Last Sunday, California became the first state to allow a non-binary gender marker on birth certificates. Governor Jerry Brown signed the legislation, which also enables residents of the state to choose a third, nonbinary gender category on California state-issued IDs and driver’s licenses.
The Gender Recognition Act (Senate Bill 179), which will take effect in 2018, will also make the process of changing gender on legal documents easier. It will no longer require a statement from a physician declaring that they’ve undergone “clinical treatment”.
This new law defines the designation of nonbinary as “umbrella term for people with gender identities that fall somewhere outside of the traditional conceptions of strictly either female or male.” This can include transgender individuals, those with intersex traits, those who use gender-neutral pronouns (they, them, theirs) as well as those who describe their gender as “agender, genderqueer, gender fluid, Two Spirit, bigender, pangender, gender nonconforming, or gender variant.”
While trans and gender non-conforming individuals have had a hard time recently, this is a huge event for them. Other states are already moving forward on the issue. Last year, an Oregon court ruled that someone could legally identify as neither male nor female. What makes California’s case special is that they give legal recognition to these nonbinary identities.
Buzzfeed reported on the main activists pushing for this bill in May of this year. Star Hagen-Esquerra, only 17 at the time, shared their thoughts on the importance of the bill. To them, being nonbinary was completely normal, but they wanted the adults around them to understand. Recognizing nonbinary identities legally is a huge step towards this.
“My hope for this bill is that actually being nonbinary is a lot more normalized,” Star told Buzzfeed. “So that when minors come out to their family, it’s not quite as jarring or unexpected and they can be more accepting of their child.”
This bill is only the latest effort in bringing nonbinary identities into the conversation. Celebrities like Ruby Rose have spoken about being genderfluid, and this year a nonbinary character was introduced on the TV series “Billions”. Just like Star, we hope this will lead to a better understanding of gender diversity in the future.