Changing Gender Markers to Match Reality … Victories and Hope in NJ
This has been a big week for trans people around the globe in our quest for respect! We celebrate the new victories in our continuous war against institutionalized roadblocks and stonewalls … namely, to be recognized as the gender to which “We” identify.
In America, Transgender veterans will now be able to change the gender marker on their medical records by simply providing a physician’s letter confirming gender reassignment, according to a clarification of a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) policy.
Evidently, last year the VHA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, issued a directive on providing respectful and appropriate care to transgender veterans, but the directive was not clear about the documentation needed for changing the gender marker. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality’s blog., the requirement for “official documentation … was initially interpreted incorrectly by some staff and facilities to require proof of sex reassignment surgery.”
Now, according to the NCTE blog, with the clarification, “a vet must simply provide a letter from a physician certifying that the vet has changed genders and has had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition. To be clear, the physician’s letter does not need to certify that some specific surgery or any particular medical procedure has been completed – only appropriate clinical care for the individual veteran as determined by the physician.”
This is similar to documentation now required by the U.S. State Department for changing gender markers on passports and by some states, including New Jersey, for doing so on driver’s licenses. We understand that NCTE is preparing “a user-friendly guide” for the policy and will release it in a few weeks.
Trans people in Holland celebrated a victory on December 17th when the Dutch Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow transgender people to legally change their gender on their birth certificates and other official documents without undergoing sterilization and sex-reassignment surgery.
According to transgender rights activists, under current Dutch law, people can legally change their gender on official documents only after “obligatory and often unwanted sterilization and gender modification operations.”
The Council of Europe and the U.N. are among the international organizations that have urged the Dutch government to allow trans people to legally change their gender without sterilization and SRS.
The main chamber of the Dutch Parliament earlier this year approved the measure after COC Nederland, the Transgender Network Netherlands and other Dutch LGBT advocacy groups lobbied the country’s lawmakers for years to support it. Germany, Austria and Portugal have also passed similar trans rights laws. Last year, in 2012, the Argentinian President signed a law that allows trans Argentinians to legally change their gender on official documents without surgery and an affidavit from a doctor or another medical provider.
The Dutch law is scheduled to take effect on July 1. The law does not apply to people under 16 years of age and activists have indicated they will work to amend the law.
Meanwhile, in a bi-partisan effort, on December 19, the New Jersey State Senate passed Assembly bill A4097, 21-11. The bill would apply to people who have undergone “clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition, based on contemporary medical standards, or that the person has an intersex condition.” and would enable them to get a new amended birth certificate.
New Jersey’s current 30-year old outdated law forces individuals to endure potentially unnecessary surgery. Contemporary medical standards recognize that how a transgender person transitions is a decision made between a patient and their health care provider, and is unique to each person. .This law takes away the power to change a birth certificate, the most basic piece of identification, from a bureaucrat to implement a vague law that only says “surgery” and puts it in the hands the individual with the consent of a licensed medical provider. The legislation does not exclude minors. The NJ Bar Association endorsed the new legislation.
It also supports what we all know to be true – that in today’s world having identity documents that accurately reflect who you are is vital in order to access basic things like housing, employment, and health care.
The legislation now goes to Governor Chris Christie, who must take action by January 14, 2014 when the current legislative session ends. He has given no indication of his plans.
Although New Jersey and National trans advocates had universally decided to be “low-key” on what was essentially a technical update on existing legislation, the Advocate magazine http://www.advocate.com/politi… independently decided that their readers should contact the NJ governor through his website. http://www.state.nj.us/cgi-bin…
So, since the “cat’s out of the bag”, Let’s just see how many readers are motivated to act. Let’s do it … ACT!