California to legally recognize non-binary as a third gender

California will become the second state to legally recognize a third gender starting Jan. 1, 2019. Signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Oct. 15, the Gender Recognition Act will allow residents to choose a “non-binary” option on official documents, including birth certificates, IDs and driver’s licenses.

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, non-binary is a category for gender identities that are not exclusively male or female.

The bill states that people who are non-binary “may or may not identify as transgender, may or may not have been born with intersex traits, may or may not use gender-neutral pronouns and may or may not use more specific terms to describe their genders, such as agender, genderqueer, gender fluid, Two Spirit, bigender, pangender, gender nonconforming, or gender variant.”

“I think the new change is amazing. It gives the people who feel like they don’t fit into the box of male or female somewhere to belong.”

Senior Joy Chan, identifies as genderfluid

Prior to the bill, people who wanted to identify as non-binary were required to obtain a statement from a physician certifying medical treatment for gender transition. Instead, the new act, authored by Sen. Toni Atkins, will only require applicants to submit an affidavit affirming that the change would align with their gender identity.

“The Gender Recognition Act will eliminate unnecessary stress and anxiety for many Californians,” Atkins said in a statement to The Hill. “It exemplifies the leadership role that our state continues to take in LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) civil rights.”

A process for minors who wish to apply for a change of gender on their documents will also be instated, as long as they receive parental consent.

“I think that it brings awareness to the fact that there are more than two genders and that gender is not defined as what you were labeled at birth.”

Joy Chan

California has also expanded the prescence of gender-neutral bathrooms, three of which can be found around Paly’s campus.

Senior Maddie Lee, a member of the Steering Committee for Paly Sources of Strength, the wellness program based on building resilience in youth, hopes the bill can help students take pride in their identity and feel safer in coming out.

“Non-binary Paly students will be able to have their birth certificates match their gender identity, which is important because invalidation and misgendering are often causes of stress and anxiety for trans and nonbinary people, and lowering stress is a top priority for PAUSD,” Lee said.

In July, Oregon officially allowed its residents to mark their gender as “not specified” instead of male or female. Oregon citizens can choose an “X” option on the driver’s licenses and IDs. In addition, Washington D.C. and New York lawmakers have introduced bills proposing a third gender on official documents.

Certain countries around the world have also passed or are in the process of passing legislation that allows citizens to legally identify outside the binary genders, including Australia, Canada, Germany, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand and the U.K.

“I think these new changes will affect the Paly community in a positive way, especially in helping non-binary students take pride in their identity, and hopefully feel safer in coming out.”

Maddie Lee

Although this bill was warmly received by many of California’s residents, it also receives backlash from certain groups, including the conservative California Family who claimed that the bill “advances a lie” in a statement to SFGate.

Additionally, the California Family Council argued that the inclusion of the third gender for minors would create a need for nonbinary sports team in schools, which could be costly. However, supporters rejected this claim, claiming that the new act would instead allow students to choose either team.

Lee said, “I think the most important to remember throughout these discussions is that those who are non-binary are people too, and that we should strive not to politicize their existence.”

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