LIFE

New Jersey Becomes Fourth State To Add ‘Gender-Neutral’ Option To Birth Certificates

by Angela Andaloro

New Jersey is now the fourth state to make accommodations for gender-neutral individuals. As of February 1, there are three options for gender on birth certificates issued in the state. A person can be listed as male, female, or undesignated/non-binary. The change is a huge step for transgender and non-binary people. It legitimizes their decision to not identify as male or female and gives them the means to disclose their status in official capacities.

Governor Phil Murphy signed the legislation into law last year. The Babs Siperstein Law is named after lifelong New Jersey resident Barbra Siperstein. Barbra was the first transgender person to serve on the Democratic National Committee in 2009. She served in the committee through 2017. Tragically, just days after the law was passed, Barbra died at the age of 76. Though her death is a blow to the transgender community, her legacy has made it a bit easier for others in her community to get by.

New Jersey has become the fourth state to allow for a gender-neutral option on birth certificates. Oregon, California, and Washington also allow the option on birth certificates.

New Jersey residents can now be listed as male, female, or undesignated/non-binary on their birth certificate. This allows for individuals of any gender expression to receive a degree of representation on a state-issued document.

Previously, New Jersey residents could only change their gender on their birth certificate if they had proof from a doctor that they had undergone gender reassignment surgery. Not all individuals choose to undergo that surgery.

Furthermore, New Jersey residents no longer need to involve medical professionals in their declaration of gender. They can now self-affirm their gender identity.

The law is especially important for non-binary and transgender minors. Until they are of age to receive other forms of identification, their birth certificate is a primary ID. A more accurate read of their gender representation on that document can make many differences.

Minors also cannot undergo gender reassignment surgery, which made the previous manner of changing the gender on a birth certificate an unviable option. Puberty blockers can be given to minors with parental consent, but hormones and gender reassignment surgery cannot begin until the age of 18.

Tragically, transgender and gender-nonconforming youth have heightened risks in going about everyday life. They are more susceptible to being targets of violence, grapple with mental health, and face economic hardship including homelessness at rates much higher than cisgender youth.

The 2015 United States Transgender Survey offers shocking statistics. Nearly 40% of transgender adults have attempted suicide, with 92% of that population attempting suicide before the age of 25. For context, that’s over 9 times the rate of the overall US population.

Many of these hardships begin with family and peers being unaccepting of the minor’s chosen identification. Harassment and bullying are very common experiences for transgender and gender-nonconforming youth.

Governor Phil Murphy signed The Babs Siperstein Law last July. He felt strongly about this being an important, progressive step forward for the state.

At the time of the bill’s signing, the governor said, “Today is an important day for New Jersey as we continue to strive toward equality for all of our residents, regardless of sex or gender expression. Allowing vital records to match gender identity is an important step forward that will allow transgender individuals to control the disclosure of their transgender status.”

Sadly, the namesake of this law, Barbra Siperstein, has died at the age of 76. Her death came just days after the law went into effect.

Barbra, a lifelong New Jersey resident, was the first transgender member of the Democratic National Committee. She was appointed to the DNC in 2009. She became a member of the DNC executive committee in 2011, where she continued to serve until 2017.

Barbra’s legacy will go on to help many people along the spectrum of gender. New Jersey residents can now live a little more authentically, thanks to Barbra’s activism.