On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio signed a bill that adds a third gender option to birth certificates in the city. Denoted as “X,” the option is intended for gender nonconforming citizens. DeBlasio called the law “an essential example of freedom.”
“If you’re denied the right to express yourself, you don’t have freedom. If you have to sit by the door of a classroom worried that someone is going to typify you the wrong way and deny your identity, you don’t have freedom. You don’t feel free,” he said.
The new law, which will go into effect on January 1st, 2019, also does away with the requirement that transgender people get a note from a medical professional to change their gender identity on their birth certificate, instead allowing them to “self-attest” to their gender, a change that is expected to make changing other forms ID much easier. Residents under age 18 will need parental consent.
Introduced by New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, the legislation expands on a bill he fought for during his first term in 2014, which eliminated the requirement that people seeking hormone therapy or gender-confirmation surgery change their gender on their birth certificate first.
New York CIty isn’t first to pass legislation acknowledging gender nonconformity. In July 2017, Oregon became the first state to give residents a third gender option, “X,” on drivers’ licenses and identification cards. People are also able to change their gender to “X” without a doctor’s permission. Washington, D.C., was the first city in the country to add “X” as a third gender to IDs and licenses, passing a law in late June 2017, just days before Oregon.
Maine has also passed similar legislation allowing residents to identify as either male, female or “X” on driver’s licenses and ID cards, and until the law goes into effect sometime next year, those who intend to choose the third gender option are given a sticker for the identification cards that reads “gender has been changed to X – Non-binary.”
Washington State passed a bill allowing people to identity as “X” on their birth certificates earlier this year. Although all new birth certificates continue list just “M” and “F” as options, the legislation allows people over age 18 to change their gender to “X” without a doctor’s permission.
On September 1st in California, the “Gender Recognition Act” went into effect, allowing residents to identify as “nonbinary” on birth certificates and state identification. Nonbinary is defined under the bill as an “umbrella term for people with gender identities that fall somewhere outside of the traditional conceptions of strictly either female or male.”
Birth certificates are often required to make changes to other forms of identification and to access city services. Legislation like the “Gender Recognition Act” and New York City’s new bill removes a significant hurdle for nonbinary and transgender residents. By allowing them to self-identify on birth certificates, they are spared the unnecessary, at-times prohibitive cost of seeing a doctor, and will be able to use the paperwork to demand they be correctly identified by other institutions.
“You be you,” DeBlasio said, addressing his constituency, during the bill’s signing on Tuesday. “Live your truth. And know that New York City will have your back.”