Great News! NYS Updates Birth Certificate Policy; TLDEF Calls upon NYC to Follow Suit


Transgender People Born in New York State Can Now Readily Obtain a Birth Certificate That Matches Who They Are, But Obstacles Remain for Those Born in NYC

New York State

We are thrilled to report that the State of New York has eliminated barriers to accurate ID by updating its policy on correcting birth certificates for transgender people. The state will now issue a corrected birth certificate after receiving an affidavit from a licensed medical provider stating that a transgender individual has received appropriate clinical treatment.

The previous policy, which had not been updated since the 1970’s, required proof of surgery. This left the vast majority of transgender New Yorkers – who have not undergone the extensive surgical procedures that were demanded by the state before it would change the sex designation on birth certificates – with a document that does not match who they are. The state deemed this outmoded requirement to be inconsistent with federal policy, the policies of other states, the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and medical consensus. TLDEF, in partnership with a coalition led by the Empire State Pride Agenda, has been pushing for this policy change for years.

“This is tremendous news for transgender people across the country who were born in New York State,” said TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman. “A birth certificate is a fundamental form of identification. This will ensure that transgender people can obtain accurate birth certificates that reflect who they are. It also means they will stop being subjected to harassment and discrimination in areas like employment where identification is essential to proving eligibility to work.”

Unfortunately, New York State’s policy change does not apply to those born in New York City, which issues its own birth certificates. TLDEF has a lawsuit pending against the City of New York and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, challenging the city's onerous practice of requiring transgender people to undergo surgery before it will issue them birth certificates with corrected sex designations.

“It is time for New York City to follow the lead of New York State by adopting policies that treat transgender New Yorkers fairly and equally,” Silverman said. “Transgender people in New York City cannot be denied the right to update their birth certificates to reflect who they truly are simply because they were born within New York City rather than elsewhere in the state. That is unfair, and we will continue to prosecute our lawsuit demanding change until all transgender people in New York State – including those in New York City – are treated fairly.”

The Federal Government and the States of California, Iowa, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia, have updated their birth certificate policies to recognize that an individual’s sex does not depend on surgical status. Last year the American Medical Association passed a resolution in support of policies “that allow for a change of sex designation on birth certificates for transgender individuals based upon verification by a physician that the individual has undergone transition according to applicable medical standards of care.” The World Professional Association for Transgender Health has also long supported this approach.