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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 12, 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 50
NYC OKs official gender change without surgery
Section One
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NYC OKs official gender change without surgery

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

New York City decided on December 8 to allow Transgender residents to change the gender markers on their birth certificates without having to prove they had gender reassignment surgery.

The measure, introduced by City Council member Corey Johnson, passed 39-4 with three abstentions. The city's Health Board updated its regulations the next day.

The new policy requires that Trans people wishing to change their birth certificates present a statement from their healthcare providers saying that their actual gender is not accurately recorded on the birth certificate. They previously had to provide documentation of surgery.

This new legislation comes after the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF) sued the city of behalf of its clients Joann Prinzivalli, Patricia Harrington, Marco Wylie, and Naz Seenauth. The TLDEF characterized the suit as the 'first-of-its-kind' in U.S. law.

The change brings New York City, which issues its own birth certificates, into line with New York state policy. The New York State Department of Health said in June that they would no longer require documentation of sex reassignment surgery.

'We are thrilled by the passage of this legislation,' TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman said in a statement.

'Today's action will dramatically improve the lives of transgender people born in New York City. We thank Councilmember Corey Johnson, the City Council and the Board of Health for taking action. The city's policy served only to harm transgender people and they moved to change it. We also thank the many activists and advocates who have worked tirelessly to ensure that the city's harmful policy will be changed.'

'This change comes as welcome news to the many New Yorkers struggling with harassment, discrimination, and endless bureaucratic nightmares all because they lack identification documents that match who they are,' New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman said.

'We applaud the City Council and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for their efforts to promote equal opportunity for transgender New Yorkers.'

According to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project - named for Stonewall rebel Sylvia Rivera - New York City's policy prevented many Trans people from getting legal documents like driver's licenses and passports that were needed to prove eligibility to work, or apply for housing programs and other social services.

'Having a birth certificate that shows the wrong gender can make doing any of those things difficult or impossible,' the Sylvia Rivera Law Project said.

'When we show a certificate with a gender other than the one we live in, we are often accused of fraud, turned away, or harassed, attacked, humiliated, or discriminated against because of our gender. Even in the best of cases we face embarrassment, confusion, and delays.'

According to the New York Times, only 25% of Trans people have had any surgical procedures related to their transition, and many choose not to because surgery is expensive and can pose significant health risks.

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