This week, the New Jersey state senate passed bill A4097 which, if signed into law, would allow for transgender people born in New Jersey to update their birth certificates without the need for genital reconstruction surgery (or gender-confirming surgery…or whatever other name you feel is appropriate for “bottom surgery”). There is currently no indication whether or not Gov. Christie will sign A4097 into law, however, he is considering public comment on the issue. You can read more regarding this issue over at Advocate.com, where my friend Parker Marie Malloy has reported on it.
While I am a New Jersey resident, this particular bill does not actually affect me as I was born in California, a state which already provides this same right. However, this is an extremely important bill that can greatly help transgender folk who were born in New Jersey. I took a moment to submit my comment to Gov. Christie and, if you are a New Jersey resident and someone who cares about transgender equality, I ask for you to also take a minute to do the same. I have include my comment below which you may feel free to copy or use as the base for your own comment. The comment can be submitted here. Select “vital statistics” as the top and then “birth certificates” as the sub-topic.
I am writing to urge you to sign A4097 into law. This bill would allow for transgender people born in New Jersey to update their birth certificates without the requirement of genital surgery. Gender-confirming surgery is an extremely costly procedure that typically starts at $20,000-25,000 and is rarely covered by insurance. This surgery is also an extremely major and invasive surgery with a long recovery time. Not to mention the fact that the success rate is only at about 90-95%. Because of these factors, the overwhelming majority (4 out of 5 women and 24 out of 25 men) cannot or do not wish to have this surgery.
Requiring this surgery in order to change one’s birth certificate effectively denies many people the ability to have their birth certificate modified at all. Most New Jersey and Federal agencies allow for transgender people to update their identification and documents without an updated birth certificate, however, a birth certificate is often required as a proof of identity when obtaining other documents. Having a birth certificate which does not match one’s appearance, documentation, or identity can result in unnecessary complications and an uncomfortable situation for both the transgender man or woman and the employee of the particular agency in question who is helping this person. Additionally, having an updated birth certificate provides transgender people with additional control over their identity. Often, this control protects an individual from having to disclose their status as a transgender person when it is irrelevant or may even create an unsafe situation.
Signing bill A4097 into law not only brings New Jersey up to date with other many other states which already have similar policies, but it also helps to provide normalcy to many transgender New Jerseyans. Proper identifying documents help to prevent transgender people from being separated from the rest of the population as “other.