Trans and nonbinary New Yorkers will soon be able to apply for a gender-neutral “X” on their birth certificates.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill this week allowing individuals to list a third option other than “M” or “F” on their birth documents. When de Blasio introduced the proposal alongside City Councilman Corey Johnson earlier this year, he claimed it expressed the administration’s “commitment to protecting all New Yorkers from discrimination.”
“New Yorkers should be free to tell their government who they are, not the other way around,” de Blasio added at a Tuesday bill-signing ceremony. “This new legislation will empower all New Yorkers — especially our transgender and gender non-binary residents — to have birth certificates that better reflect their identity.”
The “X” will replace the current intersex designation on birth certificates for those whose genitalia does not correspond to male or female characteristics.
The legislation, which is known as Introduction 954-A, will not change the guidelines for parents who wish not to list a gender on their child’s birth certificate, however. Four asterisks (i.e., “****”) are marked on the document until the child is old enough to decide for themselves.
Johnson claimed the inclusive bill sends “a powerful signal to the world that New York City government works for everyone.”
“This law will help those friends, neighbors and colleagues better self-identify on their birth certificates, a document that’s so important in everyday life,” Johnson said on Tuesday. “I am proud of my Council colleagues, the administration, and advocates for making this a reality.”
Introduction 954-A passed the city council in September following a 41-6 vote.
Just a handful of municipalities have rolled out gender-neutral options on identity documents for trans, nonbinary, and intersex people. These localities include California, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.
Some states prevent trans people from updating their birth certificates at all.
Others may impose burdensome requirements like a court order or completing gender confirmation surgery, which can be extremely expensive for a population which faces disproportionate levels of poverty and unemployment. It can cost more than $100,000 to fully transition.
New York City first recognized those needs in December 2014, when the city council struck requirements that applicants furnish a note from a physician or health care provider before their gender marker is amended.
Johnson has called that move “one of the things [he’s] most proud of.” Between January 2015 and March 2017, the openly gay councilman claimed more than 700 trans applicants “changed and corrected [their birth certificates] in a way that matched how they feel about themselves.”
The enactment of Introduction 954-A follows a number of inclusive updates in New York State over the past year.
In November 2017, the MTA subway system announced it would be striking the phrase “ladies and gentlemen” from its intercom system in favor of gender nonspecific language like “riders,” “passengers,” and “everyone.” Earlier this year the New York Legislature voted to phase out the gendered words “firefighter” and “police officer” in state laws.
New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray claimed this week’s legislation shows that the de Blasio administration is committed to continuing the work of inclusion.
“For the first time, all New Yorkers will be able to get a birth certificate that reflects and affirms their lived reality,” said McCray. “We will not stop there — we strive to extend that dignity to every aspect of life. We will stand strong against any attempt to deny members of the LGBTQ community the respect or safety they deserve as fellow human beings.”
But while trans advocates hope New York City’s nonbinary birth certificate bill encourages other municipalities to update their laws, the decision has not triggered sweeping change where it matters most.
Stymied by conservative opposition in the New York Senate, a historic trans rights bill has stalled in the state legislature for 11 state years. The legislation, popularly known as GENDA, would prevent discrimination on the basis of gender identity in areas like housing and employment.
The nonbinary marker on New York City birth certificates will be available as of Jan. 1, 2019.