“This is Something We Hadn’t Fully Thought Through, Frankly”

“This is Something We Hadn’t Fully Thought Through, Frankly”

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
December 8, 2006

Just a month ago, the New York City Board of Health announced plans to let persons change the sex on their birth certificate — even without a sex-change operation. The proposal was seen as a major advance for those seeking to separate gender from biological sex. The proposal was also — and rightly — seen as radical and unworkable. Now, reality has caught up with the proposal and it has been withdrawn.

The move to allow individuals to change the documented sex on their birth certificates was fueled by the “rights revolution” in matters of sexuality. The city’s Health Commissioner, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, seemed very excited about the proposal. He told The New York Times [article available to subscribers only]:

”Surgery versus nonsurgery can be arbitrary,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the city’s health commissioner. ”Somebody with a beard may have had breast-implant surgery. It’s the permanence of the transition that matters most.”


In New York, the proposed change comes after four years of discussion among health officials, an eight-member panel of transgender experts and vital records offices nationwide. It is an outgrowth of the transgender community’s push to recognize that some people may not have money to get a sex-change operation, while others may not feel the need to undergo the procedure and are simply defining themselves as members of the opposite sex. While it may be a radical notion elsewhere, New York City has often tolerated such blurring of the lines of gender identity.

And the proposal reflects how the transgender movement has become politically potent beyond its small numbers, having roots in the muscular politics of the city’s gay rights movement.

Well, as they say, that was then and this is now. The Times reported Wednesday that the proposal has been “unexpectedly” withdrawn.

Take a look at this:

The plan, if passed, would have put New York at the forefront of a movement to eliminate anatomical considerations when defining gender. It had been lauded by some mental health professionals and transgender advocates who said it would reduce discrimination against men and women who lived as members of the opposite sex.

But after the proposed change was widely publicized recently, board members and officials with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said that a surge of new concerns arose. Vital records experts said that new federal rules regarding identification documents, due next year, could have forced the policy to be scrapped.

Health officials said patients at hospitals asked how doctors would determine who would be assigned to the bed next to them. And among law enforcement officials, there were concerns about whether prisoners with altered birth certificates could be housed with female prisoners — even if they still had male anatomies.

Well, it seems that reality sometimes triumphs over postmodern theory. My favorite statement about the whole episode was spoken by Dr. Frieden, the Health Commissioner:

“This is something we hadn’t fully thought through, frankly. . . . What the birth certificate shows does have implications beyond just what the birth certificate shows.”

Welcome to reality, Dr. Frieden.

As in the case of the recent articles on transgender kindergartners, the warning implicit in the fact that this proposal even saw the light of day is this — we are descending into gender chaos.

Once again, let’s remember what is at stake. Christians see the reality of biological identity as a gift–one important way the Creator has told us who we are and how we are to glorify Him with our lives. To deny this is to deny the Creator’s goodness, and to deny who He made us to be.


SEE ALSO:  NYC Board of Heath press release, December 5, 2006:

After reviewing that plan and input received during the public comments period, the Health Department concluded that the proposal would have broader societal ramifications than anticipated. Besides being a key element of identity, gender has important implications for many societal institutions that need to segregate people by sex. These include hospitals, schools and jails, as well as some workplaces.

R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

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