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BOARD OF HEALTH MAKES NYC CONSISTENT WITH NEW YORK STATE AND MOST OF THE UNITED STATES BY ALLOWING SEX-SPECIFIC TRANSGENDER BIRTH CERTIFICATES : Press Release : NYC DOHMH
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release # 115-06
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
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BOARD OF HEALTH MAKES NYC CONSISTENT WITH NEW YORK STATE AND MOST OF THE UNITED STATES BY ALLOWING SEX-SPECIFIC TRANSGENDER BIRTH CERTIFICATES
Health Department Withdraws Proposal to Change Standard for Certifying Gender Change, Citing Broader Social Implications and Forthcoming Federal Rules
NEW YORK CITY – December 5, 2006 – The New York City Board of Health today approved the Health Department’s proposal to allow transgender individuals to acquire new birth certificates reflecting their acquired sex. The change makes New York City policy consistent with practices in New York State and most of the United States. The City’s Office of Vital Statistics has amended birth certificates for transgender individuals since 1971, but until now revised birth certificates have not designated the acquired gender. "The new form will enable transgender individuals to document their acquired identity,"said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden. "The new gender-specific birth certificate will make it easier for transgender people to live, work and travel."
Though it approved the proposal to allow changes of gender on birth certificates, the Board concurred with the Health Department’s recommendation to withdraw a measure that would have created a new standard for certifying a change of gender. The Department’s draft proposal would have allowed the issuance of new birth certificates to individuals who had made a full gender transition – whether surgical or medical – and expected to remain permanently in the newly acquired gender. Applicants would have needed "reliable documented evidence from a licensed physician and a mental health professional that they had completed the transition from one gender to the other and intended to permanently remain in their acquired gender."
After reviewing that plan and input received during the public comments period, the Health Department concluded that the proposal would have broader societal ramifications than anticipated. Besides being a key element of identity, gender has important implications for many societal institutions that need to segregate people by sex. These include hospitals, schools and jails, as well as some workplaces.
In withdrawing the second proposal, the Health Department also cited forthcoming federal regulations which are anticipated in 2007 and which are anticipated to include provisions on birth-certificate security, death-birth matching, and verification of driver’s license applications with birth certificates.
The Health Code will continue to require proof that the applicant has undergone convertive surgery. Upon approval of the application, the Office of Vital Records will issue an amended birth certificate and the original birth record will be placed under seal.
The New York Times
December 6, 2006
City Drops Plan to Change Definition of Gender
By DAMIEN CAVE
New York City’s Board of Health unexpectedly withdrew a proposal yesterday that would have allowed people to alter the sex on their birth certificates without sex-change surgery.
The plan, if passed, would have put New York at the forefront of a movement to eliminate anatomical considerations when defining gender. It had been lauded by some mental health professionals and transgender advocates who said it would reduce discrimination against men and women who lived as members of the opposite sex.
But after the proposed change was widely publicized recently, board members and officials with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said that a surge of new concerns arose. Vital records experts said that new federal rules regarding identification documents, due next year, could have forced the policy to be scrapped.
Health officials said patients at hospitals asked how doctors would determine who would be assigned to the bed next to them. And among law enforcement officials, there were concerns about whether prisoners with altered birth certificates could be housed with female prisoners — even if they still had male anatomies.
“This is something we hadn’t fully thought through, frankly,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner. “What the birth certificate shows does have implications beyond just what the birth certificate shows.”
The board did approve a more minor change: Under a law passed in 1971, people who can prove that they had sex-change surgery could delete the male or female designation from their birth certificates. Now, they can change it.
Dr. Frieden said that this would bring New York City in line with most of the country and would help alleviate the transgender community’s concerns about discrimination. He said that going any further would have thrust New York into uncharted territory.
“We felt going into it that it was fairly standard, that other states had it on the books,” Dr. Frieden said. “But as we looked into it, we discovered that it was implicit, not explicit.”
He said it was “unfortunate” that the panel of experts convened by the department to address the proposal did not include anyone from institutions that may have been affected, like jails, schools or hospitals.
The panel instead consisted of doctors, mental-health professionals and advocates who overwhelmingly supported the plan.
Board members said the city should not act alone. Though the board has eagerly jumped ahead with bans on trans fats and smoking in restaurants, it decided against legislating gender on its own.
“We are not the only Department of Health. There is also the New York State Department of Health, federal regulations, and we cannot make this decision alone, said Dr. Sixto R. Caro, a board member and private practitioner in Brooklyn and Manhattan. “We must make the decision together with the Department of Health of New York State. That’s one of the reasons we had no choice but to wait.”
But according to some supporters of the withdrawn proposal, the motivations behind the city’s decision may have more to do with comments like the one sent to the health department by e-mail that asked, “Are you guys losing all sense of moral values?”
James Jay Carafano, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group, said that the new federal identification rules would leave room for public and private agencies to address the issue of the gender.
However, transgender advocates accused the city of bowing to pressure from institutions and residents who feared interacting too closely with men who live as women and women who live as men. They noted that the city would have required doctors to verify that the gender change was permanent.
