California’s Gender Recognition Act


On Oct. 15, California governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 179, or the Gender Recognition Act, that will allow state residents to choose a third gender option on official documents like their birth certificate or driver’s license.

The bill removes the requirement that an applicant obtains a statement from their physician before changing their gender identity. The sole requirement is that they submit an affidavit agreeing that this change would conform to their gender identity and that they are not pursuing such measures for monetary gain or fraudulent purposes.

“I want to thank Gov. Brown for recognizing how difficult it can be for our transgender, non-binary, and intersex family members, friends, and neighbors when they don’t have an ID that matches their gender presentation,” said the bill’s co-author, Democratic state senator Toni 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.”

It makes the process for transgender people to change their gender identification on their documents far simpler and officially recognizes a third gender. Washington D.C. and Oregon allow residents to identify as a gender other than male or female on their driver’s licenses; however, California has become the first state to allow identification as nonbinary on birth certificates.

The new law will take effect on Sept. 1, 2018 and defines “nonbinary” as an “umbrella term for people with gender identities that fall somewhere outside of the traditional conceptions of strictly either female or male.” Therefore it includes but is not limited to people who use gender-neutral pronouns, are born with intersex traits and who identify as “agender, genderqueer, gender fluid, Two Spirit, bigender, pangender, gender nonconforming, or gender variant.”

Advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights are thrilled about the measure; however, it has been met with significant pushback from some conservative groups. Randy Thomasson, president of the nonprofit organization, argues that the bill would make it more difficult for law enforcement to identify criminals and easier for people to commit identity fraud.

Despite the pushback, California is surging at the forefront in advocacy for the LGBTQ+ rights and is making significant headway; New York already has a similar measure pending.

Jody Herman, an expert on gender identity law and policy for the of the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, stated that “as gender identities continue to expand and our concepts of gender continue to expand, governments are going to have to grapple with it and figure out how to be responsive to the way people understand themselves and live their lives.”

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