At 55, Sara Kelly Keenan finally has an accurate birth certificate, and it’s believed to be the first one in the nation that says “intersex” in the gender field.
The Californian was born intersex in New York City with a condition known as Swyer syndrome, which prevents the body from producing sex hormones. Keenan, who uses female pronouns, was born with male genes, female genitalia, and mixed internal reproductive organs. She was initially issued a male birth certificate, which was changed to female three weeks later; her parents did not reveal her condition to her, instead telling her she was a girl who couldn’t make hormones. Keenan visited an endocrinologist seven years ago who confirmed her suspicion that she was intersex.
In September, Keenan became the second person in the country to legally change her gender to nonbinary. She applied for the gender change after another person, Jamie Shupe, successfully argued that gender-change laws that allow trans people to legally change their gender should also apply to people who don’t identify as male or female. The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene issued Keenan a new birth certificate after she provided medical documentation.
Intersex advocacy group interACT believes that Keenan’s intersex birth certificate is the first issued in the United States; they know of one that has been reissued to say “hermaphrodite” and several others that do not have a sex specified. Her attorney told NBC that birth certificates are often used for accessing public services and documents like state IDs and passports. “Not all intersex people will choose to identify legally as intersex,” Keenan told NBC, “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.”
Trying to get intersex or nonbinary printed on their driver’s licenses and passports is the next step for both Keenan and Shupe, though passports will involve the State Department. This battle will not be over soon.