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NYC Council eases requirements for transgender people to change ID

The new proposal allows people to change the sex designation on their birth certificates without having to provide proof of gender reassignment surgery.
New York City Councilman Corey Johnson speaks at a hearing introducing legislation making it easier for transgender people to change the sex on their birth certificates, Nov. 10, 2014.
New York City Councilman Corey Johnson speaks at a hearing introducing legislation making it easier for transgender people to change the sex on their birth certificates, Nov. 10, 2014.

The New York City Council has made it easier for people to change their birth certificates in line with their gender identities, a move that is expected to reduce discrimination among the Big Apple’s transgender community.

By a vote of 39-4, with three abstentions, lawmakers approved a measure Monday allowing people to alter the sex on their birth certificates, provided they present documentation from a health care professional indicating a mismatch between their assigned gender at birth and their expressed or experienced gender in life. Previously, the city required proof that a person had undergone sex reassignment surgery in order to amend a birth certificate.

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The list of professionals who can recommend a sex designation change is broad, making New York City’s bill slightly more progressive than similar policies that exist elsewhere. Anyone from a licensed physician to a midwife can provide the required affidavit stating that an applicant’s requested correction to a birth certificate accurately reflects that applicant’s gender identity.

Monday’s decision marks a long-awaited policy shift from one that required proof of “convertive” surgery, usually interpreted to mean genital surgery, before a transgender person could receive a new birth certificate. That portion of the Health Code had not been amended since 1971.

Several other jurisdictions have dropped the sex reassignment surgery prerequisite for making such changes to a birth certificate, including California, Iowa, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Washington, D.C. The American Psychological Association, World Professional Association for Transgender Health, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are among the numerous professional organizations that have called for similar policies.

As Councilman Corey Johnson, the bill’s sponsor, told The New York Times recently, the measure reflects a growing understanding of gender that is “less about your physicality and more about how you live as a human being.”

With a lower bar to changing the sex designation on birth records, LGBT advocates anticipate fewer instances of anti-transgender discrimination in employment and housing. Forty percent of transgender people have faced harassment when presenting ID that does not match their gender identity or expression, according to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. The policy shift is expected to allow more transgender individuals to work, pay taxes and participate in society.

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“We’re talking about a population where four in 10 experience extreme harassment and violence when presenting identification documents that don’t match their gender identities, a population that’s disproportionately impoverished. Anything that we can do as a city to assist them in having accurate ID should pay out for all of us,” said Carrie Davis, chief programs and policy officer at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, in an interview with msnbc.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign the bill into law.