New York City
wants to make it easier for transgender New Yorkers to
switch the sex listed on their birth certificate, an
important issue for transgender people in an era when
official identity documents have become more essential
in everyday life.
city rules, only people who can show proof of a surgery
qualify for getting a revised birth certificate. Even then,
the only change made is the elimination of any
reference to gender on the document.
The new plan,
unveiled late last month, would let birth records reflect
the new gender for the first time. It would also allow
changes for people who haven't had genital surgery but
could show substantial proof that they have undertaken
other steps to irrevocably alter their gender
identity, like undergoing hormone therapy.
The policy change
is one that advocates for New York's sizable
transgender population have requested for years but which
has taken on greater significance in a
post-September 11 world.
New Yorkers need
to show a picture ID to enter office towers, air
terminals, public monuments, and all sorts of government
buildings. They need them to apply for a job or buy
beer at a neighborhood deli. The trouble comes when
someone inspects those documents and notices that a
person's listed gender doesn't appear to match the way they
look and dress.
"That can be a
very dangerous situation for a transgender person,"
said Cole Thaler, transgender rights attorney for the
national legal aid group Lambda Legal. "In today's post-9/11
climate, where everyone is more worried than usual
about things like fraud or identity theft, it can be
particularly difficult for a transgender person."
having a birth certificate with a gender that matches a
person's appearance will ease the way to getting other
government records, including passports, drivers
licenses, and Social Security records.
deputy commissioner of New York City's Department of Health
and Mental Hygiene, called the current system "outdated."
"A lot of
transgender persons use different techniques to switch
genders," she said. Some try hormones. A smaller number
undergo surgery--in part because not everyone is
medically capable of undergoing the procedure. "Some
do neither but essentially make a lifestyle change,"
All but three
states now allow people who have had a sex change to get a
new birth certificate, and New York City's vital records
division has done so since 1971.
New York City now
issues about a dozen of the revised birth certificates
a year. No estimate was available on how many more might be
issued under the new rules, which could be approved by
the city's Board of Health as soon as December.
Of the states
that allow similar changes to birth certificates, almost
all currently require proof of gender-reassignment surgery.
Only one state,
Tennessee, has a law expressly prohibiting a change of
gender on a birth certificate, but Ohio and Idaho also won't
allow the change because of court rulings or as a
matter of administrative policy. (AP)