Progress for LGBTQ+ community with gender recognition

California is first in nation to recognize third gender, non-binary

Officially known as the Gender Recognition Act, Senate Bill 179 passed Oct. 17, 2017 amends different codes of California legislature to make it easier for civilians to change to either female, male or non-binary and receive recognition of their gender by the government.

According to the Bay City Beacon, SB-179 defines non-binary as “an umbrella term for people with gender identities that fall outside of the traditional conceptions of strictly either female or male.”

“This bill, on January 1, 2019, would require an applicant for an original driver’s license or renewal of a driver’s license to choose a gender category of female, male, or non-binary,” SB-179 reads.

The bill’s main amendment alters an existing law that states a person must have undergone clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition in order to obtain a new birth certificate.

Most of the laws passed through this act go into effect this year. The law removing the court petition for recognition of gender transition went into effect Sept. 1 and it is not until Jan 1, 2019, that non-binary will appear as an option for driver licenses.

“The bill would delete the requirement that an applicant has undergone any treatment, and instead would authorize a person to submit to the State Registrar an application to change gender on the birth certificate,” SB-179 reads.

The bill also eliminates the judicial requirement to change gender on a birth certificate.. The law originally read that a person who has undergone clinical treatment for the purpose of changing gender must seek a petition for the court to recognize the change of gender and attach the gender change with the person’s name in government records. Through SB-179, this section is eliminated and only requires an affidavit to ensure there is no fraudulent motive. This means that officials are checking to make sure no one is trying to change their identity in order to get more money or cheat the government.

These changes allow for anybody with a gender transition to apply for the gender they would like whether or not they have had a transition. The bill, overall, eliminates the need for a clinical treatment to confirm that one is undergoing a transition. It also, and perhaps more importantly, allows for someone who identifies with a different gender to be legally identified with that gender.

“Society forces people into boxes [and] tells us who we’re supposed to be. SB 179 helps people of all gender identities be their authentic selves,” California Senator Scott Wiener wrote in a tweet.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed this first of kind legislation on Oct. 17, 2017. While California is the first state to introduce the third gender into their legislature, Oregon and Washington D.C. have taken similar steps to place them in the same direction.

Oregon and Washington D.C passed legislation in 2017 that offers residents to have the option of gender-neutral on their driver licenses. This state and district are taking steps towards an inclusive LGBTQ+ community.

Countries such as Australia, Pakistan, Nepal and Canada are passing legislation that allows citizens to legally identify beyond the gender binary.

However, the New York Times recently uncovered a memo on Oct. 21, 2018, from the Department of Health and Human Services that would redefine gender after new laws have been passed. By repealing of Obama era laws, the Trump administration would change gender to be consistent with the genitalia a person is born with. This would eliminate the ability to change gender on birth certificates, and non-binary to be eliminated as a gender in the United States.

“We have transgender people around this country who are living in fear as more and more states strip them of the most basic rights,” said Sen. Wiener in a Los Angeles Times article. “When they go backward, we go forward.”

The approval of SB-179 has also had effects on the Oak Park community and its schools, according to school counselor Randy McLelland.

“There are internal changes that we’ve already made here at the school as a result of [the bill],” McLelland said. “There’s been changes in Q for students to choose how they want their gender to be identified, and to have an alternative name if that’s their choice.”

According to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), transgender students are more likely than any other students to have negative experiences at school and more likely to feel unsafe and experience victimization based on their gender identity or expression of sexuality.

“Whether they feel it or not, there’s always some concern that there will be people that don’t accept the change. [For instance, some] think that being gay is a lifestyle choice,”McLelland said.

A survey conducted by GLSEN found that “42.2 percent of transgender students had been prevented from using their preferred name, 59.2 percent had been required to use a bathroom or locker room of their legal sex, and 31.6 percent had been prevented from wearing clothes considered inappropriate based on their legal sex.”

In other states, it is not the same as California schools. From coast to coast, California has been found to have more accepting of others’ differences and was even called the “far-left fringe” by the Washington Post.

“In other areas around the country, there are still states and even sometimes schools who will use their own unique religious philosophies or other philosophies to not make students feel welcome to make those choices,” McLelland said. “Hopefully, at least in the Oak Park community, students will feel like they are supported and welcome to make those choices.”

McLelland said LGBTQ+ students often feel uncomfortable coming out to friends and family for fear of a lack of acceptance.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 42 percent of those who come out said that they live in a community that is not accepting of LGBTQ+ people. As for the rates of coming out, 9 out 10 LGBTQ+ youth say they are out to their friends, but only 6 out 10 are out to their classmates.

From personal experience, Fiona Raab, senior and Gay, Straight Alliance Club co-president at Oak Park, said coming out is all about making sure you are comfortable with yourself.

“Finding your identity is all about experimentation,” Raab wrote to the Talon. “You may not fit into a specific box, and that’s OK.”

Senior Austin (first name only, to protect student’s privacy) said that there is always someone to help with the law here at Oak Park High School.

“Talk to your counselor or supervisor at school and make sure that they know your situation. If you talk to them and explain yourself, 90 percent of the time they’ll be understanding and will [help you] to the extent of the law that they can,” Austin said.
SB-179 has made it easier for residents of California to legally identify their gender and transition more freely than before. In Oak Park, it allows students who feel that they do not fall under the typical gender binary to engage in a more accepting environment.

“It’s made some processes much longer than they need to be, even simple things like the senior retreat. I’ve had to have a few meetings to discuss where I’ll be staying, what name I’ll be going by. And then by changing documents with the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), it’s actually a bit expensive,” Austin said. “It’s taken a lot of talking between my parents and the DMV and the government and the school. It can be a lot and take a while, but it’s necessary so it’s worth it.”