California Legalizes Non-Gender Binary Option for IDs

Participants dance under a rainbow flag during the a gay pride parade, September 20. As "coming out" as gay or lesbian has becoming accepted by many facets of society, the transgender community still faces the stigma of being misunderstood by their peers.

Transgender Californians can now legally embrace a third gender on government IDs, a move advocates hope will open the door for more states to be more welcoming to gender non-binary residents.

The bill signed into law Sunday by Democrat Governor Jerry Brown allows transgender and nonbinary citizens to select a third gender on state-issued documents, allowing the letter "X" as a gender alternative to male (M) and female (F). Supporters of The Gender Recognition Act say the third gender option simplifies the process of legal gender changes for transgender people.

The law uses the term nonbinary as an “umbrella term for people with gender identities that fall somewhere outside of the traditional conceptions of strictly either female or male,” according to the Sacramento Bee.

California Senator Scott Wiener, a sponsor of the bill, tweeted his excitement when it passed, saying "Society forces people into boxes [and] tells us who we’re supposed to be. [This law] helps people of all gender identities be their authentic selves."

The law goes into effect in 2019.

California follows Oregon and Washington D.C. in recognizing a third-gender on driver's licenses. It's not a completely new idea outside America either — Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Canada also permit their citizens to legally pick a third gender.

The move to allow for flexibility in gender follows a 2015 study across all 50 states that found that 68 percent of transgender Americans didn’t have an ID reflecting their preferred name or gender. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, 32 percent of that group reported being harassed, assaulted or denied benefits or services as a result of not having the proper ID.

Still, the bill had some opponents.

One “pro-family” group blasted the new law.

“This new law calls transsexuality good, when science, health, logic and love inform us it’s bad,” Randy Thomasson, president of, told the Sacramento Bee. “Pushing so-called ‘nonbinary’ upon 15-year-olds applying for a learner’s permit or 16-year-olds getting their drivers’ licenses tells them a big lie about sex. It’s an unchangeable law of Nature that you’re male if you’ve inherited a Y chromosome from your father; if not, you’re female.”

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