Medical profs argue against sex designation on birth certificates

Three professors argued that birth certificate sex designations should be reconsidered because of “ harmful effects... on intersex and transgender people.”

Their article appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, a prestigious peer-reviewed medical journal.

Three professors argued that birth certificate sex designations should be reconsidered because they are “harmful” for “intersex and transgender people.”

Brown University medical researchers Vadim Shteyler and Eli Adashi, alongside University of Minnesota Law School professor Jessica Clarke, wrote in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine that “designating sex as male or female on birth certificates suggests that sex is simple and binary when, biologically, it is not.”

“During the 20th century, as the medical profession assumed greater responsibility for managing childbirth, it also assumed responsibility for completing birth certificates, a process that includes a medical evaluation to categorize each newborn as male or female,” argued the researchers. “We believe that it is now time to update the practice of designating sex on birth certificates, given the particularly harmful effects of such designations on intersex and transgender people.”

The academics further argued that sex designation should move below the line of demarcation. Items below the line of demarcation are “deidentified and reported in the aggregate” for statistical purposes instead of treated as legal identifications.

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“Assigning sex at birth also doesn’t capture the diversity of people’s experiences,” they argued. “About 6 in 1000 people identify as transgender, meaning that their gender identity doesn’t match the sex they were assigned at birth. Others are nonbinary, meaning they don’t exclusively identify as a man or a woman, or gender nonconforming, meaning their behavior or appearance doesn’t align with social expectations for their assigned sex.”

The researchers also justify their argument with the existence of Obergefell v. Hodges, which ruled that bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Due to this legal development, the researchers note that “only a few legal contexts relying on sex designations remain.” In this context, they argue “using information from birth certificates is not the best way to categorize people.”

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The authors believe that “governments can protect against sex discrimination in the absence of birth-certificate sex designations.” For example, they discuss the International Association of Athletics Federations defining “female” as a “person with a testosterone level of 5 nmol per liter or lower, rather than relying on birth certificates.”

Brown University undergraduate Emma Rae Phillips told Campus Reform that it is “embarrassing” for her to read the article. 

“I find it hilarious that those claiming to support science would publish such ridiculous claims,” she remarked. “It’s crazy enough to say ‘there’s more than 2 genders,’ but now they want to imply that sex doesn’t exist either? Anyone with a medical degree would, we’d hope, understand the importance of sex how it impacts the patients care, and dosages.”

“Encouraging the removal of biological sex isn’t a political issue; it’s a public health and safety issue,” she added.

Campus Reform reached out to Shteyler, Adashi, and Clarke for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft