The GSBA Blog

Paving the Way for Non- Binary Birth Certificates

by Matt Landers, Public Policy & Communications Manager
| Nov 17, 2017

This summer, Oregon became the first state to allow a non-binary “X” gender marker on IDs and driver’s licenses, followed quickly by the District of Columbia and California. Hopefully the Evergreen State will not be far behind! The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) issued a draft rule in August to add nonbinary gender options to birth certificates. People born in Washington can already request an updated birth certificate indicating a gender different than the one originally recorded, but they are limited to the options of “male” and “female”.

“What we are trying to do is just have birth certificates align with people’s gender identity,” said department head Christie Spice in an interview with the Tacoma News Tribune.

GSBA joined many partner organizations to sign on to a statement authored by Gender Justice League, Legal Voice, Transgender Law Center, and other partner organization to express support for a clear, accessible process through with Washingtonians can change the gender designation on their birth certificates. There is growing recognition in other parts of the U.S. (California, DC, Oregon) and countries (Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, India, Nepal) that binary gender markers are insufficient as a means to accurately reflect gender and to ensure equality.

The group is advocating for a series of principles around this rule change, including:

• Non-discrimination:
gender exists in many forms and no one should be preferred over the other. All people who need to change their gender designation should have access to this process with as few barriers as possible.
• Accessibility: all people who need to change their gender designation on their birth certificate should be permitted to do so without significant expense, barriers, or arbitrary limitations.
• Self-determination: individuals know their genders, and third parties do not need to be involved in this determination.
• Safety and privacy: the private and identifying information provided by and for people seeking a gender marker change must be protected from public disclosure.

As our society’s understanding of gender broadens, we hope that the categories a person could choose would recognize the spectrum of gender. The Department of Health has already expressed a desire for any alternative to “male” and “female” to be broadly and non-exclusively defined. The option least likely to exclude Washingtonians and most likely to avoid confusion would be to create an application form with a blank next to the word “Gender” where individuals can self-identify. Should the Department of Health require specific options, the group suggested that the terms “Non-Binary,” “Female,” “Male,” and “Not specified” would also be a positive step forward.

GSBA is looking forward to advocating for laws, rules, and policies across our state that reflect the entirety of experiences from our communities.


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