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Health Department to add ‘X’ for non-binary gender marker on death certificates

Death certificates will include an “X” option for New Yorkers who do not identify as male or female starting Jan. 2, 2020, the Health Department recently announced.

“Reforming our institutions to reflect the identities of the people we serve is essential to being an inclusive, equity-driven agency and city,” Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said. “We can honor how non-binary individuals lived by ensuring their death records accurately reflect their identities.”

The change comes at no additional cost to the Health Department, according to a press release. 

Retrospective changes to death certificates will be possible, which means a death certificate’s gender marker can be revised to “X” as long as the requestor provides evidence that the proposed gender matches how the deceased person identified in life.

The health department will also guide providers’ work with the decedent’s loved ones in order to make the best attempt at recording a gender identity that is consistent with the wishes of the decedent.

The determination of the “X” in the certificate will be based on knowledge of the person or documentation including but not limited to: “an amended birth certificate indicating different sex than sex assigned at birth; a statement from the decedent during life requesting a change of birth certificate to different from sex assigned at birth; and medical records indicating self-identification as gender identity differing than sex assigned at birth.”

The update is just another way the city is working to improve and protect the health of all transgender people. In 2018, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a law that created a third gender category, “X,” on NYC birth certificates for the first time in the city’s history.

According to the Health Department, there have been 362 individuals who requested a gender marker change (327 adults and 35 minors).

“All New Yorkers, regardless of their gender identity, deserve to have documents that reflect and affirm who they are,” First Lady Chirlane McCray said in a statement. “Today, we are sending a clear message to non-binary New Yorkers that we respect and honor their fundamental rights in every phase of life.”

Council member Daniel Dromm, who represents Elmhurst and Jackson Heights and is chair of the council’s LGBT Caucus, stated that the change in death certificates “allows non-binary New Yorkers to die with dignity.”

“As is the case with men and women, gender markers on the death certificates of gender non-conforming New Yorkers should reflect who they were in life,” Dromm stated. “This effort makes that possible. I thank the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for moving this effort forward.”

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