The Washington State Department of Health passed a new rule January 4 that simplifies the process for a person to change the gender listed on their birth certificate. The rule also creates a gender marker X, which represents a gender that is not exclusively male or female (such as nonbinary, intersex, agender, genderfluid, genderqueer, transgender, Two Spirit, and others).
Washington is one of only three states and Washington D.C. to acknowledge people outside the gender binary on government documents. Gender equity and transgender rights advocates – including Gender Justice League, Legal Voice, Pride Foundation, and Ingersoll Gender Center – praised the DOH for taking steps to recognize all Washingtonians as who they are.
“This is a monumental step by the state to recognize that there are thousands of Washingtonians who are neither male nor female,” said Jeremiah Allen Director of TRANSform Washington. “This follows a growing international recognition of the rights of indigenous and gender diverse people to be recognized fully for who they are by their governments.”
Currently, state law requires either a court order or a doctor’s letter if a person needs to change the gender listed on their birth certificate. Even then, the gender options are restricted to male and female.
Under the new rule, adults will have the right to self-attest to the gender marker change, without a court order or doctor’s letter. However, minors will still need a statement from an approved health care provider, and a parent or legal guardian will need to complete the application.
“We know that binary gender markers on government documents, including birth certificates, are insufficient both as a means to accurately reflect gender and to ensure equality,” said Danni Askini, Executive Director of Gender Justice League. “Today, the Department of Health took a critical step in eliminating social and legal barriers that undermine the health, safety, and equality of people because of their gender.”
The alternative to the binary designations applies only to minors and adults who apply to update their birth certificates. The gender marker options for newborns will still be male and female and undetermined. Further, the process for updating gender markers on other state identification – such as a driver license or ID card – remains unchanged.
“There are, of course, some logistics to work out as the Department of Health is now the only state agency that allows a gender marker that is not strictly male or female,” says Karter Booher, Executive Director of Ingersoll Gender Center. “The U.S. Department of State, which controls the passport process, also doesn’t recognize genders outside the gender binary. We are celebrating this initial victory, and looking forward to a multi-year, multi-agency effort to recognize people of all genders.”
More information on the rule can be found on the Department of Health website.