Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Bill Would Allow Third Gender On Birth Certificates, Driver's Licenses

Sen. Toni Atkins announces the Gender Recognition Act, Jan. 26, 2017.
@SenToniAtkins / Twitter
Sen. Toni Atkins announces the Gender Recognition Act, Jan. 26, 2017.

Californians may soon be able to choose a third gender when filling out government documents such as driver's licenses and birth certificates.

The Gender Recognition Act would allow people to identify as "non-binary."

Senators Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, co-wrote the bill.


"This bill gets to the heart of when a gender appearance doesn't match identification documents, it creates significant hardships for transgender, intersex, non-binary people who are trying to live their everyday lives," Atkins said.

Current law says people seeking to change their gender on documents must have undergone medical treatment and obtain approval from a court. This bill would eliminate those requirements.

Sara Kelly-Keenan was born intersex. She said she did not know this until she was 50 years old.

"My parents and my doctors denied me the reality of my own biology, which they knew when I was a baby. That's cruel," Kelly-Keenan said.

Last year, she became the first Californian to go to court and legally change her gender to non-binary. She also received the nation's first birth certificate to list gender as "intersex."


She said the Gender Recognition Act is the beginning of teaching society that there is more than just male and female.

"We can just allow people who fall outside the binary, non-binary people like me, to exist and be part of the human family," Kelly-Kennan said.

Carly Mitchell testified during a Senate hearing Tuesday on the bill. From a young age, Mitchell never identified as male or female.

"I probably thought I could only identify as one or the other until I knew there's a language, and then I was just me," Mitchell said.

Gender-wise, Mitchell identifies as non-binary transgender.

"We just want to be legally recognized and embraced by society so that we can be healthy, productive members of it. We don't want to be outcasts. We just want to be embraced as the humans we are," Mitchell said.

The Gender Recognition Act was presented Tuesday in a Senate hearing. If approved, California would be the first state in the country to have such a law.

The California Family Council, a conservative group, opposed the bill. The group says there are only two genders: male and female.