Last week New York City Councilman Corey Johnson introduced an amendment to the City Administrative Code that if passed – which appears to be a foregone conclusion – would make it far easier for transgender people to change the gender designation on their birth certificates.

As the councilman observed, “Gender won’t be about your physicality. It wouldn’t be about your body. It’s about how you identify.”


On the same day that Mr. Johnson introduced his amendment, the New York City Health Department proposed a similar amendment to its rules and regulations. “We’re proud to propose this change to ensure New Yorkers have birth records that reflect their gender,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “The action under consideration will mean that transgender people no longer have to change their bodies to change their gender identity.”

Yes, they actually said that. And therein lies a sad story about how profoundly our society continues to lose its way.

Since 1971 the New York City Health Code has authorized the issuance of new birth certificates for persons who have undergone “convertive…genital surgery.” The new birth certificate would record the new name but leave the gender designation blank.

The proposed changes in the law and the health code would permit a new birth certificate to record the new gender even in the absence of “convertive” surgery, as long as the applicant supplies an affidavit written by a licensed health or mental health provider – which includes, among others, physicians, doctoral level psychologists, clinical social workers, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and mental health counselors. The affidavit must contain a statement that the requested gender change “more accurately reflects the applicant’s sex and is consistent with “contemporary expert standards regarding gender identity.”

We have no doubt there are those who deeply desire to present themselves as being of a gender that is not consistent with their anatomy, and we take no joy in the pain and embarrassment they suffer. But what does it say about where we are as a society when it becomes something acceptable that a person’s genitalia can be ignored and his or her gender become something he or she simply wants it to be?

Are we ready to say that reality is the function of a stroke of a pen and the redefinition of reality is of no great moment? Forgive us, but we think not. Changing a label does not change that which is being described.


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