09 December 2014

Now You Don't Need Surgery To Change Your Birth Certificate (At Least, Here In NYC)

I have some good news today:  Here in New York City, a person won't need to have gender-reassignment surgery to have the gender changed on his or her birth certificate.

Yesterday, the City Council voted 39-5 (with three abstensions) to pass a bill which does away with the requirement for surgery.  Now, all a trans person needs is for one of a long list of health- and social-service providers to certify that he or she identifies with a gender other than the one on his or her birth certificate.  This policy is said to be one of the most liberal in the United States.

What makes this particularly good news here in NYC is that we have a large (or, at least, larger than just about anywhere else) population of poor and homeless trans people, especially youths, who need the services provided by city and state agencies, not to mention medical care.  Too often, they can't access those services because their IDs (which usually indicate the same gender and name as their birth certificates) don't match up with what is seen by the receptionist, clerk or other person to whom that ID is presented.  Or, too often, such trans folk (again, especially youths) don't have ID at all.

Also, most people don't realize that our ID dilemma makes us more vulnerable to identity theft and other kinds of fraud committed in our name.  Nobody seems to have statistics on this matter, but I would venture that it happens to us more often than most people realize--and, contrary to a common perception, far more often than we commit fraud to get ID with our true genders and the names by which we identify ourselves.

I think most of us knew that, sooner or later, the surgery requirement would be scrapped.  What made the process perhaps a bit longer and more arduous than it is in some other places is that here in NYC, birth certificates are issued by the Department of Health and Mental Hygeine.  It's a bit more difficult to pass legislation that mandates their policies than it is to tell a court or department of vital records (the entities that issue birth certificates in most places) what to do.

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