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Initial Letter to Department of Vital Stats

Initial letter sent to the NYC Department of Health in 2002, about changing NYC’s birth certificate gender change policy

The City of New York Dept. of Health
125 Worth Street Room 144
New York, NY 10013-4090

November 18, 2002

Dear Dr. Weisfuse:

We are a coalition of organizations concerned with the civil rights of transgender New Yorkers. We have heard that you are currently in the process of evaluating the New York City policy regarding changing the gender marker on birth certificates. We are delighted to hear that you may be improving this policy, which has been an obstacle to many transgender New Yorkers when seeking employment, benefits, and services that require identity documentation. We are writing to request that you open up the reevaluation process to include the voices of those individuals and organizations who are most concerned with this issue and who will be most affected by the policy change.

As you are aware, the current policy was derived from the recommendations of the New York Academy of Medicine Commission which delivered its report to the Department of Health in 1965. We believe that after nearly 40 years, this policy is outdated. The medical and legal understandings of the transgender population that informed the Commission’s findings are not concordant with current views, and governmental agencies in this state and others have revised their policies to reflect current medical standards for treatment of gender dysphoria.

We strongly believe that the standard for gender change on birth certificates should be changed to conform to the Standards of Care developed by the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA). In accordance with HBIGDA’s guidelines, a new birth certificate should be issued with the gender marker changed to the new gender when appropriate medical treatment, as medically determined for the individual patient, has been undertaken. The Bureau of Vital Statistics should not dictate specific medical procedures, but should instead trust the documented determination of medical providers as to whether the individual has undertaken such treatment.

We request that you meet with representatives from our coalition to discuss how your policy revision process can include the views and experiences of the people who are affected by this policy. Please contact us by mail or by phone at (646) 602-5638 to arrange such a meeting.


Dean Spade
Sylvia Rivera Legal Resource Program
666 Broadway, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10031

Lisa Mottet
Legislative Lawyer
Transgender Civil Rights Project
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
1325 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20005

Christopher Daley and Dylan Vade
Transgender Law Center
1800 Market Street, Suite 408
San Francisco, CA 94102

Paisley Currah
Transgender Law & Policy Institute
c/o Department of Political Science
Brooklyn College of the City University of New York
2900 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11210

Shannon Minter
Legal Director
National Center for Lesbian Rights
870 Market Street, Suite 570
San Francisco, CA 94102

Armen H. Merjian
Senior Staff Attorney
330 West 38th Street, Suite 106
New York, NY 10018
(212)967-1500 x154

Richard Haymes
NYC Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project
Executive Director
240 West 35th St. Ste 200
New York, NY 10001

James Esseks
Legal Director
Lesbian and Gay Rights and AIDS Projects
American Civil Liberties Union
125 Broad Street
New York, NY 10004
(212) 549-2553

Ruth Harlow
Legal Director
Lambda Legal Defense & Education Fund
120 Wall Street, Suite 1500
New York, NY 10005

Barbara Olshansky
Assistant Legal Director
Center for Constitutional Rights
666 Broadway, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 614-6464

Doug Lasdon
Executive Director
Urban Justice Center
666 Broadway, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10031
(646) 602-5601

David Pumo
Peter Cicchino Youth Project
666 Broadway, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10031
(646) 602-5635

Carmen Vasquez
Director of Public Policy
New York City Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Community Services Center
208 West 13th Street
New York, NY 10011
(212) 620-7310

Tom Hickey
West Village Trans-Legal Clinic
208 West 13th Street
New York, NY 10011

cc: Wilfredo Lopez, Esq.
Thomas R. Frieden, M.D.
Isaac Weisfuse, M. D.

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