Maine is considering a new rule that would allow the use of a nonbinary gender designation on birth certificates, a step that some LGBTQ advocates are celebrating as a step toward greater equality.

If the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention approves the new rule, it would allow parents to select nonbinary, as opposed to male or female, on their children’s birth certificates. The new rule also would make it easier for adults to change the gender identity on their own birth certificates.

“We’ve been getting a lot of questions from community members, especially people who identify as transgender or nonbinary, asking, ‘How can I update my gender marker on my birth certificate if I was born in Maine?'” said Gia Drew, program director for EqualityMaine, a group that advocates for the rights of the LGBTQ community.

“This would give them the opportunity to update their birth certificates, which is really exciting.”

Transgender refers to people who identify with a gender other than what was assigned to them at birth, while nonbinary refers to people who don’t identify as either exclusively male or female.

According to the Maine Transgender Network, an education and advocacy group supporting transgender people, there are about 6,000 to 12,000 transgender people in Maine. About one-third are nonbinary, though some nonbinary people are not comfortable being grouped under the transgender umbrella, Executive Director Quinn Gormley said.

The ability to have state ID’s and vital records that reflect a person’s gender identity is important for the mental health and physical safety of transgender and nonbinary people, Gormley said.

“This is something we see causing folks a lot of stress on a regular basis,” Gormley said. “Having your ID’s line up, in addition to just being a more accurate way of representing you, provides a level of affirmation and recognition for transgender people. I think this is especially true for nonbinary Mainers.

“We’ve seen since the implementation of gender marker X on state ID’s a feeling of validation and recognition among nonbinary folks because their government has decided to recognize them on legal documents.”

If a person’s legal documents don’t match up with how they identify, it can also be the basis for discrimination or violence. Searching for or applying for a job, especially those that require background checks, can be more complicated.

In 2018, Maine moved to offer gender nonbinary designations on driver’s licenses and state identification cards in addition to the traditional “M” for male and “F” for female.

So far, the bureau has issued 90 active driver’s licenses and 31 active state ID’s with the nonbinary “X” marker, the Maine Department of the Secretary of State reports.

Beckett Freed-Barlow, a 21-year-old transgender man from Hallowell, has gone through the process of updating his license to reflect his identity as a man and said it has been frustrating to not be able to change his birth certificate.

Freed-Barlow said he and his mother have gone to the Office of Data, Research and Vital Statistics, which oversees birth certificates, and attempted to have it changed previously but were told the request could only be granted in circumstances where a person has undergone a surgical sex-change procedure.

“It’s another bump in the road for the trans community,” Freed-Barlow said. “It’s a way of saying, ‘Oh, by the way, you need money (for a surgery) to identify.’ I think someone should be recognized for who they want to be, and it shouldn’t be such a big process.”

Robert Long, a spokesman for the Maine CDC, said Thursday that the agency is limited in what it can say about the proposed rule for birth certificates because it is in the midst of a public comment period, which runs through March 20. A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for March 9.

A copy of the proposed rule says parents could choose to use the nonbinary “X” on their child’s birth certificate at the time of birth. Parents or legal guardians would have the ability to submit a notarized statement, along with the signature of a physician or mental health care provider, to request a new birth certificate with the marker for minors under 18.

Adults over 18 could apply to change their gender identity with a notarized statement and without a court order.

Maine started offering nonbinary markers on driver’s licenses in 2018, becoming just the third state to do so. Today, 16 states allow the use of the “X” marker in addition to “M” for male and “F” for female, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit that conducts research around LGBTQ equality issues.

There are currently eight states that allow residents to use nonbinary designations on birth certificates, according to the project.

“I remember speaking with a person when they were able to get a license with the correct gender marker, and it really was affirming,” said Drew, the EqualityMaine program director. “They felt safer using their documentation when going to cash a check or put an ID down at a bar. There are so many things that require some form of ID, so to have an ID that truly matches who you are is so important not only for safety but also for affirmation.”


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