For transgender individuals, changing their gender or sex designation on their birth certificates may be a very important step in terms of making sure that their legal documents reflect the gender or sex identity that they identify with rather than the one that they were born with. The requirements as well as the process to change the sex designation on a birth certificate can vary greatly from state to state.

Policy Differences Between the States

Since at least the 1970s, most states have maintained laws which allow individuals to make changes to their birth certificates and in the decades since then, transgender individuals have used those laws to make their birth certificates reflect the sex identity that they identify with. In a majority of the states, the name and sex can be changed on a birth certificate, either through the process of amending the existing birth certificate or by issuing a new one. However, many states require medical proof of sex reassignment surgery in order to warrant a change in gender.

Transgender individuals face different situations in different states. In a few states, they are not allowed to make any changes to the birth certificates. In thirty seven states, they are required to provide medical proof that they have undergone sex reassignment surgery in order to request an altered birth certificate.

But the District of Columbia, New York City and 10 states – Minnesota, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maryland, Connecticut, New York, Washington, Oregon and California – allow transgender individuals to change their sex or gender identity on their birth certificates. In these states, individuals are required to provide a notarized doctor’s note which shows that a person has received all of the treatment which are considered necessary by the individual and the doctor to live their life in a way that is consistent with their gender identity.

Trans activists call this the “modernized standard” because it does not require expensive surgery or hormone treatments. Not every transgender individual wants these types of surgeries or hormone treatments and some along with their doctors do not feel that they need them in the first place. This is also the standard that is required by the Social Security Administration for Social Security cards, as well as U.S. passports and birth certificates which are issued to Americans who were born abroad.

Organizations such as Amnesty International and the European Court of Human Rights have declared that any attempt to prevent transgender individuals from changing the sex listed on their official documents is a violation of these individuals’ human rights. Many gay and trans advocacy organizations in the United States say that the ability to alter one’s birth certificate is important because it gives trans individuals the ability to decide when and to whom they want to disclose the fact that they are trans.

If they did not have this option, they may have to present, for example, a driver’s license that shows the legal name and the gender identity that they now present to the world but a birth certificate that does not correspond to the legal name and the gender identity that they now identify with. This will in turn raise questions anytime they apply for jobs, loans or apartments.

Birth Certificate Laws in California

From January 2018, the California Department of Public Health will issue a new birth certificate that reflects a gender of female, male, or non-binary. This is upon receipt of an application to change the gender along with an affidavit that attests that the change of gender is to reflect a person’s gender identity. Provider attestation is not required and the agency will create a new birth certificate and seal the old record. If an applicant is also requesting an amended name on the birth certificate, they must also submit the legal name change order.

Also, in terms of a court order for a gender change, starting September 1, 2018, a person may file a petition in any county seeking recognition of male, female or non-binary gender, along with an affidavit that attests to their own gender. This is for obtaining a judgment which reflects a change in gender from any California court and no provider attestation is required.

Where to Find the Right Lawyer?

The requirements for changing your gender identity on your birth certificate can vary greatly from state to state. It is important to consult with an experienced government lawyer before proceeding.