The Sylvia Rivera Law Project is excited to announce that after ten years of hard work and negotiations New York State has made an important policy change that eliminates barriers to identity documents by allowing transgender New Yorkers to change the gender marker on their birth certificate without undergoing surgery.
People born in New York State (outside of New York City) can change the gender marker on their birth certificate by submitting a completed Department of Health Application for Correction of Certificate of Birth, a certified copy of the their current birth certificate, and a notarized affidavit from a physician or physician’s assistant. To read the full requirements, visit http://srlp.org/birthcertificate
The previous policy, which was in effect since the 1970s, allowed people to obtain new birth certificates that reflected their gender only if they provided extensive evidence of invasive surgeries that many transgender people do not undergo–whether for financial, health, or personal reasons. This was out of date, inconsistent with current medical assessments of transgender healthcare, and a major contributing factor to widespread discrimination against transgender people. Without a birth certificate accurately reflecting their current gender, trans people can face serious obstacles in accessing employment, housing, services, and other identity documents. Having documentation that doesn’t match current gender can often trigger bias, harassment, discrimination, or groundless accusations of fraud.
According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 40% of transgender people have faced harassment when presenting identity documents that did not match their gender identity/expression. In addition, 15% report being denied entry or asked to leave because of gender mismatches, and 3% report facing physical assault due to mismatched ID.
The new policy makes obtaining gender-affirming documentation more accessible and will increase safety and access to basic needs for transgender people in New York. SRLP achieved this victory working in coalition with the Empire State Pride Agenda, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, National Center for Transgender Equality, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the Peter Cicchino Youth Project of the Urban Justice Center.
“We are pleased with this policy change because it removes onerous and often inaccessible surgical requirements for trans people to affirm their gender on their birth certificate,” says Pooja Gehi, SRLP’s Immigrant Justice Project Director. “The new policy will help us work to increase safety and reduce violence, discrimination, and harassment.”
However, the new policy does not extend to all transgender New Yorkers. People born in New York City, youth, and people in prison are excluded. The official policy requires a court-ordered gender change for an incarcerated person or a person under community supervision to change their birth certificate, but the process described in the policy is not possible in New York State.
Because no such process exists, transgender people in prison continue to be excluded from accessing gender-affirming documentation.
You can support our work to continue pushing for a policy that includes all trans New Yorkers by spreading the word about this issue and by making a donation at http://srlp.org/donate. Thank you for your support!