12 November 2014

Will They Strike Surgery Out Of The Requirements?

Those of us who live in New York City often decry our state's lawmakers, who tend to be more socially and politically conservative than their counterparts here in the Big Apple. "Those upstate Republicans" in the state Senate are, in our view, responsible for everything retrograde that burdens our city and state.

For example, they spent decades blocking the inclusion of language that would extend the provisions of the state's non-discrimination laws to transgender people.  The same year they first rejected such a proposal--1971--they also passed the Urstadt Law, which took away the City's power to pass local rent regulations more stringent than those of the State.

But there's one city-state discrepancy that can't be blamed on the "upstate Republicans":  If you were born anywhere in New York State except for the five boroughs of New York City, you can change the gender on your birth certificate on a recommendation from your doctor, psychotherapist  or, in some cases, other health-care professionals whose services you used.  On the other hand, if you were born in the Bronx, Brooklyn, New York (Manhattan), Queens or Richmond (Staten Island) counties, you have to undergo gender-reassignment surgery.

The five boroughs of New York City constitute one of the 57 jurisdictions in the US that has responsibility for its own birth registration.  Most of those jurisdictions are states, and someone applying for a change in his or her birth certificate (or, in some states, a new one)  would write to the state's commission of health or its equivalent. Most states require proof of GRS or an equivalent procedure (as Georgia, where I was born, does); a few (including California, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington DC) do not and a few other states (Idaho, Kansas, Ohio and Tennessee) will not change the gender on a birth certificate for any reason.

So, interestingly, I had about the same experience in getting my new birth certificate from Georgia that I would have had if I'd been born in New York City.  To be fair, the folks in the Peachtree State processed my application quickly and I had my new birth certificate within days. 

I don't know how quickly or slowly the  process works here in the Big Apple. But it would almost certainly go more smoothly--and be easier on the applicant--if transgender advocates' testimony at a City Council Health Committee hearing the other day have any effect.  They are calling for passage of a proposal that would eliminate the requirement for surgery, and Gretchen Van Wye, Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of Vital Statistics spoke in favor of such a legislative move.

The City Council could vote on the proposal by the end of this year.

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