With tumultuous changes occurring politically and legally in the United States, California seems to be fighting to maintain a more Democratic stance in an increasingly Republican country. In a recent course of action, the state has proposed the bill SB 179, which would add the option of a third gender on legal government documents such as a driver’s license or a birth certificate. Essentially, the bill, proposed by senators Toni Atkins of San Diego and Scott Wiener of San Francisco, allows for a third gender on official documentation so that those who identify as non-binary would be able to state as such.
Furthermore, the proposed bill will streamline the process for any individual wishing to alter their stated gender on any legal documents –no longer requiring the written confirmation of a registered physician ensuring treatment of gender transition while also allowing those who are younger than 18 years of age to apply for a legal change of gender on their documentation. Instead, as stated in the official legislation, an individual seeking a change of gender on their birth certificate would submit an application to the State Registrar and undergo an affidavit attesting that they simply seek to match their official documentation with their gender identity and not acting for fraudulent purposes, under penalty of perjury. This is a triumph for the LGBTQ community and a beginning for greater rights for the Transgender, Intersex, and non-binary people of California. While there is no word yet on what the official non-binary marker will be on documents like a driver’s license, there is suggestion to use the letter ‘X’ alongside ‘M’ and ‘F’ for male and female, respectively, as is done in both Australia and New Zealand.
The proposal of this new bill that will aid in the removal of the numerous bureaucratic hurdles in place against transgender and non-binary individuals –contrasting majorly with states that continue to argue over the rights of transgender individuals to use public bathrooms, including student use of school bathrooms. Some would argue that, as everyone from police officers to the federal government rely on the accurate depiction of individuals on their driver’s license, that this bill puts the community at risk, allowing for people to exploit discrepancies between legal documents. However, Senator Wiener stated, “as the LGBT community — but especially the Trans community — is under assault in this country, California needs to go in the opposite direction and embrace the Trans community and support the Trans community and modernize these laws”. The response from the LGBTQ community has been positive: Jo Michael, an advocate with Equality California stated in an interview that “as a person who identifies as transgender and is non-binary, this piece of legislation is important to [him] on a personal level” and that “for the first time, Californians could have accurate gender markers that truly reflect who [they] are”.
While the bill was only proposed on January 24th, the attitude concerning it remains hopeful as California makes a more equitable stand for its residents.