U.S. transgender people welcome easier path to amend birth papers

Mon Nov 10, 2014 2:19pm EST
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By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Naz Seenauth's driver's license says he is male. His birth certificate says he is female. The mismatch, he says, is deeply frustrating.

New York City, where Seenauth was born and raised, does not accept that he is a transgender man and will not amend his birth certificate, for now at least, even though his doctor will attest to his gender.

"It was kind of weird," Seenauth said of his failed attempt to get the document reissued last year, "because New York City is such a liberal place."

This has led to uncomfortable moments for Seenauth, an easy-going 20-year-old interested in information technology and counseling work.

When applying for jobs, he has to spend an awkward minute or two before handing over his identify documents to explain himself, hoping to preempt an interviewer's confusion. He is studying for a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and wants to apply to graduate schools, but worries whether admissions officers will look kindly upon a birth certificate that contradicts who he says he is.

In the same vein, thousands of transgender people across America have been forced into embarrassing encounters with bureaucrats, officials, landlords and others because of discrepancies with their documentation, according to transgender-rights advocacy groups.

Last month, New York City officials announced that they would try to change the law to let people such as Seenauth alter the sex on their birth certificate. If successful, the city would join a growing movement that views gender as a complex, mainly mental phenomenon in which a person's external anatomy is no longer the overriding factor.

In theory, most parts of the country, except Tennessee, Ohio and Idaho, already allow transgender people to amend their birth certificates, according to Lambda Legal, an advocacy group.   Continued...

Naz Seenauth, a transgender man, poses in New York October 22, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton