July 23, 2018 at 1:57 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Trans Puerto Ricans can now change gender on birth certificates

Transgender people in Puerto Rico can now change the gender marker on their birth certificates. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Transgender people in Puerto Rico are now able to change the gender marker on their birth certificates.

A federal judge in March ruled the U.S. commonwealth’s previous policy — a 2005 decree from the Puerto Rico Supreme Court that said trans people could not amend the gender marker on their birth certificates — was unconstitutional.

The ruling took effect on July 17. Local media reports indicate several trans Puerto Ricans have already changed the gender marker on their birth certificates.

“They can change their gender on (their) birth certificates after years of struggle,” tweeted Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBT advocacy group, on July 18.

Lambda Legal in April 2017 filed a lawsuit against the previous policy on behalf of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s and three trans Puerto Ricans.

Daniela Arroyo-González, who is one of the plaintiffs, in a Lambda Legal press release said it “is a huge relief to finally have an accurate birth certificate that is a true reflection of who I am.” She added the new policy “makes me feel safer and like my country finally recognizes me.”

“Birth certificates are more than a piece paper,” said Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Omar González-Pagan. “For transgender people, it’s a life-changing and essential tool to access necessary services, travel, work and live with safety and dignity.”

“We are pleased to see the Puerto Rican government comply with their constitutional duty to respect the privacy, dignity, and liberty of transgender Puerto Ricans,” added González-Pagan.

The new birth certificate policy took effect nearly 10 months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.

Local advocates and service providers have told the Blade that trans Puerto Ricans who were living in shelters after Maria faced discrimination because of their gender identity. A lack of adequate housing, employment and access to health care remain serious problems for many trans Puerto Ricans as they try to recover from the hurricane.

Workers begin to install a roof onto a hurricane-damaged house in the Candelero Arriba neighborhood of Humacao, Puerto Rico, on May 26, 2018. Some of the neighborhood’s residents had no electricity more than eight months after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. commonwealth. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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