California lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would create a third, non-binary gender designation and simplify the process to change one’s gender marker. It is the first state to introduce third gender legislation.
Senators Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) said that the Gender Recognition Act of 2017, created with the help from Equality California and the Transgender Law Center, would help more transgender, gender non-conforming, and intersex individuals obtain identity documents that match their gender identity, LGBT Weekly reports.
“Our society is becoming more enlightened every day about gender identity,” Sen. Atkins said. “It’s time for our state to make it easier for transgender Californians and those who don’t conform to traditional notions of gender to have state-issued identification documents that reflect who they truly are. This bill will help them avoid the discrimination and harassment that too many of these residents face in their daily lives.”
Currently, people seeking a gender change in the state-issued identity documents must provide a sworn statement from a doctor certifying the transition-related treatment they have received and must appear in court for a gender-change order, even if no one is contesting the change. The bill would remove these barriers and create a third gender marker. It would also create a process for people under the age of 18 to change the gender on their birth certificate.
“Our trans brothers and sisters are under attack in far too many parts of this country and this world,” Sen. Weiner said. “Now, more than ever, California must lead on trans inclusion and ensure that our entire community can live with dignity and respect. This legislation is an overdue step forward.”
While there is not yet a provision for people to legally identify as neither male nor female, a number of non-binary and intersex Californians have submitted petitions for a non-binary status in recent months.
Adams and IGRP advisory committee member Sara Kelly Keenan said they are already working with the California Department of Motor Vehicles to discuss non-binary identification on drivers’ licenses. Keenan became the first Californian and second person in the United States to have a non-binary gender legally recognized by the courts and was also granted an amended birth certificate reading “intersex,” which Keenan described as “a dream come true in that it acknowledges scientific reality and says society is ready to accept that people like me exist.”
Oregonian Jamie Shupe in June became the first person to receive a court order recognizing their gender as “non-binary.” Shupe also recently received a new birth certificate from Washington D.C. Intersex Colorado resident Dana Zzyym is also currently petitioning to receive a passport with a non-binary gender designation.
“Whether going through airport security, voting, or applying for a bank account, everyone needs an accurate ID to safely navigate life,” Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, told LGBT Weekly. “Yet outdated laws and other barriers have blocked almost 70 percent of transgender people from updating all of their identity documents, and one-third of transgender people have been harassed, assaulted, or turned away when seeking basic services. SB 179 will help California lead the way in reducing these barriers and help ensure that everyone can be legally recognized for who they are and can move safely through the world.”