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Why Washington is considering a third gender option on birth certificates

LISTEN: Why Washington is considering a third gender option on birth certificates

The Washington State Department of Health is considering a change to birth certificates that would add one more box for a third gender.

“This third option could be called, ‘non-binary,’” David Johnson with the Department of Health told Dori Monson. “… the key thing is we are seeing a movement toward gender neutral designations, this includes birth certificates. We see that social norms around gender identity have evolved. They are different today than they were 10, 15 or 20 years ago. Some people identify as neither male nor female. This proposal provides options for people to have their birth certificate align with their gender identity.”

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Johnson said that the biological sex of a person at birth would remain the same, rather, gender would be the option. What is being considered now is formalizing a process for changing the gender on a birth certificate, while also adding a third gender — non-binary.

The department has commonly fielded requests to change from male to female, or female to male. Johnson notes that more than 230 changes to sex designation have been submitted in 2017. There were nearly 240 in 2016. The gender neutral option is another factor that the health department sees as a “trend” people are moving toward, Johnson said.

The health department is not aware of the exact demand for the gender neutral option, Northwest Public Radio reports.

“You were born in 1961, I was born in 1964, and social norms today, especially around gender identity have evolved,” Johnson told Dori. “They are a lot different today in 2017 than they were in 1969, 1979 or even 1989. So what we think, though, is that there are people who neither identify as male nor female.”

The Department of Health is only considering the changes to birth certificate procedure. It is debating the change while also accepting public comment until Sept. 28. A hearing on the matter is expected in early December. If approved, the new options could go into effect in early 2018.

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