California is moving to make it easier for transgender people to identify as the gender of their choice with legislation that would give residents a way to chose on all state documents, including birth certificates and driver's licenses.
Democratic state Sens. Toni Atkins of San Diego and Scott Wiener of San Francisco introduced legislation this spring that would add a third option to the conventional male and female choices people have when asked to declare their sex.
"The inability for people to accurately identify themselves on government documents has been a real, tangible issue for the community for years, and this policy to fix it is long overdue," Wiener told the Washington Examiner. "Forcing people to lie on their government documents is terrible policy and a violation of people's basic civil rights."
California's Gender Recognition Act would be the first piece of legislation to be enacted on the issue if passed. The proposal passed the Senate in May and is being considered by the state Assembly. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has not indicated if he would support the bill.
The bill would change the law that requires anyone who wishes to change his or her gender on state documents, including a birth certificate, to appear in court with a doctor's note confirming they are going through gender treatment.
It's unknown what alphabetical character would be used to represent the third option, though "X" has been used by other states.
Australia, Denmark, and New Zealand have adopted similar policies, and the idea is not entirely new to the U.S. This summer, Oregon and Washington, D.C., announced they would legally recognize non-binary, intersex, and agender people, though California's approach to changing all official documents is the strongest approach so far.
Non-binary describes someone who does not fit the male or female identity, intersex refers to those born with physical characteristics not normally associated with the person's gender, and agender refers to those who do not affiliate with either gender.
All of those groups are permitted to identify as "X" on Department of Motor Vehicles-issued government ID cards in the previously mentioned states.
"Most of us use our ID on a daily basis and take it for granted. [The bill] will make what should be a simple task much easier for our transgender and nonbinary neighbors," Atkins said.
Residents no longer would have to prove they are undergoing treatment or undergo any medical procedures. Instead, they would have to submit an application to the State Registrar and an affidavit that the change is not being made for fraudulent purposes.
"By requiring the affidavit to be attested to under penalty of perjury, the bill would create a crime, and thus impose a state-mandated local program," the bill states.
Underage residents would be allowed to petition for a court judgment on a change to their gender.
Transgender advocacy groups Equality California and Transgender Law Center co-sponsored the bill and say it is a positive step for LGBTQ human rights.
"Everyone needs access to an ID that accurately reflects who they are," Transgender Law Center Executive Director Kris Hayashi said. "This simple measure will make daily life for many transgender and nonbinary people infinitely safer and easier."
Other organizations, including the California Family Council, oppose the proposal and have urged lawmakers not to play God by changing how society defines gender.
"If you allow someone who is physically male to list themselves on a government document as a female, or vice versa, then the government will be legalizing a lie. That's assuming we are still using the dictionary to define what a male and a female is," CFC Director of Capitol Engagement Greg Burt testified before the California State Transportation and Housing Committee in April. "As state senators, I know you think you are powerful, but you do not have the authority to simply change the meaning of words just because you want to."
If enacted, parts of the bill would go into effect Sept. 1, 2018, and others would happen on Jan. 1, 2019.