New York Joins the List of Locations With a Third Gender Marker, But is it Enough?

Theo Rodas, ‘19

October 2018

Oregon, Washington, California and New Jersey already offer the “X” option when changing the gender marker on your birth certificate. New York is joining them and allowing changes via affidavit. With a strong backing from Bill De Blasio and the sign off from the NYC board of health, the city will begin processing requests for birth certificate changes on January 1st. The option not only provides for non-binary adults, but intersex infants. The same bill is doing away with the requirement of a doctor’s sign off on a birth certificate gender change.

Your birth certificate is a major indicator of identity, and is required more often than most people realize. For most people, a birth certificate is needed for getting an ID, a passport or flying. Having a gender marker that doesn’t align with your identity is emotionally damaging and legally damaging, often leading to further misidentification. It can cause particular trouble if your birth certificate does not have the same name or gender marker as the rest of your identification.

However, this is not a change without resistance and ignorance. New York City Council Member Robert Holden has brought up the age-old reponse of: “Just having anyone – without going through a doctor – say they’re another gender or X; that could lead to abuse and all sorts of problems. We need more oversight.” While this complaint has met transgender rights at every step in the battle for equality, apparently, our opposition hasn’t gotten the memo that trans people simply aren’t interested in wasting our time, money and energy to claim we’re a gender that we don’t identify as. What possible benefit could we reap from “claiming” a gender we don’t align with, that’s why we want to change our names, pronouns and birth certificates. What “abuse” are you referencing? What “problems?” Why should I have to wait on a doctor to validate my gender?

There are valid concerns about this change, though. Bill De Blasio claims that his support for this bill is due to the rising rates of violence against transgender New Yorkers, but in actuality, a birth certificate or ID change isn’t combating violence. It’s affirming, and it’s normalizing, but it won’t drop the rates of assault and abuse against transgender people in our city. There are incredibly pressing issues facing LGBTQIA+ New Yorkers right now that De Blasio has repeatedly offered similar cover-up solutions for that need to stop.

This bill assumes that changing your gender on your ID or birth certificate won’t incite a raised amount of discrimination, that it won’t bring violent backlash from bigots, that the Infant Genital Mutilation surgeries regularly occurring at New York Presbyterian Hospital will stop.

This is a step in the right direction, and I’m glad that we’re inching our way towards equality, but we need to stop settling for our city government’s meager excuse for protection.