Transgender NYers Sue Over Birth Certificate Rules

By Tom Llamas
|  Tuesday, Mar 22, 2011  |  Updated 4:51 PM EDT
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<a title=Sam Berkley and Joann Prinzivalli are in a nasty fight with New York City over a private and personal matter. Sam was born a woman and Joann a man. They say they've been able to change Social Security numbers and even their driver's licenses, but not their city birth certificates." />

Sam Berkley and Joann Prinzivalli are in a nasty fight with New York City over a private and personal matter. Sam was born a woman and Joann a man. They say they've been able to change Social Security numbers and even their driver's licenses, but not their city birth certificates.

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Two transgender New Yorkers are suing the city for what they say are unfair regulations for obtaining new birth certificates.

Sam Berkley, who was born a woman, and Joann Prinzivalli, born a man, say they’ve been able to change their genders for their Social Security benefits, their driver licenses -- everything but their city birth certificates.

To change a birth certificate, the city requires applicants to have had "convective surgery" -- a full sex change -- plus they must meet a list of other requirements, including a psychiatric evaluation.

"When you have to apply for a job, when you have to apply for health insurance, when I have to apply for a passport I need to show that document," said Berkley, who lives in Brooklyn. “What am I supposed to do in that moment when the person on the other end is looking at me and I don't know what's going to happen."

Berkley and Prinzivalli are suing the city for what they say is humiliation and discrimination.

Noah Lewis, an attorney for the Transgender Legal Defense and Education fund, said the city's policy is out of date.

"I should be able to say that I’m a man, and they shouldn't tell me I need this surgery to be a man," Berkley said.

The health department referred questions to the city's legal department.

The law department said that although the city understands the concerns, "the board of health should not change its requirements without assurance that the amended certificate cannot be misused.”

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