New York City Issues First Intersex Birth Certificate

“Not all intersex people will choose to identify legally as intersex...but for those who do, the option must exist.”

For the first time in the United States, a birth certificate reading "intersex" in the gender field has been issued.

On December 15, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene corrected the birth certificate of Sara Kelly Keenan, who was born in Brooklyn 55 years ago. Keenan currently resides in Santa Cruz, California, where she received the certificate by mail.

"It was wonderful. It was the first time I saw 'intersex' in print related to my name," Keenan told CNN. "When I applied in court, I chose 'non-binary,' because that's an umbrella term that would also include gender variant people."

“As far as interACT is aware, [Keenan’s] is the first birth certificate with the designation ‘intersex,'” remarked Alesdair Ittelson, deputy legal director for intersex advocacy group interACT. “We are aware of one other reissued birth certificate that reads ‘hermaphrodite’ and several that do not have a sex specified.”

Keenan, who uses the pronoun "she," was born with a mix of male and female characteristics, but was raised as a girl by her parents even after a visit to the doctor showed her to be genetically male with female genitalia and mixed internal reproductive anatomy.

The then 16-year-old Keenan had yet to enter puberty, so started hormone replacement therapy after having surgery to remove what doctors said were "ovaries that would never develop," which turned out to actually be testicular tissue.

"They said I was 100% girl and I just couldn't make hormones, and that was the second lie of my life, and that lie stood for 30 more years, until I was 49 or 50 years old and used the Internet and a visit to an endocrinologist to confirm the truth," Keenan explained.


Emboldened by her truth, Keenan began to fully assume her intersex identity, which led to her petitioning for the correction on her birth certificate.

“Not all intersex people will choose to identify legally as intersex,” Keenan told NBC Out, “and not all parents will choose to have their intersex child identified as intersex on birth documents. But for those who do, the option must exist.”

To learn more about what it means to be intersex, check out the video below.

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