The state of New York recently announced that the policy which prohibited transgender minors from correcting their gender would be changed. This change in decision is a direct consequence of a 14-year old trans kid suing the state for its policy.
Details about the case
The trans kid who identified himself as MHW was represented by Lambda Legal. Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of MHW. MHW was previously forced to have a female gender marker on his document. A senior attorney at Lambda Legal, Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, who is also the primary counsel for the lawsuit gave out a statement.
He said, “Every person should be recognized and respected for who they are. Today’s announcement is a victory for all transgender people in New York. The actions announced today rid the state of a discriminatory and outdated policy and keeps New York rightly among the states leading the country with policies that respect the lives of transgender people. It shouldn’t take a minor and his family suing the state to get their rights recognized, but with this announcement, New York state eliminates an outdated and unjust barrier to transgender minors’ ability to be themselves and have accurate, essential identity documents.”
The great thing about the whole ordeal is the way New York state officials have handled the case.
The state opted to immediately amend its policies instead of fighting the case. Officials Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Letitia James announced that the policy change would take place immediately. They also outlined a new system under which a trans kid is able to change the sex designations on his/her birth certificate. Previously, the above change was restricted to people who are above 18. Under the new system, a trans kid who is under 16 can start the entire process with the help of his/her parents or a guardian. Trans kids who are 17, however, can move to get the change done themselves.
Addressing the whole situation, Attorney General Letitia James said: “Thanks to the brave determination of this young man, New York State has made the right decision and changed its policy to allow minors to obtain birth certificates that accurately reflect their gender identity. Effective immediately, transgender individuals born in New York will have the right to make this deeply personal decision without the government’s unwarranted denial or without having their privacy violated.”
The trans kid’s background and statement
MHW has identified as a boy for many years. After consulting his parents, he had undergone the required surgery that brought his body in alignment with his identity. MHW also got his name and gender changed in 2009 after getting permission from a district court in Texas. The Texas court further ordered that MHW’s corrected name and gender should be reflected on all his documents. This included licenses, certificates or any other official documents.
After this order, MHW obtained a corrected U.S. passport. He also had his name and gender updated in his social security records. MHW, however, was not able to correct his New York state birth certificate. MHW’s parents were informed that the state did not permit such corrections for minors. This forced MHW to carry other identity documents which could have potentially led to discrimination and/or harassment. Tired of living in fear, MHW decided to take matters into his own hands and contacted Lambda Legal for help.
MHW was rightfully ecstatic about the change in policy in a statement that he gave out after the ordeal. He said, “This is awesome. Now all my identity paperwork matches, and I can go forward not having to worry about legal documents conflicting with who I am again. I get to just go on being me.” His parents also chimed in and were understandably relieved. They said, “This is the best possible outcome. We are glad that New York state is now committed to letting trans kids be who they are, fully and legally. We want to thank the folks at Lambda Legal for their support throughout this process.”
The bigger picture is also a little brighter.
In a 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, it was revealed that one-third of the transgender population who were forced to show an ID that contained name and gender conflicts were harassed. Following this, a lot of transgender advocates called for a change in several states’ laws. Lambda Legal has now also decided to stand in solidarity with these advocates. The firm have further decided to sue the remaining two states in the country, Ohio and Tennessee. These two states still have older policies in effect which Lamba Legal hopes can be changed soon.