Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Pennsylvania Updates Birth Certificate Gender Change Policy
Great news for transgender people born in Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania just became the 12th state in the U.S. to modernize their birth certificate policy! Under Pennsylvania’s new policy, individuals no longer need to provide proof of surgery to update the gender marker on their birth certificate. That removes a significant hurdle for many transgender people.
Under Pennsylvania’s new policy, individuals with a Pennsylvania birth certificate can update the gender on their certificate by submitting a letter from their physician saying that they have had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition. That can include starting to live according to their gender identity or getting counseling related to gender identity. Information about specific treatment is not required. The policy mirrors the Department of State’s policy for updating the gender marker on U.S. passports.
When transgender individuals cannot access identification that matches who we are, it can be harder to get a job or enroll in school or access benefits, and it puts us at higher risk for discrimination and even violence. Over the past few years NCTE has worked with partner organizations and the Pennsylvania Department of Health to push for this modernized birth certificate policy, and works in states across the country to ease barriers to accessing accurate driver’s licenses and birth certificates.
While an important step forward, the new Pennsylvania policy has some shortcomings. Like the passport policy, licensed health care providers other than physicians cannot sign the required letter, creating cost and access issues for some people. NCTE has urged the State Department and other federal and state agencies to accept letters from a range of health care providers, if any any third-party certification is required.
Congratulations to our partners Trans-Help, Equality Pennsylvania, and other advocates who worked hard to make this happen, and many thanks to the Pennsylvania Department of Health for their great work on this policy advancement. For more information about the birth certificate policy in your state, consult our Identity Document Center.