NYC Council & Health Department Move to End Discriminatory Birth Certificate Policy

NYC Council LogoCouncilmember Johnson to Introduce Legislation and Department of Health to Put Forth Proposed Regulations to End Surgery Requirement for Transgender People Seeking to Match Their Birth Certificates With Their True Selves

October 7, 2014 - TLDEF praises New York City Councilmember Corey Johnson and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for simultaneous actions set for today that will move the city one step closer to ending discrimination against transgender people who are trying to match their birth certificates with who they really are.  Councilmember Johnson will introduce a bill to eliminate the surgery requirement for transgender people seeking to change the sex designation on their birth certificates, in favor of an affidavit from a licensed health care provider stating that the sex designation on the applicant’s current birth record does not match the applicant’s true sex. The Department of Health will propose new regulations mirroring the legislation.

“We applaud both of these efforts to help transgender people born in New York City update their birth certificates to match who they truly are. These proposed policy changes reflect modern medical standards for transgender health care,” said TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman. “A birth certificate is a fundamental form of identification. Yet New York City’s existing policy makes it all but impossible for transgender people to get birth certificates that reflect their true identities. It requires surgical procedures that most transgender people have not undergone, either because of discriminatory health insurance exclusions that make such procedures unaffordable, or because such procedures are medically inappropriate for some people.”

Today’s actions come in response to pressure from activists, including TLDEF’s pending lawsuit against New York City challenging its surgical requirement. The lawsuit is the first to challenge a surgical requirement for correcting whether someone is classified as "male" or "female" on a birth certificate. The suit, pending in New York State Supreme Court, alleges that the city's surgical requirement is arbitrary, and that it subjects transgender people to harassment and discrimination in violation of the New York City Human Rights Law.

This past June New York State updated its birth certificate policy to remove its surgery requirement, but that change did not impact New York City, which issues its own birth certificates. The Federal Government and the States of California, Iowa, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia, also have birth certificate policies that recognize that an individual’s sex does not depend on surgical status. Last year the American Medical Association passed a resolution in support of policies “that allow for a change of sex designation on birth certificates for transgender individuals based upon verification by a physician that the individual has undergone transition according to applicable medical standards of care.” The World Professional Association for Transgender Health has also long supported this approach.

“The vast majority of transgender people have not undergone the surgical procedures demanded by the city before it will change the sex designation on birth certificates,” Silverman continued. “That leaves most transgender people with inaccurate birth certificates that do not reflect their true identities. And it leaves them to face harassment and discrimination whenever they need to show those inaccurate birth certificates. We are hopeful that the City Council and the Board of Health will change this harmful policy and improve the lives of transgender people.”

The New York City Board of Health is expected to vote on whether to adopt these new regulations put forth by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene when it meets again in December.