California could soon become the first state to add a third option for gender identification – non-binary – on legal, state documents such as drivers’ licenses.
If Gov. Jerry Brown signs the Gender Recognition Act, recently approved by both the State Senate and State Assembly, non-binary will be a legally recognized third gender identification.
State Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and other backers of the bill agreed that this amendment is an expansion of rights for transgender people, intersex people, and others who identify outside of the limited male or female spectrum.
The bill would also eliminate the requirement of gender-transition related treatment for those who want to change the gender listed on their documents.
According to the text of the bill, transgender and non-binary people “face frequent discrimination, harassment, and violence in areas of life including education, employment, health care, and law enforcement.”
The state Senate approved the bill without debate, showing genuine concern for the safety and comfortability of people who do not conform to structural gender titles or identify as simply male or female.
“The more our legal documents represent our population, the more readily the world is represented,” said Katrina Sire, adjunct professor of writing, who also teaches LGBTQ topics.
Diane Klein, professor of law, said that the third gender option accounts for those outside of traditional genders in a way that intends to be more inclusive. However, it still puts everyone who is not part of the norm in the same box, yet anther category, kind of like mixed race, she said.
“All civil rights changes have material and symbolic effects, and they’re hard to differentiate,” Klein said.
“There is a tension between largely symbolic, feel-good gestures and things that will improve life circumstances,” she added.
Klein also said there is lack of data about the non-conforming community, and until we collect data like this we will never know more.”
Just because someone’s identification says one thing, does not mean that person will be treated with more respect and according to the gender they identify with, Klein said. In some cases it may cause confusion or incite more disrespect, but it will create conversation, which is one step in normalizing gender fluidity.
“Lots of our institutions operate on a binary model,” Klein said.
Co-professors of education technology John and Linda Bartelt said they feel La Verne is ahead of the game in catering to the needs of their students.
“California doesn’t have to try to seem progressive,” Linda Bartelt said.
She added that this allows us to have conversations with those who are not accepting, “they will ask and we can explain,” she said.
“La Verne led the way; we had gender neutral bathrooms before we had to, and a lot of teachers ask students what their preferred names and gender pronouns are,” John Bartelt said.
“I think there are more things to do- not just change bathroom signs- but incite more conversation,” senior psychology major Jedaun Carter said. “Non-gendered bathrooms are the same as handicapped ones to me; it allows everyone to use it but doesn’t say the reason behind it.”
She added that the University has only changed the single restrooms which doesn’t change anything because no one else will be in the stall with them to express their un-comfortability.
“Making the stalled restrooms non-gendered will make a statement,” Carter said. Before the addition of gender neutral bathroom signs in single-stalled bathrooms in buildings like the Athletic Pavilion and Barkley Building, anyone could use the male or female marked stall if they really wanted to, she added.
Tyler Evains can be reached at email@example.com.