By Ariane Lange
SACRAMENTO — Four years after California began issuing nonbinary IDs, fewer than 16,000 people have asked the state for a little piece of plastic with their gender marked by an X rather than an F or M.
The California Department of Motor Vehicles released the number in response to a California Public Records Act request from The Sacramento Bee.
According to the DMV, 3,071 people aged 16 to 19 had nonbinary drivers licenses or state IDs this fall; 3,838 people 20 to 24; and 3,431 people 25 to 29. All told, just over 14,000 people under 40 received this designation.
Seven people in their 80s also took advantage of the change in California law that allowed nonbinary state-issued cards.
All together, 15,904 Californians have a driver license or state ID identifying them as nonbinary.
In 2017, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law, Senate Bill 179, that directed the DMV to offer off a third gender designation — nonbinary — in addition to male and female. That took effect in January 2019.
California’s driver license bill, authored by state Sens. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, was spearheaded by a nonbinary teenager, Star Hagen-Esquerra, and an intersex advocate, Sara Kelly Keenan. Keenan, who uses she/her pronouns, was the first person in California to get a court order to change her official gender to nonbinary.
Hagen-Esquerra told BuzzFeed News at the time, “My hope for this bill is that actually being nonbinary is a lot more normalized.” Hagen-Esquerra explained that once they had gotten a court order changing their official gender to nonbinary, they felt validated.
The law makes it easier for trans people to change their gender in state records: They no longer have to get a doctor’s approval to reflect a change to “male” or “female.”
Between July and December of 2018, when the more onerous Medical Certification and Authorization form was required to change one’s gender on DMV documents, 252 of those forms were submitted. The DMV said it did not have further data on the numbers of people who submitted that particular form.
At the time the license bill was being debated, the California Family Council emerged as its main opposition. The bill passed the Senate 26-12 and the Assembly 57-21.
Members of the California Family Council at the time argued that if the bill were passed, “the government will knowingly let people put false information on identity documents,” according to statements the group submitted to the Assembly.
The Catholics for the Common Good Institute wrote to the Legislature to say that “state records must reflect reality.”
Intersex and nonbinary supporters shot back that the status quo at the time did not reflect the reality that they were neither male nor female.
In 2017, legislative analysts acknowledged the case against easing the bureaucratic gender change process for trans people. One analyst, Eric Dang, wrote, “Opponents to this bill believe removal of the medical documentation requirement may ‘damage the good order of society.’”
However, Dang pointed out that when people identify with the gender their families assumed they were at birth, “there is no requirement” that cisgender people confirm they really are male or female with medical evidence.
“SB 179 is about basic human dignity,” Wiener said. “It does nothing more than allow Californians to identify as who they are. People shouldn’t have to lie about their identity by selecting a gender that doesn’t pertain to their actual identity to receive a driver’s license.”
The state’s efforts to recognize transgender Californians contrast with recent laws in Republican-led states to limit transgender civil rights.
Florida’s “don’t say gay” law forbids instruction mentioning gender identity and sexuality before students reach fourth grade; it went into effect this past summer. Texas legislators have filed House Bills 643 and 708 for the 2023 cycle, both of which ostensibly target drag shows and would also criminalize any transgender person singing or dancing at a public venue where a minor was present.
California Democrats have attempted to create safe spaces for transgender residents and for people who may come here from other parts of the country.
Senate Bill 107, which was also authored by Wiener and which takes effect Jan. 1, makes California a “trans refuge state,” meaning that California police will not enforce the laws of other states if those laws forbid parents from seeking gender-affirming health care for their trans children.
Among other provisions, SB 107 will also ensure that California law enforcement agencies will not comply with out-of-state subpoenas for health information in certain situations, particularly in when the state or a co-parent is trying to take away custody from a parent who has supported their trans child.
Source: Paradise Post