Transgender teen sues New York to change sex designation on birth certificate

A transgender teen born in New York filed a lawsuit against the state arguing that minors should be able to change the sex designation listed on their birth certificate.

The lawsuit was filed by Lambda Legal, a national LGBTQ organization, in federal court in Albany, N.Y., on Tuesday, according to a statement from the group. It states that transgender minors should be allowed to correct their New York state birth certificates before they turn 18, a process that is already allowed in several states as well as New York City.  

The 14-year-old high schooler, who is identified in the case as M.H.W., was born in Ithaca, N.Y., and listed as a female at birth, according to the suit brought by Lambda Legal. He currently resides in Houston. 

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"I am a boy. It’s frustrating to see New York State deny me the opportunity to correct my birth certificate, which I need for so many important facets of my life," M.H.W. said in a Tuesday press release. "My birth certificate incorrectly says I’m female, but that’s not who I am and I need the state to correct that error and respect my identity."

"I’m a teenager in high school living in Texas," he continued. "Having an inaccurate birth certificate can cause the disclosure of my transgender status when I enroll in college classes or when I get my driver’s license, and expose me to possible harm."

In 2014, New York state began allowing adults to alter the sex designation on their birth certificate without undergoing gender reassignment surgery. The state still prohibits minors from correcting their sex designation, according to Lambda Legal.

M.H.W.'s mother, Jennifer Wingard, said in the Tuesday statement that the family has been able to change M.H.W.'s passport and Social Security records in Texas, sharing that “as parents, we only want what is best for our son.”

The boy has “undertaken clinically-appropriate gender affirming care in order to bring his body into alignment with his gender identity," according to the statement. 

"We are afraid that as a result of New York’s policy our son will be exposed to extra scrutiny, humiliation or harassment whenever he has to present his inaccurate and inconsistent birth certificate, such as when he applies for his driver’s license," said M.H.W's father, Michael Sicinski. "No person should be forced to identify in a manner inconsistent with who they are."

Omar Gonzalez-Pagan, a senior attorney at Lambda Legal, said studies show that having inaccurate identification documents "exposes transgender people to discrimination, harassment, and violence."

"Moreover, transgender minors suffer from higher levels of anxiety, depression and suicide rates when they don’t have a supportive environment," he added. "By barring transgender youth from having accurate birth certificates, New York is limiting their opportunity to thrive and grow up knowing they are respected as who they are."  

The lawsuit names Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his administration's health commissioner, according to The Associated Press. The Hill has reached out to Cuomo’s office for comment.