New York wants to let you change your birth certificate gender without having surgery.


From the The New York Times:

Separating anatomy from what it means to be a man or a woman, New York City is moving forward with a plan to let people alter the sex on their birth certificate even if they have not had sex-change surgery. Under the rule being considered by the city’s Board of Health, which is likely to be adopted soon, people born in the city would be able to change the documented sex on their birth certificates by providing affidavits from a doctor and a mental health professional laying out why their patients should be considered members of the opposite sex, and asserting that their proposed change would be permanent.

Applicants would have to have changed their name and shown that they had lived in their adopted gender for at least two years, but there would be no explicit medical requirements. “Surgery versus nonsurgery can be arbitrary,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner. “Somebody with a beard may have had breast-implant surgery. It’s the permanence of the transition that matters most.”

The reason for this policy is that gender identification should not be an economic issue — but having the gender-changing surgery costs tens of thousands of dollars — this policy seeks to remove that clinging Catch-22:

In New York, the proposed change comes after four years of discussion among health officials, an eight-member panel of transgender experts and vital records offices nationwide. It is an outgrowth of the transgender community’s push to recognize that some people may not have money to get a sex-change operation, while others may not feel the need to undergo the procedure and are simply defining themselves as members of the opposite sex. While it may be a radical notion elsewhere, New York City has often tolerated such blurring of the lines of gender identity.

Is gender identification merely an issue of the mind and not the body? Or is there a deeper, legalistic, concept in gender identity that must be pressed into the flesh and verified in the law?


  1. I don’t really have a problem with the legislation either.
    I remember reading or hearing that the legislation requires a two year commitment to the gender change before their identity docs can be changed. Most people wanting to “play around” aren’t going to go change their gender without some serious thinking about the consequences.
    I went to the source for all cutting edge things and cheap electronics — Craigslist — to see what people were saying about the NYC law change.
    I don’t know if this is true or not, but one person made this comment:

    NY is a funny place for laws. NY state has always allowed gender change but there are caveats. NYC, that’s New York CITY never allowed gender change. It had to do with King’s law and grandfathering for Kings county (NYC). So if your born there say in Manhatten you can never change your birth certificate even with SRS. Yet if you were born elsewhere in NY you can. I was very glad I was born elsewhere in NY.
    So there is a fair amount of context missing in the NYtimes article.

  2. Interesting that they are effectively removing the first label that is assigned/designated to us in this life.
    “Is is a boy or a girl?” is usually the first question asked after delivery of a child – even before its health is enquired after.
    The one thing that unites us all is the fact that we are human – every label applied after that has the potential to be divisive and discriminatory.
    (Deep thought now ensues)

  3. (W)ho cares about gender today?

    I don’t care about gender in the global sense, but I’m glad that there are lots of beautiful females — personality counts for a lot of beauty — out and about in society.
    It’d be pretty boring if everyone ended up being androgynous creatures.
    Not to stereotype, but society does need the calming influences that females provide.

  4. This is tangential but I think there is great power in the uterus for those who chose to wield it. A person born with a functional housing unit for the perpetuation of the human race would seem to have more cards than one who does not.
    A “woman” could in theory clone herself by using DNA from her skin cells whereas a “man” would find more difficulty doing so without an egg or a uterus.
    It seems, therefore, more plausible at present for “women” to exist without “men” than vice versa.

  5. …hmmm… If a person who is born of one gender marries a person of the opposing gender and has their gender identity changed after the marriage does it nullify the marriage in states which have passed laws stating that marriage is between one man and one woman should they move to a state with such a law?

  6. A S!
    Yes, you’ve hit upon the ridiculous, unenforceable aspect of gender identification under the law. Science and evolution have presented us with a future where chromosomes are unimportant and male and female identity no longer hold sway over status in a society as reproductive measures or limits of power and containment over one another.
    Your comment proves outright the antiquated marriage and sodomy laws are quaint and no longer applicable a modern day life.

  7. A S!
    Yes, it’s interesting you don’t want to identify your gender here.
    When you first started commenting I thought you were one gender.
    Then you said something here a bit later that made me think you were the other gender.
    Then I got to know you in email.
    I understand how androgyny on the web can have great advantages.

  8. I know many women who would flay you for saying that!

    Hi David,
    Women have a calming effect because they are usually more reasoned — for the most part — than men are. Of course, that has been my experience.
    There are less women in prison than men, so that should be some indication of women being more calm than men. In June 2005, there were 106,174 women in state and federal prison, compared with 1,406,649 men, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
    I should make a male counterpart to SHHV to diversify my offerings. It’d be a way reach another audience.

