Changing Your Gender Retroactively

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Katie Zavadski describes a new NYC bill that would “change the requirements for updating the sex field on birth certificates, allowing it to correspond to a person’s identity rather than on steps taken to physically transition”:

New York State has had an expansive definition of sex for years, and current requirements simply require a physician to say that “appropriate clinical treatment” is occurring — a broad category that could mean hormonal treatments, or simply counseling. The state does not require proof of surgical intervention to update the sex marker. New York City, however, lagged behind on that shift.

Not anymore: The proposal, introduced Tuesday and backed by both the City Council speaker and Mayor de Blasio’s administration, not only changes the requirements, but also expands the range of health-care providers qualified to make this assessment. In addition to doctors and psychotherapists, physicians’ assistants, nurse practitioners, and midwives will now be able to confirm that a document change “more accurately reflects the applicant’s sex,” based on “contemporary expert standards regarding gender identity.” The new regulations would also nix a prior requirement for a name change.

Transgender people across the Hudson, however, shouldn’t get their hopes up:

Elsewhere, opponents to similar proposals have sometimes argued that the changes could be subject to fraud or abuse. In January, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey vetoed legislation that would have removed that state’s surgical requirement for birth-certificate changes, saying the bill’s sponsors sought to change the application process “without maintaining appropriate safeguards.”

Elizabeth Nolan Brown responds to such objections:

Opponents say that regardless of someone’s current gender identity or genitalia, their birth certificate is a historical document and shouldn’t be changed. But this same argument could be used against amending birth certificates post sex-reassignment surgery, also, and most states now allow that. (I’m not saying that’s necessarily a good argument for it, merely that it’s not as radical/unprecedented as some might think.) And it’s not as if the original birth documents or records are destroyed, though they are generally sealed. The basically administrative change simply allows transgender individuals to navigate more easily through official state paperwork and such.