Over 700 people in New York City have legally changed the gender on their birth certificates since a 2015 policy loosened requirements for this switch. This is according to data released by the Health Department and City Council, Patch reports.

Prior to the 2015 change, those wishing to change their gender had to prove that they underwent gender reassignment surgery and legally changed their names. Following this policy adjustment, a health care provider has to confirm that the gender on the applicant’s birth certificate does not match their gender identity, NY Daily News reports. According to Patch, the health department was reporting an average of 20 gender changes per year before the policy change. This number jumped to 731 gender identity changes in the two years since the department eased requirements.

“These encouraging statistics demonstrate unequivocally that changes in public policy can make a lasting difference on the road to achieving equal treatment and protection for transgender people across the five boroughs,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams said in a press release.

For transgender individuals living in New York City, these statistics represent significant progress, both socially and politically. In a society that often makes a judgement of character based on appearance, with people deciding someone’s trustworthiness in a tenth of a second, this policy may bring awareness to the true complexities of identity. Beyond identity politics, experts are pointing out that transgender individuals need to have access to necessary healthcare.

“Access to transgender competent and affordable healthcare including hormones and surgery is both illness prevention and health promotion for transgender individuals,” said Dr. Barbara Warren in a statement to Patch. Warren is the Director of LGBT Programs and Policies in Mount Sinai Health System’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion.

With recent legislative battles over bathroom bills and policies placing the determination of transgender identities in the hands of state and federal politicians, this statistic may be a much-needed victory for the local LGBTQ+ community. In a statement to Patch, Health Commissioner Mary Basset voiced her commitment to acknowledging and accepting transgender identities in New York City.

“As jurisdictions around the country continue to adopt policies of discrimination against transgender people, it is crucial for this city to reaffirm its commitment to equality and health equity,” she said. “We will continue to work with the community to recognize and affirm transgender lives, improve our services, reduce stigma and promote the health of all transgender New Yorkers.”

Photo Credit: torbakhopper