  9. Hi David,
    It depends on the particular women, I suppose. Some of my readers are women who enjoy the site. 🙂
    I’ve gotten emails from women pointing me to their websites — Monique Dupree being one who put SHHV on her modeling resume. The SHHV listing is third down on Monique’s list of accomplishments, just below a part in Spiderman 3. (Pretty cool!) 🙂
    The “Big Three” — Melyssa, Esther, & Buffie — put themselves out into the public sphere and I help them by providing a tiny slice of the publicity they are always seeking.
    Maybe I’m the one who is calmed by women — could be a brain chemistry thing. 🙂

  10. My name was translated early on based on phonetics rather than meaning and I know people of both genders with the name (as translated in English) though it is more common with one gender than another, the popularity of the name amongst genders is reversed in the original language.
    I believe ideas are important and it is therefore important to convey them without hindrance of identifying ones gender, etc. which can shade ones perception of what is said. Some people sub-consciously project their views of a gender or race or age or whatever on to words spoken. I prefer the ambivalence the web provides. Where people are not necessarily able to judge based on “he said, she hears”, “she said, he hears”, they think that way because they are too old / too young to understand, etc.
    It is unfortunate that society as a whole still judges based on such things.
    I wonder if Tiresias would have liked to change his/her birth records.

  11. I think gender identity is both an issue of body and mind. I knew a person back in Wisconsin who was a transgender, born as a male in Sweden, recently went through sex change surgery, therapy, name change etc. Now she got what he wanted but missing physical strength of being male – which was quite a struggle for her. I spent some time talking to her and witnessed her confusion…its nerve racking – I don’t know how a person handles it.

  12. Dave —
    Are homosexual men and straight men housed in the same units in prison? They all have the same gender equipment. What’s the difference? Why the separation?
    There are many colleges and universities that now have unisex bathrooms and dorms.

  13. A S!
    I think the general assumption on the web that a “non-genderized” name on the web is assumed to be male behind the name, no?
    Love the Tirisias mention!!!

  14. Dave —
    Historically, infants of indeterminate gender have been raised as male because, the perception goes, men have more advantages and an easier time than women.
    Even in cases where genetically indeterminate infants have more female genitalia then male, doctors encouraged the parents to raise the infant as male instead of female because the stereotypes and demands on the male gender were less than that of a female. It’s easier to pass in society as an “ugly” man than an “ugly” woman.

  15. Hi David,
    I love
    The model has on her shirt.
    I wish the avatar could be a little larger so it could be better read, but I might have solved that with the latest version.

  16. That’s a rough story, Katha!
    Many men who become women prefer to live as a woman but keep their “plumbing” because the reassignment surgery can really mess with sexual satisfaction.

  17. A S —

    I wouldn’t assume non-genderized names were male just as I wouldn’t assume the names Alex, Pat, Sam or Francis were male.

    I think over 90% of the people would assume those are male names including names like Lee and Bobby and Gay.

  18. I switched back to the first version of the avatar. 🙂
    It’s my way of “switching” identity without switching identity. 😉

  19. Hi A S!
    Yes, I agree! A single letter changes both meaning and gender! I knew a “Francis” and he HATED the name… and preferred to be called… “Fran” instead. Interesting, eh?
    I knew a “Gaylord” and he LOVED his name but never wanted to be called that by friends… he insisted they call him “Gay” instead. Interesting, eh?
    Both Fran and Gay were very straight men. They loved the female gender!

  20. A S —
    Fran came from a strong immigrant Polish family so maybe in Poland “Fran” is less feminized than it is here.
    When I knew Gay 30 years ago… he was probably 65 at that time. So he was old world and old fashioned. He loved the name “Gaylord” because it was unique and I think it did have some kind of familial tie for him. If you called him that, though, he’d give you the stink eye until you corrected yourself and called him “Gay.”
    Gaylord Perry was a pro ball pitcher while I was growing up and he was ALWAYS referred to as “Gaylord” in the press and never “Gay.”

  21. Love it, Chris!
    That reminds me of a time when someone told me the lyric to “Hold on Loosely” by 38 Special was about masturbation:

    You see it all around you
    Good lovin’ gone bad
    And usually it’s too late when you, realize what you had
    And my mind goes back to a girl I left some years ago,
    Who told me,
    Just hold on loosely, but don’t let go
    If you cling too tightly,
    you’re gonna lose control
    Your baby needs someone to believe in
    And a whole lot of space to breathe in

  22. That’s an interesting take, jonolan, but if we are relying on gender identifiers to separate us from each other and prove our identity, we are in big trouble as a nation! 😀

  23. The problem, Dianah, is that some babies are born without a clear gender and the “decision” on which gender to apply is not scientifically sustainable. It’s a guessing game. Allowing those babies to mature into their bodies and their cultural forming as teens and adults and then changing the gender legally, if necessary, is a protection they need to help ease that thorny transition of a misdiagnosis at birth.

  24. Hi all.My name I go by is Christine,I was born xxy..both male and female .Against the Drs advice and going through numerous surgerys,I was made a male.This was in the 50″s.They can change or alter body parts but can’t change your brain.I have never thought like a male,been able to wear men clothes,shoes ect.The letter M on all my id has been an issue all my life.People ted to fear and hate what they can’t understand…

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