Babies like this one no longer have to be identified as M or F.
Babies now have a gender-neutral option on birth certificates in Washington. Getty

The Department of Health has passed a rule allowing a third gender option on Washington State birth certificates.

Washington State residents will be able to change their gender to a third option — “X” — beginning on January 27.

Proposed at the end of last August, the rule saw passionate public support as well as criticism. Today, a mere four months since it was proposed, the rule has passed.

The “X” refers to all genders outside the gender-binary, or, in layman's terms, strictly male or female. The “X” casts a wide umbrella of non-binary options that would alleviate confusion and create a more understanding atmosphere, according to supporters.

Danni Askini, executive director at the Gender Justice League, says that the LGBTQ community is excited about having this option.

“The significance here is that this rule allows people to be recognized for who they are,” Askini said, “which is a fundamental part of our country. It’s also a big step for our state to acknowledge that there are more than two genders.”

This ruling acknowledges the human rights of trans and nonbinary people. However, Askini said, it’s not perfect.

Over the summer, Askini and other members of GJL traveled across the state and heard from trans and non-binary people from all corners of Washington about their feelings toward the proposal. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Aside from that, many people had comments and concerns which Askini and Co. then relayed back to DOH.

“We literally had hundreds of people submit comments to DOH,” Askini said, the enthusiasm building in her voice, “we traveled around the state, spent a lot of time and energy and provided feedback and DOH essentially ignored all of that work.”

The ruling passing is a big deal to Askini—don’t get her wrong. But, there are still some hurdles people have to jump in order to change their gender.

In the press release provided by DOH, an added benefit to the impacted communities is that changing sex designation will be easier. Adults will no longer need medical attestation to make a change request, and it expands the list of medical professionals who can attest to a minor’s decision to change genders.

Askini’s concern is that, yes, even though this is an improvement, there are still barriers.

In order to apply for the gender change an applicant must also submit a court order that has been notarized. Aside from being a bureaucratic hassle, it also excludes incarcerated people (notaries will most likely not come to prison to sign your form).

The other big qualm is the additional step of getting a doctor’s letter in order for a minor to make the change request.

“We see that as a really costly and big barrier,” Askini said, “Especially in the lower income areas of eastern Washington where people maybe haven’t had a primary care doctor their whole lives.”

For now, despite the oversights, Askini and the LGBTQ community are celebrating. It’s the first step toward further progress. Currently, federal agencies and programs, like social security, will not recognize the third gender. But, Askini is confident this ruling will spur more widespread change and acceptance.

Washington is officially the second state to offer an official gender-neutral option on birth certificates, second only to California. Oregon provides a gender-neutral option on driver’s licenses.

This post was updated on Jan 4, 1:47 P.M.