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Remove sex from birth certificates to make trans lives easier, urge Pennsylvania Democrats

SJ Zhang January 21, 2022
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Sex markers should be dropped from the public part of babies' birth certificates, the American Medical Association says.

Birth certificates currently publicly record a baby's sex as 'male' or 'female'. (Envato Elements)

Democrats in Pennsylvania are hoping to remove sex from Pennsylvania birth certificates to make life simpler for trans people.

The proposal is part of a package of incoming bills which also includes one seeking to make the process for changing one’s name easier and more accessible.

The bills are intended “to protect individual privacy and prevent discrimination” for transgender individuals, who often face many layers of bureaucracy when attempting to transition.

In a memo released ahead of the bills’ introduction, state senators Tim Kearney, Amanda Cappelletti, Katie Muth and Lindsey Williams explained: “While the current administration has worked to address some of the difficulties of getting state issued IDs with gender neutral designations by simplifying the process on driver’s licenses, there are still tremendous hurdles when it comes to the overall process for individuals to change their name and change their sex, particularly on birth certificates.

“By removing sex designations entirely, we can remove the barriers of acquiring gender-affirming birth certificates.”

They noted that the American Medical Association last year recommended that sex be dropped from birth certificates.

Kearney, Cappelletti, Muth and Williams explained that they were inspired to propose these bills after learning more about the struggles affecting transgender folk at Senate Democratic policy hearing last summer.

The Democrats hope that these policy changes will “remove some of the legal barriers the LGBTQ community faces when living as their authentic selves.”

“Soon, we intend to introduce legislation to protect individual privacy and prevent discrimination by removing sex designations on [Pennsylvania]] birth certificates,” they added.

Of plans to make the name change process less bureaucratic, Kearney, Cappelletti, Muth and Williams explained: “The delays, cost, and confusion involved in the current name change process cause real harm to Pennsylvania’s trans community.

“While an entirely new name change process is needed, this legislation sets forth reasonable, initial steps that can be taken now to improve the safety, stability, and wellbeing of our trans community in the commonwealth.”

In recent years, Pennsylvania has been a swing state. It currently has a Democratic governor, Tom Wolf, but both houses of the state legislature have a Republican majority.

This means that any legislation proposed by Democrats faces an uphill battle to become law.

According to Erica Clayton Wright, a spokesperson for the Senate Republican Caucus, such policy proposals are not considered a priority. In an email, she wrote: “The current focus of the Senate is to transition the commonwealth out of crisis and position Pennsylvania’s economy for success. Any discussions on this topic have been with the media.”

In times of crisis, issues around human rights – especially those concerning marginalised groups – often fall to the sidelines.
Yet, there is little reason why senators cannot work on both addressing the impact COVID-19 and improving trans rights. Supporting the trans community is particularly urgent, given that last year (2021) was the deadliest year for transgender people on record.

More: Pennsylvania, trans rights

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