California Lawmaker Pushes Third Gender Option for Official IDs: Non-Binary

California Sen. Toni Atkins (D) wants to clear away all the bureaucratic red tape that stands in the way of Sara Kelly Keenan getting a state ID and/or driver’s license that reflects what Keenan sees as her true gender identity: non-binary.

If Atkins succeeds, California will be the first state in the nation to allow people who consider themselves neither male nor female as defined by society to check “non-binary” on birth certificates, driver’s licenses and state ID.

Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center, said the need for a non-binary marker on state documents was more than a matter of allowing people to make a statement about their genders.

“Whether going through airport security, voting, or applying for a bank account, everyone needs an accurate ID to safely navigate life,” Hayashi said. “Yet outdated laws and other barriers have blocked almost 70 percent of transgender people from updating all of their identity documents, and one-third of transgender people have been harassed, assaulted, or turned away when seeking basic services.”

Atkins proposed legislation to accomplish that in late January. Her chances look good. The Mercury News couldn’t find a single Republican willing to speak out against Atkins’ idea.

But California Family Council CEO Jonathan Keller believes it would be absolutely wrong to allow people to determine their genders based on their feelings, rather than on biological facts.

He also said the assertion that facts should always trump feelings on government documents is also about more than simply making a statement for traditional values.

Keller said this is much more important that simply choosing which public restroom to use. In this case, Atkins’ legislation would allow people to make a gender change on government documents — and it would be a change not yet recognized by 48 states.

But there are two states that have allowed two people in America to go non-binary.

In September 2016, Keenan became the second person in America to be allowed to change her gender to “non-binary.” Jamie Shupe of Oregon was the first.

“I’m 55 years old; this doesn’t really change my life very much,” Keenan told NBC OUT. “But I want to leave the world a better place for younger intersex people. This represents a huge opportunity for acceptance and awareness for young non-binary and intersex and trans people — and for their parents.”

Sen. Atkins wants to make it easier for all of those mentioned by Keenan to get the government documents everyone needs to function in society with the Gender Recognition Act of 2017.

Atkins said she wanted make it easier for people to change driver’s licenses, state IDs and birth certificates that might already be marked “male or “female” to “non-binary” by removing the requirement of a physician’s sworn statement certifying the extent of medical treatment for a gender switch.

It would also remove the requirement that a person who wants a gender change appear in court even if no one opposes the change. And finally, Atkin’s legislation would create a new gender marker for non-binary on all state documents that require gender selection.

“Our society is becoming more enlightened every day about gender identity,” Atkins said. “It’s time for our state to make it easier for transgender Californians and those who don’t conform to traditional notions of gender to have state-issued identification documents that reflect who they truly are. This bill will help them avoid the discrimination and harassment that too many of these residents face in their daily lives.”

Jo Michael, legislative manager for Equality California, told the Mercury News the timing of this legislation is critical because of her fears of what the Trump administration and a Republican-dominated Congress might do to LGBTQ rights.

Beyond that, Michael said the non-binary classification will make it easier for transgender people to function in society.

“Visibility is part of being able to live in the world as who you are and not having the barrier of having an ID that doesn’t match how you look. It affects your ability to get a credit card, your ability to get a job, to live the way you want to live and be a productive member of society.”

But Keller of the Family Council said it was wrong to let people choose a gender based on feelings rather than facts.

He said the Family Council was sympathetic to people faced with gender dysphoria, but “government documents need to reflect biological facts for identification and medical purposes.”

“Secondly, the bill advances a falsehood: that being male or female, or no gender at all, is a choice each person must make, not a fact to celebrate and accept,” Keller added. “Laws like this will simply erase any meaningful gender definitions, if being male or female is completely divorced from biological facts.”