The American Medical Agency (AMA) has recommended that the U.S. government stop including the designation of gender in birth certificates. Presently, people are classified as “male” or “female” in the public portion of their certificates.
AMA has argued that such classification would subject Americans who do not identify with the sex assigned at their birth to “confusion, possible discrimination, harassment, and violence whenever their birth certificate is requested.” The AMA made the observation in a report published by its LGBTQ Advisory Committee in June.
Birth certificates are not public documents since they have personal information. However, they are required for basic needs such as acquiring a driver’s license or passport. They are also needed for other purposes, such as registering to a school, obtaining a marriage certificate, accessing personal medical records, and employment.
According to the AMA, access to the sex identifier section of a birth certificate should be restricted to just the individual and his or her physician.
“Assigning sex using a binary variable and placing it on the public portion of the birth certificate perpetuates a view that it is immutable and fails to recognize the medical spectrum of gender identity. Participation by the medical profession and the government in assigning sex is often used as evidence supporting this binary view,” the AMA report said.
The organization noted said that the proposal would not comprehensively address the inequities and problems faced by members of the transgender and intersex communities. But excluding gender from the birth certificate would be a “valuable first step, with the authoritative voice of our AMA leading the way.”
An increasing number of states in the U.S. are making efforts to make government documents have more “inclusive” gender markers. For example, Washington, D.C. provides an “X” gender identifier option on birth certificates and driver’s licenses. More than ten states provide a similar option on driver’s licenses but not on birth certificates.
In June, the State Department announced that individuals applying for a passport could now select their preferred gender without having to provide any kind of medical certification in case their self-selected gender failed to match with other forms of IDs.
According to Human Rights Campaign, the concept of gender is an individual choice and people have the right to identify themselves as “male, female, a blend of both or neither… One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth.”
In an interview with The Seattle Times, V. Varun Chaudhary, who is an assistant professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Brandeis University, said that people are “really committed” to a binary sex model.
“The recommendation may say sex is not important for something like a birth certificate, but if people are still committed to a binary sex model, they find other ways to determine those things,” Chaudhary said.
In an article published by The Federalist on August 3, assistant editor Kylee Zempel argues that the new gender suggestion by the AMA was not medically nor scientifically viable.
According to the AMA recommendation, removal of sex designation is only applicable on birth certificates and not the U.S. Standard Certificate of Live Birth. This means that a newborn baby’s sex will continue to be reported to the government agencies as before for scientific and statistical reasons. However, the federal government will just not include that sex distinction on the birth certificate it subsequently issues.
“In other words, the AMA board contended, wishing away these sex distinctions on a birth certificate would protect transgender-identifying people from violence and discrimination, but their biological realities would still be reported to the government for medical purposes,” the article states.
Zempel questions why the AMA, which is an organization formed by medical doctors, was making a recommendation for a non-medical document. She slammed AMA’s recommendation to not be based in medical science. She stated that it is “the next step in the dangerous transformation of health care into a science-devoid cesspool of social justice.”
In a press release issued on August 5, the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) accused AMA of seeking to remove sex markers by “denying science.” It said that the AMA is receiving “warranted criticism” for its recommendation.
“This is precisely why sex does belong there… Identifying sex in the public portion of the birth certificate affirms the scientific fact that sex is an innate and immutable binary trait of public significance; a trait determined by genetics at fertilization,” Dr. Michelle Cretella, the executive director of ACPeds, said in a statement.