This week, the American Medical Association (AMA), the nation's largest doctors association, adopted two important resolutions that have the potential to impact the lives of LGBT people across the country.
In the first, the AMA affirmed a resolution providing that transgender people should be allowed to change the gender marker on their birth certificate regardless of whether they have had gender affirmation surgery. The ability to change a gender designation and to have access to accurate identity documents is a critical issue for transgender people in areas such as traveling, voting, applying for a job, or seeking government services. Out of date identity documents that fail to reflect a person's lived gender identity also pose a potential safety issue -- increasing the risk for hostility or violence based on someone's gender identity. Although some state offices have implemented policies requiring proof of gender affirming surgery prior to a gender designation change, current best medical practice regarding gender transition and related care does not require gender-affirming surgery for all transgender patients.
Requiring treatment that goes beyond these best medical practices in order to qualify for a gender marker change on a birth certificate is harmful for transgender patients and may interfere with the care they are receiving from their physician. It also poses an additional, unnecessary barrier to accessing this vital change. In a report that accompanied yesterday's decision, the AMA's reference committee concluded that "requiring sex-reassignment surgery places a burden on an already marginalized population."
Dr. Jeremy Toler, speaking on behalf of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, echoed this sentiment when speaking to the AMA's decision making body. Dr. Toler advised that these decisions “should be in the hands of physicians that treat and manage patients who are transgender. This is an issue that is important to the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and should be important to the AMA.”
At the same meeting, the AMA adopted a resolution condemning criminalization and discrimination based on HIV status. It also condemned mandatory discharge from military service based on HIV status alone. As part of the resolution, the AMA encouraged not only enforcement of existing anti-discrimination laws, but also ensuring that federal and state laws are consistent with current medical knowledge. The resolution also highlighted the critical importance of educating the public on the stigma and negative health outcomes caused by such unnecessary and harmful criminalization.
HRC applauds these resolutions and the AMA's commitment to ensuring that best medical practices are not sacrificed for discrimination.