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First Intersex Birth Certificate Marks New Option For People With Non-Binary Gender

2 January 2017, 2:55 am EST By Allan Adamson Tech Times
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The first intersex birth certificate in the United States marks efforts to accommodate people with non-binary gender. This could simplify access to legal documents that more accurately reflect a person's sex.  ( Sara D. Davis | Getty Images )

A New York City agency has issued 55-year old Sara Kelly Keenan a birth certificate that bears the word intersex in the gender field.

Keenan, who uses female pronouns, was born with male genes and female genitalia. The corrected birth certificate she received via mail last month is the first known intersex birth certificate that was issued in the United States.

New Option For People With Non-Binary Gender

About one in 2,000 children born each year can be considered as intersex, but they would have to be classified as either male or female in their birth certificate. The issuance of Keenan's intersex birth certificate could pave way for changes that would have significant impact on the lives of people who have non-binary gender.

While it is relatively simple to change a person's gender from male to female and vice versa — as long as the necessary medical care and documentation are provided — there is a need for another option for those who were born intersex and those who do not identify themselves to either binary genders. One American was reissued a birth certificate bearing "hermaphrodite" and several do not have the sex specified on their birth certificates.

Julien Martinez, Assistant Press Secretary of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), which issued the new birth certificate, said that Keenan's case revealed that the agency is working to adapt to changes that would more accurately reflect a person's sex.

Keenan is not the first intersex person to legally fight for her recognition on identity documents but hers is the first known case to finally have intersex written on her birth document.

How Intersex Birth Certificate May Affect People Belonging To Third Gender

Her success could pave way for more of such certificates and may help improve the healthcare of those belonging to the third gender. The issuance of the certificate may likewise eventually simplify efforts of non-binary persons to gain access to essential documents.

"In the United States, birth certificates often provide access to a wide range of public services and critical identity documents, such as state IDs and passports," said Lambda Legal attorney Paul Castillo.

"Having birth certificates with gender designations other than male or female provides an enormous sense of validation for a number of non-binary and intersex people."

Keenan's case may eventually pave way for changes in the lives of people and children who are born intersex. Thirty people in the United States are currently on the waiting list to change their gender.

"In bringing this change, all the intersex children born now and yet to be born are my children because I can bring change for them," Keenan said. "I don't have a biological piece of the future but I have a heart piece of the future through those children because I can help them and give them a better experience."

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