California Introduces New Law to Recognize Nonbinary Gender Identification

By Amber Enderton | January 29, 2017 |   Last week, California State Senator Toni Atkins introduced  SB-179  in committee. If pas...

By Amber Enderton | January 29, 2017 |  

Last week, California State Senator Toni Atkins introduced SB-179 in committee. If passed, the proposed bill will make ‘nonbinary’ a recognized gender designation on all legal documentation and identification in the state of California. Additionally, the bill seeks to streamline the process for transgender individuals to change their gender designation on legal identification and documents, including their birth certificate. 

Currently, residents born in the state of California can bypass getting a court order to legally change their gender designation only if the person has undergone clinical treatment for gender transition. This bill would remove that requirement, replacing it with an affidavit signed, under penalty of perjury, by the petitioner attesting that they identify as the gender they are changing their designation to.

This would be a huge step forward for the transgender community in California. By allowing transgender people to identify as nonbinary and removing the requirement of clinical treatment, the state will finally recognize that gender is a complex thing and we each transition differently. Hormones and surgery can be costly things that not everyone can afford, and many individuals do not even want these treatments. Nonbinary individuals, in particular, have been left behind by state law that requires binary medical transitions and gender designations that don’t fit them, and this bill will begin to address that.

Looking forward beyond this bill, I hope more advancements in the law will be made. Last year, California’s prisonsimplemented a new policy on who they would approve for sex reassignment surgery (SRS), a requirement to be reassigned to a prison of a different gender designation. While the policy will save lives, it currently does not go far enough. If this bill passes, it could open the door to reanalyzing how California prisons house transgender inmates. This would be good news, as the current requirements for SRS are strenuous and take years, opening the person up to physical and sexual abuse; and mandates SRS even to those who don’t want it. Allowing transgender inmates to quickly transition to a prison with a gender designation of their choosing, with or without surgery, is the logical next step.

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