We're four days into Pride Month, and in celebration, the City of New York is making moves toward inclusivity. Both the city's mayor and City Council Speaker are supporting a bill that would add an "X" gender category to city birth certificates, so non-gender binary adults can alter their certificates to reflect their identities.
As reported by the Associated Press, NYC City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is a Democrat who represents the city's 3rd District in Manhattan (Hell's Kitchen, Chelsea, the West Village, a section of Flatiron and the Upper West Side), will introduce a bill to the City Council on Thursday adding the "X" category to city birth certificates. Currently, parents of newborns born in New York City can opt not to assign a gender for their child on their birth certificate. And in 2015, New York City made it legal for transgender New Yorkers to change their assigned gender on their birth certificates without having to prove they underwent a sex-reassignment surgery. That law change, which was also passed by New York City's City Council in 2014, was heralded by LGBTQ advocates, though it did controversially require those who wanted to make the change to provide a statement from a licensed healthcare provider affirming the change "accurately reflects the applicant's sex or gender identity."
Some advocates argued that the aforementioned stipulation still suggested the person who wanted to change their gender didn't have the agency to do so unfettered. Council Speaker Johnson's proposal would remove the requirement that a healthcare provider confirm the assignment change, permitting people to opt for an official birth certificate gender change without needed approval from an outside source.
More importantly, the proposal would recognize the existence of genders that don't fall along the male/female binary, something that is gaining some momentum in some of the nation's more progressive states. On the West Coast, California, Oregon, and Washington all have a third gender option on their birth certificates. Those states also allow for a third gender option on drivers licenses. On the East Coast, both Washington, D.C. and New York State have a third gender option on drivers' licenses as well, though New York would be the first city on this side of the country to include a third gender on a birth certificate.
"This is about making it easier for people to be who they truly are and letting them know that New York City understands them and has their backs," Johnson, whose district includes a number of historically LGBTQ districts (including the West Village, home to the famous Stonewall Inn), said in a statement.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says he supports the proposal. "Pride Month is a time to celebrate how far we've come in the fight for equality, and re-affirm our commitment to protecting all New Yorkers from discrimination," he said in a statement. "This proposal will allow transgender and gender non-conforming New Yorkers to live with the dignity and respect they deserve, and make our City fairer."
After Johnson proposes the bill this week, the city will hold public hearings on the potential change. The city's Board of Health will also consider the proposal this week, with a hearing scheduled for July and a vote in September. "Transgender New Yorkers, like everyone else, should have birth certificates that reflect their true gender identity," health commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement. "We know that being able to live your authentic gender and gender expression is critical to physical and mental health. Now more than ever, we must ensure that all people can live their best and healthiest lives."