Third 'Gender X' Group Created in New York City
By Jillian Jorgensen
When she was a student at the College of Staten Island, Tanya Asapansa-Johnson Walker would slip her professors a piece of note at the start of each semester: her name and her gender pronouns.
"And I would sit at the back of the class, at the door because, I was afraid he was going to call my birth name and gender," Walker, a transgender woman who now lives in Harlem, said Tuesday.
It's an experience familiar to many trans and non-binary people whose gender identity doesn't match what's on official identification documents. But beginning in January, those born in New York City will be able to easily change the gender on their birth certificate -- and they will have the option to choose neither male nor female, but X.
"Having a document that shows a wrong identity is scary and stressful," she said. "Imagine having to out yourself over and over and over again to people you don't even know. It's very -- it causes lots and lots of anxiety."
The new law, signed Tuesday by Mayor de Blasio and introduced by Council Speaker Corey Johnson, will allow adults born here to change the gender on their birth certificate without a medical professional's approval -- instead letting them "self-attest" their gender.
And it will provide the third option of X to people like Asia Kate Dillon, an actor on the popular show Billions who is non-binary -- identifying as neither male nor female and using the pronoun "they."
But Dillon's birth certificate lists her as female, with an F.
"The F marked me as she her miss ms even ma'am in a society socialized -- all of us -- socialized to use a person's body, specifically what is between a baby's legs at their birth, to determine their gender identity," Dillon said.
Dillon was born outside of New York City, and so won't be able to change their birth certificate yet -- though they were hopeful the change could spread across the state.
"Changing the F to an X would not only be a validation of my reality it would allow me to be seen as a human being first," they said. "A person whose body doesn't indicate anything other than: it's my body."
De Blasio said the legislation was "an essential example of freedom."
"If you're denied the right to express yourself, you don't have freedom. If you have to sit by the door of a classroom worried that someone is going to typify you the wrong way and deny your identity, you don't have freedom. You don't feel free," he said.
The legislation builds on a bill Johnson passed in 2014, during his first term in the city, that ended the requirement for a person to be getting hormone therapy or to have sex-change surgery to change the gender on their birth certificate. It was the bill he was most proud of, he said.
"Because I recognized that as a white gay man I have a level of privilege in the LGBT community that others aren't afforded and to be in the position that I'm in it is important for me to to acknowledge that," he said, and to work so that all people "get the same level of dignity and care that I was able to get as a young gay man when I moved to New York City."
Birth certificates are necessary to access many city services -- and the gender listed on a drivers' license or other forms official ID are generally based on what is listed on the birth certificate, meaning today's change will make it easier for people to obtain multiple forms of ID that reflect their gender identity.
Kids under 18 will be able to make the change with parental consent.
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