New birth certificate regulation allows for all gender options

LOWER MANHATTAN— It's a measure that's intended to let more New Yorkers be who they are.

A soon-to-be-signed bill that allows people to change the gender designation on their birth certificate, or to have no listed gender at all, is prompting some criticism of the conventions that require the change in the first place.

At a seven minute-long hearing at City Hall on Tuesday, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced his endorsement of the measure that he called necessary.

He said the bill, passed by the New York City Council last week, upholds "every New Yorker's fundamental right to declare who they are."

The mayor formally stated his intention to sign the bill that would allow people to list their gender as 'X' on their birth certificates, if they feel that binary genders — being identified as either male, or female  —do not apply to them.

The bill would also allow people to change their birth gender on their birth certificates, if they felt it was appropriate.

"Transgender is going to be a medical issue, and not a political or cultural [one]," said Melissa Sklarz, a transgender activist.

She said that legislation like that announced by the mayor on Tuesday reflects changes in society and technology.

There's now "access to new science to change gender identity at very, very young ages," Sklarz said.

Three states have beaten New York City to adopting non-gender birth certificates. California, Oregon, and New Jersey have non-gender certificates already in state law.

New York is joining their efforts, but only as a city government. For now, New York State has only traditional birth certificates.

"It is so important that we act," said Mayor De Blasio, "because of the absence of action at the federal and state level."

Sklarz echoed that sentiment. "Hopefully, come January," she told PIX11 News, "we'll have a new dynamic in the State Senate."

The makeup of the State Senate is expected to change, after the majority of centrist Democratic Party members who had caucused with Republicans were rejected by voters in primary elections last month.

At the short hearing on Tuesday, one transgender rights advocate said that she's optimistic that birth certificates are only the beginning.

Lala Zanel of the New York City Anti-Violence Project said she's hopeful that all official New York City documents will one day allow non-gender designations.

Mayor De Blasio said that he'll sign the birth certificate legislation into law "in the next few days," and that it will go into effect January 1, 2019.