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Critique Essay Law/Legal Nonfiction Social Sciences

Legally Sexed: Birth Certificates and Transgender Citizens

By Lisa Jean Moore and Paisley Currah, Lisa jean Moore and Paisley Currah

The story of birth certificate corrections begins, for our purposes, in 1965, when a transsexual woman (a woman born male who transitions to female) asked the City of New York to issue her a new birth certifi- cate identifying her as female. “Anonymous,” as described in court docu- ments, did everything she thought was needed to function socially as a woman: her gender identity was affirmed by a medical professional; she passed the “real life” test of living as a woman; she underwent sex re- assignment surgery; she began a lifelong course of feminizing hormones (Anonymous v. Weiner 1966). But state-issued identity documents still des- ignated Anonymous as male. The “M” gender marker, revealing her his- tory as a transsexual person, opened up the possibility for her identity as a woman to be challenged, undermining her ability to function legally and socially as a woman. The director of the Bureau of Records and Statistics denied her request to have her gender marker changed. The rationale for the denial in the 1965 report–often cited by policymakers and judicial authorities–was a need to protect “the public interest . . . against fraud.”

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