identity politics

It’s About to Get Easier to Update the Sex on Your Birth Certificate

Photo: Wayne Fogden/Getty Images

Transgender New Yorkers are getting a little help from the City Council: A newly proposed bill will change the requirements for updating the sex field on birth certificates, allowing it to correspond to a person’s identity rather than on steps taken to physically transition. 

New York State has had an expansive definition of sex for years, and current requirements simply require a physician to say that “appropriate clinical treatment” is occurring — a broad category that could mean hormonal treatments, or simply counseling. The state does not require proof of surgical intervention to update the sex marker. New York City, however, lagged behind on that shift.

Not anymore: The proposal, introduced Tuesday and backed by both the City Council speaker and Mayor de Blasio’s administration, not only changes the requirements, but also expands the range of health-care providers qualified to make this assessment. In addition to doctors and psychotherapists, physicians’ assistants, nurse practitioners, and midwives will now be able to confirm that a document change “more accurately reflects the applicant’s sex,” based on “contemporary expert standards regarding gender identity.” The new regulations would also nix a prior requirement for a name change. 

When people’s gender isn’t portrayed accurately, it causes problems. They get turned down from jobs … They may be accused of fraud, turned away, harassed, attacked,” said the LGBT Community Center’s Carrie Davis, describing the importance of the change. “In the best cases, they face embarrassment, confusion, and delays.”

New York City is one of several dozen jurisdictions in the country that have control of their own birth records, which means the state’s regulations on changing sex markers do not apply. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a similar proposal to remove surgical requirements in January.

NYC Updating Birth-Certificate Sex-Change Rules