“I fear that because of the public attention the proposed change had attracted, they lacked the courage to give the proposed amendment the consideration it deserved,” said Shannon Minter, a board member and lawyer for Transgender Law and Policy Institute in New York. “That’s very disappointing.”
During its meeting yesterday, the Board of Health also voted to allow the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation to codify an informal policy that for the past two decades has allowed dogs off their leashes in certain areas of city parks from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. Owners walking dogs will be required to carry licenses and of proof of rabies vaccinations, and the Health Department may rescind the policy if there is an increase in preventable dog bites or risk of rabies.
The proposal generated enormous public interest. More than 13,200 people expressed support for the change, including 11,312 who signed petitions. Only 202 individuals and groups opposed the change, citing concerns about attacks by dogs, irresponsible owners and animal feces.
Sewell Chan contributed reporting.
NY rejects transgender birth certificate law
Tue Dec 5, 2006 6:07pm ET
By Daniel Trotta
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City's health department on Tuesday rejected a proposal that would have allowed transgender people to switch the gender on their birth certificates without a sex-change operation.
Advocates who had been praising the proposal as ground-breaking for the rights of transgender people called it a frustrating setback when officials rescinded the proposal just before it was due for a vote by the board of health.
Had it passed, people who live in the gender opposite their genitalia would have been able to acquire a new birth certificate if they had the backing of doctors and mental health professionals.
The health department cited "broader societal ramifications" for killing the proposal, noting that hospitals, schools and jails still must classify people by gender.
"For example, how can you send a person with a penis to a women's prison?" said one health department official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak for the department.
New York City's health department, which keeps birth and death records, had made the proposal in recognition that many transgender people cannot afford sex reassignment surgery or do not consider it necessary to live in their acquired gender.
Some transgender people get by just on hormone treatments and others cannot have the operation for health reasons, all while still living in the gender that does not correspond to their anatomy.
The transgender rights movement has grown in recent years to protect a small minority whose members tend to be poorer and more susceptible to violence than society at large, advocates say.
The city did alter one aspect of the law to permit transgender people who have had gender reassignment surgery to get a new birth certificate noting their new gender.
Until now, those birth certificates have not identified either gender.
"We are disappointed but we are not going to take defeat and walk away. We are going to try again and get an even better law the next time around," said Michael Silverman, executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund.
"It feels like it was a missed opportunity to do the right thing," he said.
New York City backs off rule change regarding birth certificates and gender
The Associated Press
Published: December 5, 2006
NEW YORK: City health officials Tuesday backed off a plan that would have allowed New Yorkers to switch the sex on their birth certificates without first undergoing sex-change surgery.
Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said the issue needed further study, in part to guarantee it would not conflict with federal rules now being developed.
Like most other cities and states, New York has long allowed people who have undergone sex-change surgery to get a new birth certificate reflecting the change.
The city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene had proposed in September that the policy be liberalized further to include people who had taken other steps short of surgery to irrevocably alter their gender identity.
While it delayed making that change, the Board of Health went ahead with a related policy revision that for the first time will allow people who have undergone sex-change surgery to list their new sex on their birth documents. Previously, the city had simply issued a new birth certificate that removed any reference to gender.
NY Bd Of Health Rejects Transsexual ID Proposal
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: December 5, 2006 5:00 pm ET
(New York City) The New York City Board of Health voted Tuesday to turn down a measure that would have allowed transgender men and women to amend their birth certificates without requiring that they undergo sex reassignment surgery.
The unanimous vote came despite a strong recommendation from its own staff and four years of consultation by an eight-member panel of transgender experts and vital records offices across the country.
Under the proposal a person requesting the change in documentation would have to provide affidavits from a doctor and a mental health professional documenting the reason for the change and asserting that the proposed change would be permanent. Applicants also would have to have changed their name and be able to prove that they had lived in their corrected gender for at least two years.
In rejecting the plan transsexuals will continue to have completed gender reassignment surgery before their birth certificates could be altered.
The city's health commissioner says officials need to look more carefully at the issue. One concern is whether it would conflict with federal identity document rules being developed.
Transgender people are estimated to number in the tens of thousands in New York City and face severe and pervasive discrimination as a result of their inability to obtain identification, including birth certificates, that matches the gender in which they live said Michael Silverman, Executive Director of the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund.
Silverman said that efforts to secure employment, travel and even do mundane tasks like enter office buildings are fraught with difficulty for transgender people whose identification does not match their gender presentation.
"The proposal recognized the reality of transgender people’s lives and the severe and pervasive discrimination that they experience on a day-to-day basis,” said Silverman.
"For many transgender people, sex reassignment surgery is a financial impossibility. For others, it’s medically inappropriate. And still others choose not to undergo surgery for a variety of personal reasons"
Silverman said his organization will press forward with the trans community’s demand "for a sensible birth certificate policy that allows all transgender people – and not just those who can afford to access expensive health care – to obtain birth certificates that reflect who they are."
US: Being transgender no longer about surgery in NY