I’m just counting the days until this particular battle shows up at the federal level. (As you’ll see in a moment, I’m not sure if that’s even possible, but if it is, the Justice Department will figure out a way.) Legislators in New Jersey passed a bill (for the second time) which, if signed into law, would allow transgender individuals to alter their birth certificates to reflect their “new” gender of choice. And for the second straight time, Christie broke out the veto pen.
For the second time in 18 months, Governor Christie on Monday vetoed a bill that would allow transgendered people to amend their birth certificates without proof that they had undergone a sex-change operation.
Christie’s reasoning echoed his previous concerns about security and the possibility that the bill would create “legal uncertainties”
“Birth certificates unlock access to many of our nation and state’s critical and protected benefits such as passports, driver’s licenses, and social services, as well as other important security-dependent allowances,”
Christie wrote in his veto message. “Accordingly, I remain committed to the principle that efforts to significantly alter state law concerning the issuance of vital records that have the potential to create legal uncertainties should be closely scrutinized and sparingly approved.”
Which would you like to tackle first on this story… the government documentation infrastructure questions raised by the Governor or the holy genetics, Batman, that’s just insane part? Let’s go with the former.
Let’s assume for a moment that you can actually switch your birth gender. (I know… I know…) So you want to change your birth certificate. But you can’t really just stop there. You have all sorts of documents which identify you and are used not only for your benefit (Social Security, taxes, various licenses) but may be tied in to the needs of law enforcement or national security if you suddenly go off the rails. Shouldn’t all of those match? And if they don’t, isn’t there a vastly increased potential for confusion? You’ve got a lot of other documents to change as well. Any woman who has ever gotten married and taken her husband’s surname, as well as anyone of either original gender who went through a legal name change can tell you that the process can lead to all manner of complications. And that’s just to change your name, not one of the uniquely identifying aspects of your physical existence.
Also, for what it’s worth, a birth certificate is an official document which records an event, not a voter ID or a drivers license. It records the details of the birth of a child. The proposed legislation would only apply to people who have had “clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition.” In other words, a sex change operation. But you did that much later in life. It doesn’t change the fact that you had your original equipment when you were born, so you’d basically be falsifying a government document.
As to the holy genetics portion of the discussion, I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater here. (#SorryNotSorry) I’ve said in the past, most notably regarding the case of Chelsea Manning, that I’m not totally inflexible. If you legally file the paperwork to change your name, I’ll start calling you by that moniker. No problem. (And if Bruce Jenner gets around to it I’ll start calling him Caitlyn.) But I’ve been willing to go one step further as well, being the forward thinking, 21st century Renaissance Man that I am. While I don’t believe that having any sort of surgical alterations done to your naughty bits actually changes your gender, it represents a real dedication to the proposition, so for those who go through with it I’ll even switch over to the alternate set of pronouns.
But that’s just some guy who writes on a blog. I don’t publish government documents nor am I responsible for national record keeping. Still, there may be room for compromise here as well. The New Jersey legislature should go back to the drawing board and submit a new bill to Governor Christie. In it, we could provide for one serious, scientifically backed path to accuracy. If you can show up with the results of a DNA test from a state approved medical facility which shows that your chromosomes match the gender you would like reflected on your birth certificate, I say let’s throw caution to the wind and give it to you.