of health-care professionals attesting that the change will more accurately reflect their gender identity.

“It’s going to improve the lives of transgender New Yorkers and allow them to get birth certificates that match their accurate gender,” Council member Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan), the bill’s sponsor, said on Tuesday. “Gender won’t be about your physicality. It won’t be about your body. It’s about how you identify.”

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The U.S. State Department in 2010 got rid of a requirement that people undergo “convertive surgery” before changing their passports. And earlier this year, New York state passed a law loosening the requirements for birth certificate changes by allowing trans people to submit a certificate from a medical provider showing that “appropriate clinical treatment” is occurring.

New York City has lagged behind. Current city law requires both proof of “convertive surgery” and a court-ordered name change. Both requirements would be removed under the new policies. Old birth records would be sealed, according to the New York Times.

Vermont, California, and Oregon have also gotten rid of the surgery requirement for birth certificate changes.

Only 20 percent of transgender people are able to update all of their records and IDs to match their gender, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Four in ten transgender people reported faced harassment when using an ID that did not match their gender expression.

Johnson said Tuesday that his bill is the most progressive in the country.

“When people’s gender isn’t portrayed accurately, it causes problems. They get turned down from jobs. …They may be accused of fraud, turned away, harassed, attacked,” Carrie Davis, chief programs and policy officer at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, said on Tuesday. “In the best cases, they face embarrassment, confusion, and delays.”

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