NEW YORK (AP) — Transgender New Yorkers on Monday called for the passage of city legislation that would eliminate a requirement that they have gender-reassignment surgery to change their designated gender on their birth certificates.
They and their advocates, at a hearing of the City Council's Health Committee, spoke in favor of the bill that would eliminate the requirement and, instead, authorize a health professional to provide an affidavit saying the record change is a more accurate reflection of the person's gender.
"Having this law changed for trans people would be a major step for human rights," said Marco Wylie, 29, a transgender man and a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the city over the current regulation. "It doesn't make sense that you can change your gender and name on every single form of identification, but not on your birth certificate. People need congruency."
Eliminating the surgery requirement would put New York City, which issues its own birth certificates, in line with the state. California, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, D.C., also have removed surgery requirements.
Speakers at the hearing said that requiring proof of surgery is a burden on transgender people since not all decide to have surgery and not all can afford the expensive procedure. They said the requirement leaves many with a birth certificate that doesn't match their lives and sets them up for discrimination in instances when a birth certificate is required as proof of identification, such as some government programs.
Assistant Commissioner Gretchen Van Wye of the Bureau of Vital Statistics also spoke in favor of the bill. She said the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which includes the bureau, has a list of almost two dozen transgender people to call to let them know if the law is changed. She said they are among those who've applied to make the record change in recent years but couldn't do so under current rules.
She said the department also is looking into an amendment to the health code that would allow the agency to make the same rule change. A public hearing on the amendment is scheduled next month, she said. If the City Council passes the legislation, the department wouldn't need to pursue the amendment.
The City Council could vote on the proposal by year's end.