California is on its way to becoming the first state to legally acknowledge non-binary as a gender on state-issued IDs, just a few months after Oregon became the first state to add a gender-neutral option to state IDs.
I wanted to understand what the passing of SB 179 means to the people it impacts, so I spoke with Theo Claire McKown, a trans, non-binary college sophomore.
“I did not legally change my gender from female, because changing it wouldn't be worth the cost or hassle when it's just as inaccurate,” McKown said. McKown uses the pronoun “zir" instead "he" or "she." That’s because McKown is neither she nor he, and prefers that people address zir using “ze" and "zir” pronouns.
McKown added that having these markers on zir ID, "I am effectively outing myself. I'm also telling people information about me that may not be true.” McKown said the gender marker on zir medical records and legal papers “doesn't actually align with my lived experience.”
I also met L. Wynholds, who prefers the use of the pronoun “they.”
"The reason why a lot of people transition and the reason that that population exists, despite all of the harassment and abuse," L explains, "is just because you can't be a whole person if you are constantly running away from part of yourself.”
That’s why senators Scott Wiener and Toni Atkins authored SB 179. Besides adding the non-binary gender marker, the bill will make it easier for all trans people to change the gender that appears in their state-issued IDs. Now, people can only change that information with an authorization from a doctor and after appearing court.
Wiener says although some trans people do undergo medical procedures as part of their transition, not all of them do, and gender identity is something the state should stay out of.
“People don't need a doctor to tell them what their gender is, people know," Wiener said.
Maddi Alexandra Stratton, who works as Intake Program Manager at Sacramento’s Gender Health Center said, “there’s already so many barriers that are up for people in just trying to live their authentic life. And just trying to change our name or gender, I feel it's just something and that makes it easier for people to get what they need to get to live — be who they are.”
The bill would also remove an age requirement, allowing young children to change their gender with parental permission.
As with any pro-LGBTQ law, the religious right has a lot of issues with the bill, which Greg Burt at the California Family Council and I discussed extensively. But the removal of an age limit for gender changes seems to be the biggest point of contention.
“Parents shouldn't be able to change somebody's gender at such a young age, legally, and have that person be legally a boy or girl based on how they are identifying," Burt said.
Studies show parents who seek early transition for their children are likely seeking better mental health outcomes. On such study out of the Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego found that depression and anxiety “improve greatly with recognition and treatment of gender dysphoria.”
"When a child is allowed to blossom as who they are at a young age, that kid is just going to be more successful in the long run," Wiener said.
Wiener said this goes not only for trans youth but for all LGBTQ youth.
“It’s wonderful that kids are coming out of the closet as gay or lesbian at a young age, at 12, 13, 14 years old, and dating in high school the same way that other people date," Wiener said. "I didn’t come out of the closet until I was 20.”
The bill is pending Assembly approval once the appropriations committee clears it this Friday. It is expected to pass.