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EDITORIAL: The latest birth certificate scandal

New York City Health Department confused by gender benders

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Individuals who claim they're "transgender" are suing the New York City Health Department over what they say is discrimination. These people are upset because the city won't change the sex listed on their birth certificates unless they've had elaborate surgery to refashion their private parts and received subsequent psychiatric evaluations attesting to the permanence of their supposed "transition" to the opposite gender.

The claimants want the bureaucracy to make it easier to change the sex that was recorded at birth, noting that parents fixing mistakes (typos) in listing a child's sex only have to provide a letter from the birth hospital. "Knowing that it was a mistake in the first place, and having that fixed, is pretty important to me," said Joann Prinzivalli, who was born Paul yet lives as a woman.

Calling the accurate sex recorded at a birth "a mistake" is the misleading yet predictable result of a creeping activist agenda quietly transforming the country. There is disagreement in confused medical circles on whether believing oneself to be the gender opposite to that indicated by one's physical characteristics and sex chromosomes is a medical condition or a psychiatric disorder. The American Medical Association supports treatment that includes radical surgery. The American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classifies it as an identity disorder, though the shrinks are under pressure to change that in the next edition.

Practically speaking, none of the scientific (or pseudo-scientific) mumbo-jumbo matters too much, however, because self-identified transgenders and their allies are finding success for their radical agenda by merely asserting that it's a medical condition and going forward with counseling for "transition" (purportedly becoming the opposite gender) and radical surgery to "correct" their organs and sex characteristics. There is no more debate over the possibility that perhaps these people are just messed up.

Accordingly, last June, the Obama administration officially loosened State Department rules on changing identifying information on passports. Seeking to appease an important liberal political constituency, Foggy Bottom's press release crowed that the change was in honor of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Month. Adding another twist to this already contorted issue, the State Department decreed that a doctor's note certifying that somebody had undergone "appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition" was sufficient to change a person's legally recognized sex on a passport. That's your federal government at work.

Let's leave alone, for the time being, the question of whether supporting and reinforcing a mixed-up patient's desire to surgically mutilate his (or her) body to resemble a unique perception of "becoming" the opposite sex is "appropriate" treatment. No matter what, official government identification documents should not be changed to accommodate the feelings of any group. "I would just like my identification to reflect who I am," "Patricia" Harrington, who was born a man, said at a press conference on the lawsuits.

Yet a birth certificate, like a death certificate, is a snapshot of an historical event. It records information that's pertinent on the day of the birth, including the names of the parents, the weight and length of the infant and the kid's name. As a record of birth, it's not meant to change to reflect who we become in life, which is why women (or men) choosing to assume new last names upon marriage aren't required to change their birth certificates. Parents' divorcing does not result in amended birth certificates for their children. In some states, an adopted child's birth parents' names can be replaced on a birth certificate with the adoptive parents' names - but this, too, is bad policy as closed adoptions become more rare in accordance with what has been discovered to be best for knowing a child's historical identity.

It's fair to ask where all of this is heading. Could Jocelyn Wildenstein - famously nicknamed "Catwoman" for the feline appearance she achieved through multiple plastic surgeries - decide after years of struggling with her identity that she is actually a cat? With the precedents set by these new policies, all she would need to do to secure her new cat identity is find a doctor to certify that she was undergoing "appropriate clinical treatment" to secure the right to demand that her official government documents be altered to reflect who she has become. She's already had the surgeries.

The old saying about giving an inch and losing a mile comes to mind. As Sam Berkley, born Samantha, complained in a press conference about the lawsuit, "I don't feel comfortable with the government deciding whether I'm a man or not." Strike "man" and replace with "human" or "sane" and there's not much of a difference. We must then accommodate all departures from cultural norms - which becomes easier as the groups in opposition to the norms successfully erode them to suit their own ideas of how the world should be. This becomes even more tragic - dangerous, even - if we're accommodating mental illness in the name of misplaced sensitivity, inclusiveness or political correctness.

The continuing furor over President Obama's birth certificate underscores the importance these pieces of history have for recording the truth. Let's not change policies to accommodate the feelings of - and dubious treatment practices for - a conflicted group who clearly warrant compassion more than complicity.

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