A bill introduced in California's state senate Thursday would allow residents to choose a third, “nonbinary” gender option on driver’s licenses and birth certificates, as well as allowing parents of transgender kids to change the gender listed on the record of their birth.
Here's the full text of the bill, which is known as SB179, and was introduced by Senator Toni Atkins of San Diego and has eight co-authors including San Francisco's own Scott Wiener. At present, the bill states, people who have "undergone clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition" must "seek a judgment from the superior court recognizing the change of gender" via sworn statement from a physician. Under the bill, the person seeking to change their legally-listed gender would "attest, under penalty of perjury, that the request is to conform the person’s legal gender to the person’s gender identity and not for any fraudulent purpose" but would no longer have to appear in court to make that statement even when no one is contesting their document change.
Under the bill, those petitioners as well as any "applicant for a driver’s license or identification card" will "choose a gender category of female, male, or nonbinary to be included as part of the applicant’s description."
It's that "nonbinary" bit, obviously, that's making headlines, as if passed California would be the first state in the US to offer that third form of self-identification. According to nonbinary.org, "Nonbinary gender is an umbrella term covering any gender identity that doesn't fit within the gender binary. The label may also be used by individuals wishing to identify as falling outside of the gender binary without being any more specific about the nature of their gender."
“This is an important step forward in modernizing our laws to reflect the reality of gender identity,” the Chron quotes Wiener as saying.
“When someone is transitioning, that is a very challenging thing to do and there are many obstacles. California should not be imposing additional obstacles by making it hard for people to change their names and genders on state-issued documents. We need to make it easier for people to transition and be who they are.”
Equality California's legislative manager Jo Michael said at a Thursday press conference on the bill that "As a person who identifies as transgender and is non-binary, this piece of legislation is important to me on a personal level."
"For the first time, Californians could have accurate gender markers that truly reflect who we are."
Of course, there are already objections from the Right. In a statement sent Thursday, conservative Christian group California Family Council quoted their CEO as saying "We believe government documents need to reflect biological facts for identification and medical purposes. Laws like this will simply erase any meaningful gender definitions, if being male or female is completely divorced from biological facts."
It's also worth nothing that, if passed, the non-binary recognition wouldn't extend past California's borders. The federal government doesn't offer or recognize a third gender option on any official documents or records, including passports. It will certainly be interesting to see how officials (or, hell, even bouncers) in other states react if/when confronted with their first "nonbinary" CA ID!
But Wiener's not letting federal impediments or angry religious people quash the fight, which he believed California should lead.
“Our trans brothers and sisters are under attack in far too many parts of this country and this world,” Wiener says via statement
“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.”