The dawn of a new year is typically the time that people start a new diet, a new exercise routine, or a new organizational method. Or it might just mean drafting a list of new liquors and beers to quaff. But for many people in New York City, it will also be time to get a new birth certificate that better reflects their gender identity. Trans and gender-nonconforming advocates are stoked that citizens who are non-binary or genderqueer can finally choose a neutral gender designation to best signify their identity.
In September 2018, New York’s city council approved an initial bill on the matter and Mayor Bill de Blasio signed it into law a short while later. It finally took effect on the first of this year, which means New Yorkers can now choose between M for male, F for female, or X for gender non-binary or gender-nonconforming.
Birth certificates are often tricky because the sex assigned at birth is required to be stated on the document. But in many cases, that sex fails to remain consistent with a person’s gender identity. And changing the document to reflect that hasn’t always been easy.
Prior to 2014, changing one’s gender required undergoing surgery. Even after 2014, getting a note or affidavit from a medical doctor or mental health professional was necessary. And neither of these paths deviated from the standard male/female binary. Now, people need only fill out an official affidavit denoting their preferred gender marker online to make the change.
“Transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers deserve the right to choose how they identify and to live with respect and dignity,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “This bold new policy advances the fight for equality and makes our City fairer for all people.”
New York City follows California, Washington, and Oregon, which have all enacted similar policies, allowing residents to opt for gender neutrality on birth certificates. New Jersey is poised to do the same in February. Meanwhile, Maine, California, Oregon and the District of Columbia offer residents a gender-neutral option on driver’s licenses.
Forget what Louis CK has to say about things, gender is a spectrum, and life can be very difficult for people who don’t easily identify as either male or female. Having the option to accurately self-identify on such an important document is a truly significant step. Hopefully, more governments across the country will enact similar legislation moving forward.