Transgender community critical of Cuomo’s new gender-status initiative

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New York (PIX11) – Somebody who is born one gender, but lives their life as another has been hard-pressed to get that status changed legally in New York.  Until now, that is.

Thanks to a directive by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state has now eased its requirements for changing gender status.  Despite the change, however, some people in the transgender community are critical of an irony related to it:  the change doesn’t apply to the city, which has what is probably the largest transgender community in the country:  New York City.

With Pride Week just two weeks away, Cuomo signed an order changing the procedure required by a state agency for changing gender assignment on birth certificates.  Before, a person had to have documentary proof of having undergone sexual reassignment surgery.  Under the new order, an applicant has to produce a medical affidavit showing clinical treatment, a simpler requirement to fulfill.

“I’m glad it started now rather than waiting another day,” said Owen Meehan, a transgender NewYorker.  “Better now than never, and better now than later.”

Meehan was among a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT New Yorkers who spoke with PIX11 News outside the LGBT Center in the West Village.  They said that they welcome the change.  Ironically, however, the change does not apply to them.

“This [city] should be one of the leading places,” said Elijah Rivera, regarding the significant exemptions to the governor’s order.

“While it pleases us that the governor has done this,” said Melissa Sklarz, director of the New York Transgender Rights Organization, or NYTRO, “we’re working with the mayor and members of the city council to get the same thing done in New York City.”

Sklarz said that her organization has lobbied the city and state for at least 14 years to try and achieve this change.  She said that once it became apparent that the Bloomberg Administration would not change its gender assignation policy, her group and allied organizations tried to secure a change at the state level.

Now that that’s happened, advocates for the change are reacting positively.

“It’s important for people to get jobs,” said Teri Norville, “and it’s self-affirming.”  And changing official gender assignment is not as easy to do in the city, where Norville was interviewed, as it is just a few unincorporated miles outside of the city.

However, for people who want the change to be easier, there may be reason to be hopeful, according to Sklarz.  She sees her longstanding efforts to ease birth certificate alteration rules paying off soon.

“We were hoping it would be ready for Gay Pride [Week] at the end of June,” said Sklarz, adding that that deadline will not be met.  However, she added, “we’re very hopeful to have it happen for the end of the year.”

Not everybody approves of the change, she pointed out, but now that it has the governor’s signature, and is handled through a state agency that does not require legislative approval, it’s the law of the land.  As she mentioned, she anticipates it becoming part of the city code this year.  Rochester, she said, has already adopted this and other pro-transgender measures.

New York now joins California, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, DC, and Washington State in no longer requiring gender reassignment surgery to change gender status on a birth certificate.

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