birth certificate

First published 12/09/2022

The US state of Montana has banned trans and intersex people from changing the gender marker on birth certificate.

The policy will impede trans people from having official documents which legally align with their gender identity. Montana is the fourth state to ban trans people from doing so, joining Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

This is another vexatious and backward step for a state that has been repeatedly targeting the trans and gender-diverse community with a succession of harmful bills.

Last year, Montana’s Republican governor made the ‘Save Women’s Sports Act’ a law that bans trans women and girls from participating in school sports. During the same year, he also introduced Senate Bill 280 which created new barriers for trans people who planned on changing their birth certificate.

This bill required trans people to provide a court order stating that they went through gender-affirming surgery, making it impossible for many trans people to legally change the gender marker on their birth certificate. The legislation also replaced the gender category with ‘sex’, with the director of the Montana Public Health and Human Services claiming that sex is an ‘immutable genetic fact, which is not changeable, even by surgery’.

The Montana Health officials made the bill permanent in September, despite significant public opposition. The proposed rules declare that people will require a ‘certified copy of an order from a court with appropriate jurisdiction’ confirming that the individual has changed their sex through a surgical procedure.

However, the rules also state that the sex on the certificate can only be changed if it was listed incorrectly on the original birth certificate due to a ‘scrivener’s error or a data entry error’, or if the sex was ‘misidentified’. Then, if such a mistake was made, an extensive process involving ‘a copy of the results of chromosomal, molecular, karyotypic, DNA, or genetic testing that identify the sex of the individual’ will be needed before the change can be completed. People seeking to change their gender on their certificate because they are trans or intersex are therefore not able to do so.

Trans people with a birth certificate tied to the sex they were assigned at birth denies their gender identity and discloses that they are trans. Being stripped of this privacy exposes the trans community to an even greater risk of experiencing discrimination, harassment, and violence.

Through these regressive and self-referential policies, Trans and intersex people in Montana have been effectively banned from changing their gender on their birth certificate, denying them the means to obtain a birth certificate that aligns with their gender identity. A lack of correct and appropriate official documentation will only lead to trans people facing mounting discrimination, worsening their overall well-being and safety, and is condemnable.