Harlem’s Mark-Viverito Supports Health Department Release Changes In Birth Certificate Gender Markers Data

March 9, 2017

The Health Department today released new vital statistics data on the number of people who have changed their gender marker on their birth certificate since 2014, when the Health Department and the City Council eased requirements for gender marker change applications. The changes to the Health Code and Administrative Code were implemented in January 2015, and since then, 731 birth certificate gender marker change applications were approved, compared to approximately 20 per year prior to the change.

According to these new data, 55 percent of applicants changed their gender marker from male to female, while 45 percent changed from female to male. The age of applicants ranged from five to 76 years old. A total of 41 of these individuals were under the age of 18 and were approved with parental consent. Last year, the Health Department also issued the first ever birth certificate in the U.S with “intersex” reflected on the document. The Department will continue to work with community partners on ways to more accurately reflect a person’s gender.

“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,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “We will continue to work with the community to recognize and affirm transgender lives, improve our services, reduce stigma and promote the health of all transgender New Yorkers.”

“As a cascade of anti-transgender legislation begins to sweep across the nation, it is more important than ever that transgender people have access to accurate identification in order to have open access to employment, school, travel and banking,” said Carrie Davis, Chair of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Report and Advisory Board on Gender Marker Change Requirements. “New York City’s forward-thinking and progressive public health policy regarding transgender people and birth certificates helps build a stronger foundation as we work toward greater health equity for transgender New Yorkers.”

“The need for the 2014 change in the code could not be more clear when seeing the number of transgender individuals that have accessed accurate birth certificates in New York City in the last two years,” said Ethan Rice, Vice Chair of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Report and Advisory Board on Gender Marker Change Requirements. “The Advisory Board will continue to review the process and make recommendations for improvements to ensure that all transgender people born in New York City can attain an accurate identity document.”

“Over the past years, the Council has worked to ensure that transgender and gender nonconforming individuals have the same rights as everyone else,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito

“Over the past years, the Council has worked to ensure that transgender and gender nonconforming individuals have the same rights as everyone else,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “The insightful data put forward by the Health Department highlights the City’s commitment to protecting the dignity of our most vulnerable communities. And in the face of divisive forces that are attempting to undermine equality, the Council will continue to work with the Health Department to break down barriers for the transgender community.”

“Now more than ever, we need to ease the burden that our transgender citizens face,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “Because of this fairer policy, hundreds of New Yorkers have the dignity of being recognized, and they can apply for services and employment with an accurate identity document. There’s much more work to be done, but the data is clear—this bill is making a difference in people’s lives. I thank Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene as well as the many LGBTQ advocates who continue to guide our City down a more fair and equitable path.”

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In addition to modernizing birth certificate services, the Health Department has worked to improve, protect and promote the health of all transgender New Yorkers. Last year, the Health Department began providing direct funding to strengthen and support transgender-focused community organizations to advance health equity. The Health Department has made a concerted effort to develop more inclusive social marketing campaigns which feature transgender New Yorkers (PlaySure and StaySure). The agency has also released a series of publications to promote the health of transgender New Yorkers and to educate primary care providers: City Health Information Bulletin: Providing Primary Care to Transgender Adults; Health Tips for Trans Men and People of Trans-Masculine Experience; and Take Pride, Take Care: Tips for Transgender Women’s Health.

Additionally, the Health Department released the 2015 HIV Surveillance Annual Report, which features a dedicated section with data on HIV among transgender people. It also presents data by current gender instead of sex at birth and classifies transgender women as women and transgender men as men. New York City is the first jurisdiction to present HIV data in this way.

“These encouraging statistics demonstrate unequivocally that changes in public policy can make a lasting difference on the road to achieving equal treatment and protection for transgender people across the five boroughs,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “On a daily basis, transgender Brooklynites face many obstacles including social rejection by loved ones, workplace discrimination, harassment and sexual violence. Changing the gender marker on a birth certificate to match a person’s own identity is just one small but significant step on a journey to attaining recognition from the community. I applaud DOHMH Commissioner Bassett and her team on their continued efforts to improve services for and the health of all transgender people in our city.”

“At a time when the White House seeks to roll back protections for transgender Americans, New York City embraces tolerance and diversity, regardless of gender expression or identity. Allowing New Yorkers to change the gender marker on their birth certificates isn’t just common sense, it’s the right thing to do,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried of Manhattan, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee and the Assembly Sponsor of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA).

“Ensuring access to gender marker changes on birth certificates and other documents is an important part of equality for transgender and gender nonconforming New Yorkers,” said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “As the Department of Health continues efforts toward inclusive gender language, I thank the Department, City, Council Member Johnson, and the City Council.”

“This is an important step in recognizing the identity of trans individuals and ensuring the elimination of barriers when it comes to filling out paperwork requiring a birth certificate as an identity document. Identity documents should match and respect the reality of individuals,” said Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell. “I applaud the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for leading the way and contributing to New York City’s role in setting an example for what progressive trans rights should look like nationwide. While the fight continues at the state level to include transgender people in anti-discrimination and civil rights laws, I pledge to continue being a voice for that community.”

“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. Such an essential acknowledgement of identity opens the door for City agencies, medical providers, and other institutions to act with the respect transgender people deserve. Who we are should never be a barrier to human rights,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

“Having identity documents that correspond to a person’s gender identity are essential to accessing basic needs like housing, employment, education, health care, and credit—the building blocks that promote stability in life,” said D’hana Perry, Transgender Health Care Coordinator at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center. “Callen-Lorde is pleased that these regulations were put forth in 2014. We are deeply grateful to the New York City Health Commissioner for recognizing the need for New York’s transgender communities to have documents that are aligned with their gender.”

“Access to transgender competent and affordable health care including hormones and surgery is both illness prevention and health promotion for transgender individuals,” said Dr. Barbara Warren, Director of LGBT Programs and Policies in Mount Sinai Health System’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion. “In a time when the progress the transgender community and allies have fought for and won is being threatened across the country, New York City’s protection of and support for its transgender residents stands out as a national model for social justice and human rights.”

“The Peter Cicchino Youth Project, Legal Services of New York City and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project applaud this milestone with the NYC DOHMH and their continued efforts to streamline the process of updating such a critical identity document for transgender, gender nonconforming and intersex New Yorkers,” said Mik Kinkead, Director of the Prisoner Justice Project at the Silvia Rivera Law Project. “As advocates who represent hundreds of TGNCI people, we look forward to continuing to work with the Health 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.”

In 2014, the Health Department and the City Council approved amendments that removed the requirements for gender marker changes on a birth certificate, including a legal name change and “convertive” surgery. The new 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. These include a licensed physician, doctoral-level psychologist, clinical social worker, physician assistant, nurse practitioner and mental health counselor, among others.

The City Council law also created the New York City Gender Marker Change Advisory Board, which includes community members of transgender experience. It meets quarterly to identify barriers and evaluate processes in order to improve the implementation of the gender marker change law.

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