SACRAMENTO — The California State Senate is considering a bill that would create a third gender option on state identification.

If passed, according to a report on Jurist.com, Senate Bill 179 will allow Californians to choose between male, female, and non-binary.

“The reality is that non-binary people do face some difficulty now just because the world is set up for people who identify as either male or female,” Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told the Northern California Record. “And I think that to some people who don’t identify as male or female, it is important to them to have some sort of visible recognition of their identity on state ID.”

The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, at the end of January, also simplifies the process of changing one’s gender on state documents. While the current law states that a petition for a change of gender must “be accompanied by an affidavit of a physician attesting that the person has undergone clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition,” the new bill will remove this requirement. Instead, the request must be accompanied by an affidavit sworn under penalty of perjury.

“There’s no reason to have concern in the first place that someone’s going to do something as serious as change the gender marker on their birth certificate or state ID unless they are really transgender and have a really good reason for doing that,” Minter said. “That’s really not a social phenomenon that anyone has seen or that there’s any reason to expect. But I think any possible theoretical concern about that is fully addressed by the penalty of perjury aspect of the bill.”

Minter doesn’t expect the bill to have any trouble getting passed, calling much of the bill “particularly straightforward.” He went on to explain the importance of this bill for the transgender community.

“Being able to get ID that reflects your gender is … critically important, if you think about all the circumstances in your everyday life that you have to show someone some form of identification,” he said. “Being able to present a driver’s license that accurately reflects your gender is so important to protect people’s privacy, so that you’re not outed as transgender every time you have to show ID when you pay with a credit card, for example.

“When you’re traveling internationally, it’s so important to have a passport that accurately reflects your gender so that you’re not being questioned or subjected to potentially invasive searches or detention or something like that. Because it can be confusing if you have a gender marker that’s different than what you appear to be, people might question the legitimacy of your identity.”

Selection of the non-binary option on state ID could potentially cause some confusion, however, as federal identification still only allows for selection of male or female, according to the Jurist.com report. Because of this, those considering the potential new gender option should think carefully before doing so.

“I do think anyone who’s considering doing that should go in with eyes open, it could cause some difficulties,” Minter said. “It could possibly make it difficult to get a federal passport, because right now the options on federal passports are male or female. So people should think about what’s best for them and their particular circumstances … So I definitely think that as we make this option available to people, we also encourage them to really be thoughtful and think about their particular circumstances and be aware that having an ID that identifies you as non-binary could actually cause some issues.”

The bill can be acted upon on Feb. 24 or after that date, according to the Legislature's website.

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