Watch: NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling Discusses Landmark ID Policy on MSNBC

July 9, 2014

This past weekend, National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) Executive Director Mara Keisling joined MSNBC’s Live with Craig Melvin to discuss New York City’s proposed municipal ID law granting driver’s licenses to undocumented New Yorkers. The proposed law also allows anyone applying for an ID to self-identify their gender—a landmark policy that allows transgender people to avoid outdated and burdensome medical requirements that have barred many transgender people access to accurate ID.

The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 41% of respondents live without ID that matches who they are, creating barriers to accessing bank accounts, educational loans, voting, or even securing a job. Often as a consequence of the inability to access ID, transgender New Yorkers face economic instability at high rates: 19% of transgender New Yorkers had a household income of $10,000 or less, compared to only 4% of the general population, which is almost five times the rate of poverty.

NCTE Executive Director, Mara Keisling, on MSNBC's Craig Melvin Show

NCTE Executive Director, Mara Keisling, on MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin

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BREAKING NEWS: New York State Modernizes Requirements for Birth Certificate Gender Markers

June 5, 2014

The New York State Department of Health, and Governor Andrew Cuomo, just announced it has modernized its policy regarding updating gender markers on birth certificates. New York joins several other states, as well as the federal government, in modernizing birth certificate policies and removing burdensome and unnecessary barriers so that individuals can obtain a birth certificate that reflects who they are. Department-of-health-logo Many New York-based organizations have been advocating for an updated policy over the last several years and NCTE is proud to have participated in these advocacy efforts. New York State’s previous policy, in place since the 1970s, required an individual to undergo sexual reassignment surgery as a condition to change the sex listed on their birth certificate. Now, the policy change allows individuals to update the sex on their birth certificate by submitting a letter from a licensed medical provider stating that the individual is undergoing appropriate clinical treatment. Read the rest of this entry »

Victory: Social Security Admin Clarifies Benefits Applications for Trans People and their Spouses

April 1, 2014

NCTE thanks the Social Security Administration for issuing updated guidance that will simplify benefits applications for many transgender people and their spouses, and better ensure correct eligibility determinations.

Until now, all benefits applications involving couples with at least one transgender spouse required legal review by one of SSA’s chief regional attorneys, often adding significant delays. Without clear guidance on applicable law, many benefits applications also received incorrect denials and had to be appealed. With this new guidance, most claims now can be evaluated under the normal application process, without additional and inappropriate scrutiny of the marriage.

Under the new guidance, SSA recognizes that a gender transition does not affect the continuing validity of an existing marriage. Marriages that occurred after a transition will also generally be presumed valid, with additional review needed only for claims from a handful of states. Unlike many other federal programs, Social Security law requires that marriage-related benefits be determined based on the law of the state where you live. Accordingly, SSA still has to determine, in many cases, whether to treat a marriage as a same-sex marriage or a different-sex marriage.

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Chris Christie Puts up a Road Block for Transgender New Jerseyans: Vetoes Birth Certificate Modernization Bill

January 13, 2014

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) is disappointed to report Governor Christie vetoed a bill today that would have made it easier for transgender individuals to get new birth certificates issued with the correct name and gender. The bill passed the NJ General Assembly in June 2013 and the NJ Senate in December and was poised to modernize New Jersey’s outdated birth certificate statute which has not been updated in decades.

NCTE Deputy Executive Director Lisa Mottet criticized the Governor for the veto:

“NCTE is extremely disappointed that Governor Christie vetoed this basic, modernization bill that would make transgender people’s lives easier by allowing them to more easily update their birth certificate to match who they are. His stated concern for fraud and abuse has no basis, given the safeguards in the bill as well as the experience that other states have had with similar laws; he clearly did not do his homework.  This means all the transgender people born in New Jersey are facing ‘traffic lane closed’ signs instead of being able to live their everyday lives without unnecessary barriers put up by the government.”

