This Is Good News

[Content Note: Transphobia.]

Last week, the World Health Organization released a report "urging governing bodies to put an end to 'forced, coercive, and otherwise involuntary sterilization' of transgender individuals," and now the American Medical Association has followed suit:
The American Medical Association on Monday adopted a policy declaring that transgender individuals should not be required to undergo genital surgery in order to update legal identification documents, including birth certificates.

Just days after New York became the sixth state to allow trans individuals to update birth certificates without proof of surgery, the AMA has amended its official policies to advocate for similar action nationwide.

"Birth certificates are primarily used for legal matters, not medical," the new AMA policy states. "Requiring sex-reassignment surgery places a burden on an already marginalized population."

The nation's preeminent medical authority supports the abolition of surgical requirements in an effort "to ensure accurate gender markers on birth certificates."

Historically, the AMA's policies regarding transgender health policy have often been more progressive than actual public policy as implemented by lawmakers and courts. The AMA currently supports the inclusion of transition-related healthcare in public and private insurance plans, which remains an ongoing struggle within the U.S. insurance system itself.
This is really important for lots of reasons, but chiefly because not all trans* people want to get sex reassignment surgery. And not all trans* people who do can afford it.

As the WHO noted in their report, requiring surgery as a prerequisite for obtaining legal documents is often a coerced sterilization: "Some groups, such as transgender and intersex persons, [have] a long history of discrimination and abuse related to sterilization, which continues to this day. Such violations are reflected, for example, in the various legal and medical requirements, including for sterilization, to which transgender and intersex persons have been subjected in order to obtain birth certificates and other legal documents that match their preferred gender."

No one should be forced to submit to sterilization, or even an unwanted surgery, as the cost of acquiring accurate legal documentation.

[Note: Although this is meaningful social progress, it does not translate into a legal right. That will be up to lawmakers, who will hopefully take the AMA's influential recommendation under advisement. And there is still a long way yet to go for people outside the gender binary altogether.]

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