One Equal World

California’s ‘Gender Recognition Act’ a Huge Win for Non-Binary Folks

Posted on: October 26, 2017

The non-binary flag (yellow, white, purple, and black stripes) with a non-binary symbol in the middle of it.

The non-binary flag complete with a non-binary symbol in the middle of it.
Image credit: Shutterstock

There are two incredibly valuable aspects to California’s new Gender Recognition Act, which was signed on Sunday, October 15th by state Governor Jerry Brown.

The gist of it: California residents will now be able to select “non-binary” on official documents. That is an umbrella term, and perhaps it may be refined in the future, but for now, it is exceptional that people who are neither men nor women will be able to document their identity. The ruling covers birth certificates, state-issued IDs, and driver’s licenses. It continues to leave out medical and school records, along with federally-issued passports unfortunately, but the changes will make the day-to-day lives of non-binary persons easier.

Another major win in this ruling: the process of changing one’s gender on legal identification has been streamlined. Previously, changing the gender marker on a driver’s license required a doctor’s statement that one had medically transitioned. What that meant was up to the doctor, and it was a major, painful, expensive, and even disfiguring hurdle to jump through. But that hoop is now gone.

The transgender and non-binary communities are often overlooked in the broad discussion of identity-based rights. Few states have any protections for gender identity at all, and California is the first to entrench the existence of non-binary identities into law (though a similar bill is being proposed in New York this November).

With two on the table, perhaps it will inspire the same sort of ripple effect that gay marriage did, where state after state legalized it until it became federal law.

“With Governor Brown’s signature on this bill, transgender and non-binary people will now be able to identify themselves as they are, not as who society tells them they should be,” said Scott Weiner, California State Senator and one of the co-sponsors of the bill. 

That agency is a kind of dignity owed to everyone.


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