The veto statement of the Governor shows a deep misunderstanding of the basic modernization purpose of the bill. The birth certificate bill would have dropped the outdated requirement that individuals undergo surgery before they can update the gender marker on their birth certificate. Instead, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health emphasizes that appropriate clinical treatment for transgender individuals includes a range of treatments; surgical procedures can be too expensive for some individuals, some have medical conditions that preclude surgery, and others do not need or desire this particular treatment. Transgender people, especially transgender young people, need birth certificates with their proper names and correct gender to avoid harassment and discrimination when applying for school, getting jobs, and applying for other identity documents.

Photo: Mel Evans/AP Images

Photo: Mel Evans/AP Images

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Modernized Birth Certificate Law Goes into Effect in DC Today

November 19, 2013

As of today updated birth certificates are much more accessible and affordable for individuals born in the District of Columbia.

The new law removes outdated medical requirements and allows individuals to get an updated birth certificate without a court order. Individuals can now get new birth certificates issued with no indication that the gender and/or name was updated. Folks who were not born in DC can get a court order from the DC courts attesting to their gender change. Finally, under the new law individuals no longer need to publish their name change in a newspaper. The streamlined and accessible process created by this law makes DC a model modernized birth certificate policy.

As of today individuals can request updated birth certificates directly from the DC Department of Health Vital Records Division. To request a new birth certificate, an applicant must submit a signed gender designation request form along with a form signed by their healthcare provider stating that the applicant has had treatment appropriate for that individual for gender transition. The Department of Health will issue a new birth certificate with the designated gender and updated name if applicable.

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DC City Council Modernizes Birth Certificate Policy

July 10, 2013

Today the Washington, DC City Council modernized the policy making it clearer and easier for transgender people to change the gender on their birth certificate.

In addition to dropping outdated and harmful surgical requirements to update ones’ records, DC’s new policy ensures transgender people will get a new birth certificate, instead of an amended one. It drops the requirement that transgender people get a court order as well, letting people go straight to the agency with a letter from a licensed health care provider.Additionally, the modernized policy allows non-residents of the District who were born in another state to get a court order from DC asking the vital records agency in their state of birth to update their birth certificate, if they need one. The new law in DC makes it a model for the rest of the country.

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HuffPost Live Looks at Trans ID Issues

July 1, 2013

Last week, National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling and intern Kye Campbell-Fox joined HuffPost Live to look at barriers facing transgender people and identification. Other panelists included the Sylvia Rivera Law Project’s Reina Gossett, transgender activist Patricia Harrington, and Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund attorney Noah Lewis. Panelists celebrated the recent Social Security Administration policy change dropping surgical requirements to update SSA records. However panelists also recognized that overwhelming hurdles still exist with securing drivers licenses and birth certificates that correctly reflect people’s gender identity.

Kye Campbell-Fox discussed costly barriers to updating his ID and how incongruent drivers license, birth certificate, and health care records led him to postpone emergency medical care. Mara Keisling discussed the complicated nature of advancing fairer ID policies state by state.

Watch the full segment here.

Download “Transgender People and the Social Security Administration”

Listen: Social Security Administration Community Call

June 28, 2013

Last week, NCTE’s Director of Policy Harper Jean Tobin and Executive Director Mara Keisling hosted a community call with some of our friends and supporters to discuss the Social Security Administration (SSA)’s recent changes. That entire conversation can be listened here.

For the past seven years NCTE has led an effort with our allies to amend the requirements for changing gender designation on social security records and last week SSA finally responded. Previously SSA required a surgeon’s letter in order to change an individual’s gender marker, but the agency will now accept any of the following: a passport or birth certificate with an amended gender designation, a court order, or a physician’s letter that states the applicant has had “appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition.” This language is very important for making this change more accessible to more people. Although healthcare providers are still gatekeepers of identity, there is more flexibility now as “appropriate clinical treatment” is not defined. Surgeons can write the letter, but so can other physicians including general practitioners, endocrinologists, and any other physician who is familiar with the person’s relevant medical history. Additionally, the DEA number of the doctor is not required as it is for amending passports. Unfortunately, despite requests by advocates, driver’s licenses were not included in the list of accepted documents. Those who do not have a passport or birth certificate with the correct gender marker already can refer to our document on the passport policy for instructions.

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