Residents of New York City can now state they are gender neutral on birth certificates, thanks to a measure that took effect on Tuesday. The initiative enables New Yorkers who don’t identify as male or female to choose a third option on their birth certificate: “X.”
Officials hope the change will help nonbinary residents to accurately reflect their gender identity on official documentation. “Nonbinary” is a term used to describe individuals who regard their gender as in between man and woman, which is also sometimes termed “genderqueer,” according to LGBT advocacy organization GLAAD.
As of Tuesday, transgender and nonbinary New Yorkers will also not be required to present a letter from a physician or health care provider in order to change their gender on their birth certificates. Instead, individuals born in New York City can fill out an official affidavit available online, denoting their preferred gender marker.
“Although sex assigned at birth is required on birth certificates, the Health Department recognizes that some people’s assigned sex may not be consistent with their gender identity,” the New York City Mayor’s Office.
“Transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers deserve the right to choose how they identify and to live with respect and dignity. This bold new policy advances the fight for equality and makes our City fairer for all people,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.
Dr. Oxiris Barbot, New York City health commissioner, said that the city has been “a place where people come to express their gender identity” for decades. But our institutions never afforded transgender and nonbinary individuals control over their gender on government documents,” Barbot said.
“By offering a nonbinary option and a less burdensome way to change one’s gender on their birth certificate, the city is moving in the right direction toward full equality for New Yorkers who have historically been marginalized and ignored.”
Trans rights advocate Melissa Sklarz thanked lawmakers for “recognizing the next step in our gender identity movement. It is important that young people be empowered to explore their identities in a manner that is relevant to them.
“As a native born New Yorker, I am happy that New York joins other cities in looking to the future to protect their citizens in their quest for civil rights and identity,” Sklarz said.
De Blasio and New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson put forward the policy in June, which was voted in by the City Council and the Board of Health in September.
Similar policies on enabling residents to state their gender-neutrality on their birth certificates have already been introduced in California, Oregon and Washington State, with New Jersey set to follow suit in February.
The initiative comes as attitudes toward gender identity have shifted in recent years. Last year, the World Health Organization reclassified gender incongruence, a condition some transgender people experience, to state it was no longer regarded as a mental illness.