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Switching your gender is officially easier now

More states streamline the process to amend sex designations on birth certificates


Switching your gender is officially easier now

Changing your sex may be impossible biologically, but changing how it is listed on state documents is getting easier by the day. That’s because state governments across the country have lowered the threshold over the last few years to amend birth certificates and driver’s licenses.

Gone in 26 states are sex reassignment surgery mandates and court orders necessary for such officially recognized changes. And what’s more, some states have gone as far as to wipe official records clean, making it nearly impossible to find official proof of an individual’s sex at birth. That’s all according to data collected by the Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit think tank that tracks LGBT regulations. It also provides updated state-by-state regulations on how each state handles gender identity on driver’s licenses and name changes on vital records.

In Washington, D.C., for example, D.C.-born residents wishing to alter their sex designation on their birth certificate need to fill out a one-page application, get a signed doctor’s note, and pay $51. Once the amended birth certificate is finalized, no trace of the original—or even evidence that it was altered—will remain in the official record.

Vermont used to require a doctor’s signature and proof of sex reassignment surgery, but state lawmakers eliminated that requirement. As of July 1, Vermonters interested in amending the sex listed on their birth certificates need only to fill out a form, present a government-issued ID, and pay $10 for a copy of the document.

Until 2020, Idaho had banned changing sex designations on birth certificates, but a court case overturned the ban, and now the state allows Idahoans to amend their birth certificates without a doctor’s signature.

The number of requested changes to vital records associated with gender identity continues to rise as more states streamline the process. When New Mexico started allowing people to amend their sex on their birth certificates in late 2019, it received 43 applications. The following year, applications increased to 120, and last year, such requests totaled 181. WORLD was unable to find nationwide statistics.

New Mexico is also one of 16 states that allow people to select from one of three designations: male, female, or “X.” That X could stand for several things: another gender identity, something in-between, or a rare intersex condition.

New Mexico is also one of six states that require children to play on sports teams based on the sex listed on their birth certificate, according to transathlete.com. New Mexico Activities Association Associate Director Dusty Young said he was not aware of any cases of transgender athletes attempting to play on teams opposite of their birth sex. But he added that if it does happen, “we’ll discuss with our member schools.”

But nearby Utah is already contending with such questions. Two weeks ago, after an athlete placed first in a girls competition “by a wide margin,” the parents of the second- and third-place finishers questioned the winner’s sex. According to The Salt Lake City Tribune, the Utah High School Activities Association checked the athlete’s records going back to kindergarten and confirmed she was a female. That same week, a judge ruled that biological male athletes who identify as female would be allowed to play on Utah high school girls teams, blocking the state from enforcing a ban on transgender sports participation.

Juliana Chan Erikson

Juliana is a correspondent and a member of WORLD's investigative unit, the Caleb Team. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Juliana resides in the Washington, D.C., metro area with her husband and 3 children.


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