The American Medical Association made a landmark recommendation for the rights of trans, non-binary, and intersex people
The American Medical Association (AMA) now says that a baby’s sex should not be listed in the public-facing portion of birth certificates in the United States. In a June report, the professional medical organization’s LGBTQ+ advisory committee said that “assigning sex using a binary variable and placing it on the public portion of the birth certificate perpetuates a view that it is immutable,” and “fails to recognize the medical spectrum of gender identity.”
To be clear, any sex designated at birth would still be recorded — it just wouldn’t be publicly available. According to AMA, this information would be sent to the U.S. Standard Certificate of Live Birth strictly for the purposes of “medical, public health, and statistical use only.”
This is a huge leap forward for the LGBTQ+ community, who have faced countless forms of stigmatization, no thanks to the many legal hoops they have to jump through should they not identify with their assigned sex or gender at birth. Often, people whose gender identity or presentation doesn’t match with what their birth certificate says are subject to discrimination and harassment in all areas of their life, like applying for jobs, access to health care, or adopting a child, to name a few.
“We need to recognize gender is not a binary but a spectrum,” Sarah Mae Smith, MD, an AMA delegate from California representing the Women Physicians Section explained. “Obligating our patients to jump through numerous administrative hoops to identify as who they are based on a sex assigned at birth primarily on genitalia is not only unnecessary but actively deleterious to their health.”
Birth certificates have been historically used to discriminate.
Unfortunately, a baby’s assigned sex isn’t the first (or only) form of discrimination that has been enabled due to information available on front-facing birth certificates. When presenting their recommendation, the AMA highlighted the fact that birth certificates have “been used to discriminate, promote racial hierarchies, and prohibit miscegenation” throughout history. “For that reason, the race of an individual’s parents is no longer listed on the public portion of birth certificates. However, sex designation is still included on the public portion of the birth certificate, despite the potential for discrimination,” the report says.
There’s still a lot of work to do, however. As of now, 14 states in the US offer a third gender option on birth certificates, and 49 states (and Washington, D.C.) allow people to change the sex assigned to them on their birth certificates, although it is often an arduous process that sometimes requires proof of sex reassignment surgery. Tennessee is the only state that does not allow for amending the gender marker on the birth certificate, according to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP).
This news is the first step in what will hopefully alleviate some of the pain, discrimination, and ardousness that trans and non-binary folk deal with in their quest to be recognized.