Hundreds have changed genders on NYC birth certificates

Posted at 12:31 PM, Mar 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-11 12:31:45-05

Over 700 New York residents have received amended birth certificates since 2015, according to a new report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

In 2014, the department and the City Council eased requirements for gender marker change applications. The new code went into effect in 2015, and since then, 731 change applications were approved, according to the report, released Thursday.

In previous years, only about 20 applications had been changed each year.

“The requirement allows a gender marker change on a birth certificate in New York City to be processed upon receipt of an affirmation or affidavit written by a licensed medical or mental health provider,” according to the health department. The code previously required proof of gender change surgery.

“As jurisdictions around the country continue to adopt policies of discrimination against transgender people, it is crucial for this city to reaffirm its commitment to equality and health equity,” department Commissioner Dr. Mary Travis Bassett said.

Last year, the city issued the first birth certificate reading “intersex” in the gender field.

On December 15, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene corrected the original birth certificate of Sara Kelly Keenan, born in Brooklyn 55 years ago.

“It was wonderful. It was the first time I saw ‘intersex’ in print related to my name,” said Keenan, an addiction life coach. “When I applied in court, I chose ‘non-binary,’ because that’s an umbrella term that would also include gender variant people.”

Though Keenan had requested a term not strictly based on medical evidence, she found the city’s correction “really validating.”

Ultimately, the term “intersex” “carries more personal significance to me than ‘non-binary,’ ” she said.

The news was met with applause by advocates.

Mik Kinkead, director of the Prisoner Justice Project at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, said, “As advocates who represent hundreds of TGNCI (transgender, gender nonconforming and/or intersex) people, we look forward to continuing to work with the Department as they adapt their practices to truly reflect the lives and diversity of the TGNCI community, and by making the process of updating this vital record accessible to all.”

“It really boils down to safety,” said Stefanie Rivera, director of client services at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. “A lot of us navigate the world walking on eggshells and feel as though we have targets on our backs. People fear what they do not understand, and trans folks are really just trying to live their lives.”

According to the report, 55% of applicants changed their gender markers from male to female and 45% vice versa. Applicants ranged in age from 5 to 76. Forty-one got parental consent because they were under 18.

“Birth certificates should reflect the truth of our identities. New York’s progress making gender markers accurate improves our ability to serve transgender individuals with fairness and dignity,” City Council Member Carlos Menchaca said.