California Becomes First State to Legally Recognize Third Gender

"Society forces people into boxes & tells us who we're supposed to be. SB 179 helps people of all gender identities be their authentic selves," said Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener.

California hit a major milestone this week for LGBTQ rights.

Earlier this week Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a piece of legislation that legally recognizes "nonbinary" as a gender option on state identification cards, driver's licenses and birth certificates.

Previously, Californians seeking to change verbiage on their birth certificates had to have "undergone clinically appropriate treatment" and then formally make the request in court with an affidavit signed by a physician. Senate Bill 179 modifies this process, making it smoother by eliminating the affidavit requirement.

"The binary gender designations of female and male fail to adequately represent the diversity of human experience," according to the bill.

"Studies show that nonbinary people face frequent discrimination, harassment, and violence in areas of life including education, employment, health care, and law enforcement," the bill adds.

The bill was authored by Democratic State Sens. Toni Atkins and Scott Wiener, who are both openly gay.

"Society forces people into boxes & tells us who we're supposed to be. SB 179 helps people of all gender identities be their authentic selves," Wiener wrote on Twitter.

Atkins called it a "Great day for LGBTQ rights!"

Earlier this year Oregon and Washington, D.C. began allowing an "X" option on state IDs and driver's licenses. But California is the first to legalize the process through legislation. In June, New York also introduced legislation that would also allow for an "X" option on IDs.

According to Trans Student Educational Resources, nonbinary is defined as "all genders other than female/male or woman/man." "Binary" refers to the two genders most commonly recognized by society: male or female.

Nonbinary is not the same as transgender, although transgender people can be nonbinary. But, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, the majority of transgender people identify as either male or female. The American Psychological Association estimates that anywhere between a quarter and 35 percent of transgender people identify as nonbinary but also notes that there is "limited research" regarding nonbinary.

Nonbinary is also different from intersex, the National Center for Transgender Equality explains:

"Intersex people have anatomy or genes that don't fit typical definitions of male and female. Most intersex people identify as either men or women. Non-binary people are usually not intersex: they're usually born with bodies that may fit typical definitions of male and female, but their innate gender identity is something other than male or female."

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