Bill Proposed by California Democrats Seeks to Acknowledge Trans, Gender Nonconforming People on State Documents

Democratic State Senators Toni Atkins and Scott Wiener, whose districts include San Diego and San Francisco, introduced SB 179 Thursday. Titled The Gender Recognition Act of 2017, it could give transgender, intersex and nonbinary people the ability to obtain identity documents issued by the state that reflect and acknowledge their gender, according to a release from Atkins’ office.

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“Our trans brothers and sisters are under attack in far too many parts of this country and this world,” said Wiener in a 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.”

With the help of Equality California and the Transgender Law Center, Atkins and Wiener unveiled that California driver’s licenses, birth certificates, identity cards and gender-change court orders could have an option for a third, non-binary gender marker.

The bill also streamlines the processes which Californians must endure to change their gender on state documents. Described as “onerous and unnecessary” by Atkins’ release, one of the major barriers includes the requirement of a physician's statement certifying their gender transition.

“Changing your identity documents is a cumbersome and incredibly expensive process, especially when changing your gender marker,” Porter Gilberg, executive director of The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach, told the Post. “Additionally, many trans and gender nonconforming people cannot or do not engage the medical establishment to affirm their gender identity.”

Other barriers include that those seeking a gender-change or name-change court order must appear in court, even if objections have not been filed against their petition and there are no provisions in California law that give nonbinary people, those who identify as neither male nor female, the ability to pick a gender marker on state documents that reflect their identity, according to the release.

Outdated laws and unnecessary hurdles have prevented almost 70 percent of transgender people from updating their identity documents, while a third of transgender people have been harassed, assaulted or turned away from seeking basic services, stated Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center.

“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,” Atkins said in a statement. “This bill will help them avoid the discrimination and harassment that too many of these residents face in their daily lives.”

Senators Atkins and Wiener’s legislation would:

  • remove the requirement to obtain a physician’s sworn statement;
  • ensure that those filing petitions for gender-change court orders, as well as corresponding name-change court orders, need not appear in court for a hearing unless someone has filed timely objections to their petitions;
  • create a process by which individuals younger than 18 years old can apply for a change in gender on their birth certificate; and
  • create a third gender marker for nonbinary individuals seeking to amend their gender on birth certificates, driver’s licenses and state identification cards, and in gender change court orders.

“This bill honors an individual’s most basic right: self-identification,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, in a statement. “It is up to an individual – not a judge or even a doctor – to define a person’s gender identity.”

The bill does not detail what the third gender marker would be. However, countries that have implemented the policy such as Australia and New Zealand, have used the letter “X” next to the “M” and “F” markers for male and female, according to Sasha Buchert of the Transgender Law Center as reported by the Los Angeles Times.

“The recent legislation [...] is incredibly welcome by our Long Beach community,” said Gilberg. “Allowing our nonbinary residents, myself included, the opportunity to better identify ourselves on government issued identification sends a strong message that we are welcome, accepted, and respected in California. I personally look forward to updating my California ID to reflect this third option as soon as the legislation has passed.”

“Any legislation which affirms everyone’s gender identity is a positive step in increasing awareness and support for everyone’s identity,” Gilberg said.



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