Happy 2019! I am delighted to be a new member of the Pride Center board and to be writing this piece on legal issues facing the LGBTIA communities.

(Disclaimer: all opinions are my own, and this is purely informational, not legal advice.)

I am even more delighted to be able to report on a positive development, as those do seem to have been sparse recently. However, as of January 1, 2019, a new law took effect in New York City which allows adults to change the gender on their birth certificates to “X” rather than “M” or “F.”(1) This appears to be the fifth such law passed in the country since 2017; California, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho have similar laws. (2) New Jersey’s law will take effect in February.(3) The New York City law requires only a notarized affidavit, stating that the change is not for a fraudulent purpose, and it is thus quite easy for gender nonconforming people to change their birth certificates to reflect that status.(4)

I realize, of course, that if you are reading this you are likely not in New York City and may be wondering how this affects you -individuals in New York State must still get a medical professional’s signature to change the gender marker on their birth certificates, and it will not affect driver’s licenses. However, this does seem to be part of a genuine trend of states and municipalities acknowledging and respecting that not everyone fits into a binary gender scheme. I think back to the days when same-sex marriage was legalized in state after state. Of course, I know that this took years of effort by advocates and advocacy groups, and I do not in any way want to trivialize that work. However, it genuinely appeared that once a critical mass of states and municipalities started to recognize same-sex marriages, the dam burst. I hope we will begin to see that in this area also.
We are extraordinarily conditioned in this country to think in binary terms, perhaps most particularly around gender. Moreover, most notably around gender, the effects are corrosive for all of us. I think that changing that is going to be a marathon rather than a sprint and that we see just the first few steps here. However, these laws are hugely important first steps for gender nonconforming people most of all, but also for a more just, compassionate, and understanding society.

Victoria Esposito, Pride Center Board Director

Evan Simko-Bednarski, “New York City Birth Certificates Get Gender-Neutral Option.” CNN. Available at https://www.cnn.com/2019/01/03/health/new-york-city-gender-neutral-birth-certificate-trnd/ind.ex.html (last accessed January 4, 2019).

2 Id.
3 Id.
4 Id.