- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 7, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) — The city wants to make it easier for transgender New Yorkers to switch the sex listed on their birth certificates even without undergoing sex-change surgery, putting the city at the forefront of efforts to redefine sexual identity.

Under present city rules, only people who can show proof of surgery qualify for a revised birth certificate. Even then, the only change made is the elimination of any reference to sex on the document.

The new plan, revealed last month, would let birth records reflect the new sex. It also would allow changes for people who hadn’t had genital surgery, but could show substantial proof that they had undergone hormone therapy or taken other steps to alter their sexual identity irrevocably.

New York’s sizable transgender community has requested the policy change for years, but the proposal has taken on greater significance in a post-September 11 world of increased security.

New Yorkers need to show picture ID to enter office towers, air terminals, public monuments and all sorts of government buildings. IDs are needed to apply for jobs or buy beer at a neighborhood deli.

Trouble arises when someone inspects those documents and notices that a person’s listed sex doesn’t appear to match the way they look and dress.

“That can be a very dangerous situation for a transgender person,” said Cole Thaler, a transgender rights lawyer for the national legal aid group Lambda Legal.

Mr. Thaler said that a birth certificate with a sex that matches a person’s appearance will ease the way to getting other government records, including passports, driver’s licenses and Social Security records.

Lorna Thorpe, deputy commissioner of New York’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, called the current system outdated.

“A lot of transgender persons use different techniques to switch genders,” she said. Some try hormones. A smaller number undergo surgery, in part because not everyone is medically capable of undergoing the procedure.

All but three states allow people who have had a sex change to get a new birth certificate, and New York City has done so since 1971. The city now issues about a dozen of the revised birth certificates a year.

Of the states that allow similar changes of birth certificates, almost all require proof of a sex-reassignment surgery.

Tennessee has a law expressly prohibiting a change of sex on a birth certificate. Ohio and Idaho also won’t allow the change because of court rulings or as a matter of administrative policy.

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