Updated March 2017
Since the Sylvia Rivera Law Project opened our doors in 2002, we have been at the forefront of the battle to make birth certificate changes more accessible to transgender people. Since 1971, New York City and State’s rules for a person changing their gender on their birth certificate had been very restrictive, requiring extensive evidence of invasive surgeries that many transgender people do not undergo – whether for financial, health, or personal reasons. Without a birth certificate accurately reflecting their current gender, trans people can face serious obstacles in accessing employment, housing, services, and other critical identity documents. Having documentation that doesn’t match your current gender can often trigger bias, harassment, discrimination, physical violence, or groundless accusations of fraud.
While our battle for a New York City and New York State birth certificate policy that didn’t require proof of surgery was a success in December 2014, we continue our fight for prisoners, youth born in New York State, and transgender parents, the ability to self-attest to your gender, fee waivers, and gender marker options that reflect the diversity of the TGNCI community, such as non-binary designations or designations for gender non-conforming people, non-binary people, and intersex people who want a designation other than male or female.
The materials linked below document the history of our work on this issue and may be helpful to activists working on similar issues elsewhere. Read about some of our work here:
SRLP’s Work on Birth Certificates
December 8, 2014: New York City Council voted to pass legislation that removes the surgical requirements for transgender people born in New York City to correct the gender markers on their birth certificates. While this is great progress, this policy does not encompass transgender, gender non-conforming, intersex, and non-binary people who may want a designation other than male or female.
October – November 2014: New York City Council proposed a policy that will allow transgender people to change the gender marker on their birth certificate without undergoing surgery. SRLP participates in public hearings with City Council on 11/10/14 and the Department of Health on 11/17/14.
- Sign the petition: Take a two-minute action for trans lives! (November 7, 2014)
- TUNE IN at 7 PM on 10/16: SRLP Attorney John Skwiersky to Speak on Birth Certificates with Corey Johnson on NY1 (October 16, 2014)
- SRLP Commends New York City Council on Proposed Birth Certificate Policy (October 9, 2014)
June 2014: New York State updated its birth certificate policy to allow transgender New Yorkers to change the gender marker on their birth certificate without undergoing surgery. While a positive step in our work to increase access to identity documents for trans people, this policy excludes people born in New York City, youth, and people in prison.
- BREAKING: New York State Updates Birth Certificate Policy, Removing Surgical Requirement (June 5, 2014)
- How to Change Your Gender Marker on Your Birth Certificate in New York State
December 2006: New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) withdrew a proposed amendment to the Health Code that would have given access to accurate birth certificates to many transgender people.
October 2006: The New York City Department of Health proposed changes to their birth certificate policy.
2002 – 2003: Below are the letters we sent to the DOHMH, which may be useful to you if you are doing similar advocacy in your city or state.
- Initial Letter to Department of Vital Stats
- Leave Behind for Meeting at Vital Stats
- Follow Up Letter about Legal Issues