Why This Baby's Birth Certificate Omits Gender

This is just a fact of life: Some people don't grow up to identify with the sex they're assigned at birth. This can cause lots of headaches and confusion down the road, which is why one parent requested a historic change to their baby's birth certificate after the infant was born in British Columbia in November. Kori Doty, a nonbinary transgender parent who doesn't identify as male or female, wants their baby's legal identification documents to omit the sex designation completely. That way, Doty argues, the baby will have the opportunity to grow up free of such gender constraints — and decide independently who they are. And that will mirror the way that Doty is already raising their child.

Doty gave birth to Searyl Atli at a friend's house last year, and told CBC News that the province initially refused to issue the baby a birth certificate without a gender demarcation. Still, Doty — who prefers the pronoun "they" personally as well as for Searyl — considered it a step forward when a birth certificate with a "U" for gender, probably for "undetermined" or "unassigned," arrived in the mail the recently, according to Global News. Searyl wasn't born in the hospital, after all, so no doctor ever determined the baby's sex via a genital inspection.

And that's an ineffective way to decide what a person's gender identity will be when they grow up, anyhow, Doty believes. In fact, they contend that predicting a person's gender identity is actually impossible, because that's something that a person will decide or realize when he or she or they know themselves well enough. So, Doty is raising Searyl with that in mind, as they explained in a beautiful video about their family:

Once they're old enough to express more about who they are and how they relate in the world, it's possible that they may choose a different pronoun. They may choose to be referred to as she or he, or to continue to be referred to as they, and I want to create enough space for them to call the shots on that. The first question people always ask is "Is your baby a boy or a girl?" I don’t know yet. I'm waiting to get to know them more

It's possible that Searyl's "U" is a world first, but Doty is pushing for more. They have applied for judicial review to abolish the "Sex" line on the identification entirely. The Gender-Free ID Coalition, for which Doty works as a community educator, views this as an issue that affects not just one parent-baby pair, but all the intersex and transgender people in the world for whom the generally agreed-upon rules do not fit. Doty is a perfect example: "When I was born, doctors looked at my genitals and made assumptions about who I would be..." they told CBC News. "Those assumptions were incorrect, and I ended up having to do a lot of adjustments since then."

According to the Gender-Free ID Coalition's website, the provincial government in Ontario recently made strides toward a solution by permitting those who wish to do so to choose "X" for unspecified instead of the traditional "M" or "F" on identification documentation. It's not a perfect fix, though: "Indicating an 'X' puts a target on already marginalized people," the coalition noted.

Doty's case is the reminder we all need that children should have the opportunity to become whom they are, not whom society believes they should be. With a parent like Doty, Searyl is a lucky child indeed.