"X" : WA's Recognition of a Third Gender Marker Isn't the Only Change Worth Celebrating


As of January 27, 2018, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) now allows individuals with a Washington state birth certificate to choose a third gender maker, “X,” in addition to male or female markers.

As is described on the DOH’s website, this gender marker reflects any “gender that is not exclusively male or female, including but not limited to: intersex, agender, amalgagender, androgynous, bigender, demigender, female-to-male, genderfluid, genderqueer, male-to-female, neutrois, nonbinary, pangender, third sex, transgender, transsexual, Two Spirit, and unspecified.”

While this is a sign of progress at a state level, the new rule doesn’t come without drawbacks. The DOH is currently “unsure if other agencies, such as Passport, will accept these amended certificates.” Unlike states such as California and Oregon that have made a third gender marker available for driver’s licenses, Washington rules have only changed to include the marker on birth certificates.

This inevitably makes the change significantly less applicable and only impacts those who were born in Washington.

Morgan Mentzer, co-founder of the Lavender Rights Project, is nevertheless hopeful about the influence that the new rule could have on other agencies.

“What this rule will do is create conflict among agencies, which will establish a need for consistency in recognizing more genders on state documents like driver’s licenses, and ideally even federal documents like passports,” said Mentzer. “Along with the important work of activists and advocates on the ground, hopefully these inconsistencies will make it more compelling for other departments to get on board, too.”

In addition to allowing for the option of a third gender marker, the DOH also simplified the process for changing one’s gender on a Washington state birth certificate -- another win for intersex, trans, and gender non-conforming folks who are interested in doing so.

Individuals over the age of 18, as well as emancipated minors, are no longer required to submit a court order or doctor’s letter when requesting a gender marker change on a birth certificate. (To change a minor’s birth certificate, signatures from a parent or legal guardian and a licensed healthcare provider are still required.)

This update makes Washington one of only a few states to give individuals the right to self-identify without requiring justification from the oftentimes expensive, time-consuming, and dangerous bureaucratic court and healthcare systems, ultimately putting personal power and autonomy back into the hands of intersex, trans, and gender non-conforming people born in the state.

(The National Center for Transgender Equality has a nifty ID Documents Center where you can explore name change, birth certificate, and other ID requirements for each state.)

While there’s still a lot of progress to be made, this small step forward has the potential to influence substantial change for intersex, trans, and gender non-conforming people in Washington and beyond, and we're happy to celebrate the many people this will impact in the short- and long-term.

The Lavender Rights Project has created a quick how-to guide to get you started on the process of using the “X” gender marker on your Washington state birth certificate.

For more information about the process, visit the DOH’s website.


Request to Change Sex Designation on a Birth Certificate for a Minor (PDF)

Request to Change Sex Designation on a Birth Certificate for an Adult (PDF)