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State considers a third gender for birth certificates

A hearing room in Tumwater was crowded as people testified about a proposal for a third gender on birth certificates. (Photo: KOMO News)

TUMWATER, Wash. -- A major change could soon be happening on birth certificates as the state Health Department considers whether to allow a third gender identification. It is for those who don't identify either as a male or a female.

"I identify as gender queer or non-binary, said Ariel Howland at a Health Department hearing on the issue. "I don't fully identify as a woman." Non-binary means not male and not female.

Sam Miller testified, "First as a non-binary person, I'm so happy to be here at this hearing about this rule change." The rule would allow someone to petition the state Health Department to change the gender designation and simply put an X where it calls for F or M, female or male.

"This is something as a kid growing up in the Midwest is a dream for me to see a state like Washington taking a stand to legitimize non-binary identifies."

The state Health Department heard testimony after testimony about the importance that this segment of society places on the ability to express who they are. "I'm proud to be a part of the non-binary community," said Meghan Kin. "We're a group of people of any race, any age, any size, abilities, disabilities."

But the department also heard concerns about the consequences of this rule change. "Everybody here probably wants to see people treated with dignity," said rule change opponent Kaeley Triller Haver. "But we have some serious concerns about the way it was written and what it seeks to do in the long run."

"There are concerns that this will lead to problems with the state's statistics about gender issues and equality. There are concerns from some in the medical community that this will cause serious confusion in the hospitals where men are treated medically different from women.

Nurse Leanna Beyer explained, "And that is a very important thing for us to know as a nursing staff, pharmaceutical staff, so that we can protect people."

The hearing room in Tumwater was packed, and the Health Department has received over 1,000 written comments for and against. A decision from the secretary of health is due in the next few weeks. If approved, it could go into effect as soon Jan. 28, 2018.

The Department of Licensing is waiting to see what happens with the birth certificates before deciding what to do with drivers licenses.

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