SB 179: New California Law Recognizes Nonbinary (Intersax) Gender On State IDs

by Kim Boateng Posted on October 17th, 2017

Sacramento, California: Just a few months after Oregon became the first state to add a gender-neutral option to state IDs. California’s governor Gov. Jerry Brown just signed California Senate Bill 179, the Gender Recognition Act of 2017 making it the first US state to officially recognize a third gender: nonbinary. California Senate Bill 179, the Gender Recognition Act of 2017, introduced January 24, 2017 by Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) creates a third gender marker on state-issued identification documents for people who identify as nonbinary or intersax. The bill will also streamline the process for transgender, intersax and nonbinary Californians to obtain identification documents that accurately reflect their gender.

“I want to thank Governor Brown for recognizing how difficult it can be for our transgender, nonbinary and intersax family members, friends and neighbors when they don’t have an ID that matches their gender presentation,” said Atkins. “The Gender Recognition Act will eliminate unnecessary stress and anxiety for many Californians, and it exemplifies the leadership role that our state continues to take in LGBTQ civil rights.

“I have dear friends in San Diego and around the state who have been waiting a long time for this,” Atkins added. “I’m happy I was in a position to move this forward.”

It would also make it easier for transgender, nonbinary and intersax residents to apply for a gender change from state agencies and the courts. For example, it removes the outdated requirement that applicants submit a physician’s letter stating that they have undergone appropriate medical treatment toward their gender transition and replaces it with self-attestation.

SB 179 was jointly authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who said, “With the passage of SB 179, California continues its fight for a more inclusive society, even as some in Washington continue to undermine the LGBTQ community. With Governor Brown’s signature on this bill, transgender and nonbinary people will now be able to be who they are, not who society forces them to be. For too long society has forced people into gender boxes. It’s time for government to get out of the way and let people live their lives authentically as who they are.

“I am proud to have partnered with Senator Atkins to pass the Gender Recognition Act,” Wiener added, “and I look forward to continuing our fight for LGBTQ equality.”

Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, a sponsor of the bill, said, “With this simple change, California has made daily life infinitely safer and easier for many gender nonbinary and transgender people. We’re asked for identification everywhere from banks to bars to airports, and it can be devastating and even dangerous for nonbinary and transgender people to navigate life with an ID that doesn’t reflect who they truly are.”

Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, also a bill sponsor, said, “Gov. Brown’s signature today has put California at the forefront of ensuring the dignity and safety of its transgender, nonbinary and gender-non-conforming residents. When your ID doesn’t match your gender identity or expression, it can expose you to a potentially dangerous situation. SB 179 eliminates unnecessary obstacles from the process of getting state-issued identification documents for thousands of Californians.”

California Senate Bill 179, the Gender Recognition Act of 2017 Defines the genders as follows:

CHAPTER 853  (c) “Intersax” is an umbrella term used to describe natural bodily variations, which can include external genitalia, internal sax organs, chromosomes, or hormonal differences that transcend typical ideas of male and female. Upper estimates of the number of intersax people are approximately 1.7 percent of the general population. In the United States, some children born with intersax traits have been subjected to involuntary and medically unnecessary surgical procedures in infancy in an attempt to erase aspects of their natural bodies, causing significant physical and psychological harm. Human rights authorities have condemned this practice as a form of torture and recognize that legal and ethical frameworks require intersax people themselves to make decisions concerning their own bodies. Thus, those human rights authorities recommended that physicians assign a provisional gender designation with the knowledge that the child may later identify differently. An option of a nonbinary gender designation on state-issued identification documents would allow intersax people, like transgender and nonbinary people, to be able to use state-issued identification documents that accurately recognize their gender identification as female, male, or nonbinary.

CHAPTER 853 (d) The binary gender designations of female and male fail to adequately represent the diversity of human experience. Nonbinary is an umbrella term for people with gender identities that fall somewhere outside of the traditional conceptions of strictly either female or male. People with nonbinary gender identities may or may not identify as transgender, may or may not have been born with intersax traits, may or may not use gender-neutral pronouns, and may or may not use more specific terms to describe their genders, such as agender, genderqueer, gender fluid, Two Spirit, bigender, pangender, gender nonconforming, or gender variant. Nonbinary gender identities have been recognized by cultures throughout history and around the world, as well as by legal systems in the United States and other countries, medical authorities, and researchers. Studies show that nonbinary people face frequent discrimination, harassment, and violence in areas of life including education, employment, health care, and law enforcement.

CHAPTER 853 (e) Transgender is an umbrella term used to describe people whose gender identity or gender expression do not match the gender they were assigned at birth. Some transgender people have medically transitioned, undergoing gender affirming surgeries and hormonal treatments, while other transgender people do not choose any form of medical transition. There is no uniform set of procedures that are sought by transgender people that pursue medical transition. Transgender people may identify as female, male, or nonbinary, may or may not have been born with intersax traits, may or may not use gender-neutral pronouns, and may or may not use more specific terms to describe their genders, such as agender, genderqueer, gender fluid, Two Spirit, bigender, pangender, gender nonconforming, or gender variant. Studies show that transgender people disproportionately face discrimination, harassment, and violence in areas of life including housing, education, employment, health care, and law enforcement.

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Kim Boateng

Kim Boateng

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