City’s new gender option classification a double win for Caribbean LGBT community

Members of the Caribbean Equality Project (from left): Mohamed Q. Amin, Sundari — The Indian Goddess, Andy K. Bishun, Krishna Ramsarran, Theo Brown, and Steven Rose.
Ryan Tiscareno

On Jan. 15 Mayor DeBlasio announced that the city-issued identification program IDNYC, now allows its applicants to choose a third gender.

New Yorkers who do not identify as male or female can now choose gender X — which represents the identities of transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people. It’s the latest round of gender inclusion efforts in the city. Since Jan. 1, new legislation allowed birth certificates with the option to alter or choose a gender besides male or female.

This new option is a major win for LGBTQ advocates, and two victories particularly for the Caribbean members of the community. Not only does this new gender option affirms how they identify, many who are part of the immigrant communities will be able to access services they could not before, said the founder of the Queens-based Caribbean LBGT group.

“For many in our community, this is the first form of identification that affirms their identity,” said Mohamed Amin of the Caribbean Equality Project (CEP). “What this does is also reaffirm immigrants in the city because a lot of times immigrants don’t have any form of government-issued identification and with IDNYC — they can access healthcare and other city services.”

And many people in the LGBTQ community of Caribbean heritage are thrilled at the news, because it removes an additional barrier that blocked their access to certain benefits.

“A lot of folks have reached out to us for support and they have asked us where can they sign up or where to schedule an appointment,” said Amin.

Because the program has many instutuional partners, LGBTQ New Yorkers will also get to access much of the city’s cultural experiences at free or discounted prices, as many already enjoyed with IDNYC. One in particular is a year-long free entry at Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.

Amin said this was an enriching opportunity that can benefit more than just the cardholder.

“One of the great benefits is that this gives community members access to NYC culture because so many museums have signed to partner with the program,” said Amin. “This is great for immigrant parents who have children because they can get free memberships to a lot of museums.”

He said the amount of convenience the ID provides, also gives its cardholder a sense of belonging and safety.

“In addition to having an ID to identify yourself, LGBTQ New Yorkers will get access to financial empowerment with banks which partner with IDNYC,” said Amin.

Amin added that it took a long journey to get an additional gender option, but praised city agencies including the Mayor’s Office of Immigration Affairs, other advocates and groups for working together to get to where they are.

“We’ve been in partnership with IDNYC since its inception, and we’ve invited the Immigration Affairs to do outreach with us, and set up meetings with many of our community members,” he said.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected] Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.

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