Transgender people sue New York City over surgery requirement

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Three transgender people are suing the city of New York over a requirement that they must have gender reassignment surgery in order to have their birth certificates changed.

The lawsuit, brought on their behalf by the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF), says the requirement subjects transgender people to harassment and discrimination in violation of city human rights laws.

The plaintiffs are two trans women and one trans man. Joann Prinzivalli, Patricia Harrington and Sam Berkley say they have been denied correct birth certificates because they have not undergone specific surgical procedures required by the city.

Mr Berkley has had surgery and hormone treatment but says city officials are still denying him a birth certificate which lists his gender as male.

“I’ve known since I was five years old that I’m male,” he said.

“I’ve undergone medical treatment as part of my transition and the medical documentation I submitted from my doctor should be sufficient to get my birth certificate corrected. Until it’s corrected, I fear that I’ll be subjected to harassment and discrimination whenever I need to present my birth certificate.”

Ms Harrington said she knew she was female at a young age but was not able to live as a woman until the age of 40.

She said: “It’s been a long journey, and it’s important to me that the city correct my birth certificate so that I can present ID that reflects who I am today.”

Ms Prinzivalli said: “I am a woman. My birth certificate was incorrect when it was filled out, and it is still incorrect today.”

The lawsuit has been filed against the City of New York and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. It is understood to be the first of its kind.

TLDEF says the vast majority of trans people have not undergone the surgeries required to change their birth certificates.

Many trans people are unable to afford the complex and extensive procedures and some see the surgeries as unnecessary or potentially damaging to their health.

“A birth certificate is a fundamental form of identification,” said TLDEF staff attorney Noah Lewis.

“By refusing to give transgender people accurate birth certificates that reflect who they are, the city subjects transgender people to harassment and discrimination in areas like employment where ID is essential to proving eligibility to work.”