California has become the first state in the country to allow a third gender option on official state documents to recognize people who don’t identify as male or female.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed the legislation, dubbed the Gender Recognition Act by its supporters, on Sunday, creating a third, nonbinary gender option on California state-issued IDs, driver’s licenses, and birth certificates. The law will go into effect beginning in 2019.
Although Oregon’s Department of Motor Vehicles became the first to offer an “X,” or a “not specified” gender designation on driver’s licenses in July, California is the first to offer statewide recognition for nonbinary people. The law will make it easier for people to change their gender designation on state-issued documents by removing the mandate for a sworn statement from a doctor that the person is undergoing medical treatment for gender transition. It will also create a process for people under the age of 18 to apply for a gender change on their birth certificates, according to the Los Angeles Times.
It’s a move that might seem like a simple clerical matter for some, but to the bill’s most ardent backers, it’s a huge step forward toward “gender freedom.”
“With this simple change, California has made daily life infinitely safer and easier for many gender nonbinary and transgender people,” Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We’re asked for identification everywhere from banks to bars to airports, and it can be devastating and even dangerous for nonbinary and transgender people to navigate life with an ID that doesn’t reflect who they truly are.”