California begins process for third gender, non-binary option driver’s licenses, state IDs

State Sens. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), left, and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) authored SB 179, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed in October. The law would diminish the burden for transgender, intersex and other people who do not identify as male or female when applying for official state IDs. Photo: Office of State Sen. Toni Atkins.

California is streamlining the process this year for issuing a third gender, non-binary option on state-issued IDs, driver’s licenses, and birth certificates.

Under the Gender Recognition Act, SB 179, the new option will be available on official state documents starting January 1, 2019. 

State Sens. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) authored the bill, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed in October, said the law would diminish the burden for transgender, intersex and other people who do not identify as male or female.


“Many of us have an ID that matches our gender presentation, and so showing it is hassle-free,” Atkins said in a statement. “But for Californians who have an ID that does not match their gender presentation, showing it at airports, in shops or to law enforcement can be extremely stressful and lead to harassment or a delay in completing a transaction. It doesn’t need to be this way.”


The National Center for Transgender Equality defines non-binary as an individual who does not identify with the category of “man” or “woman,” or “male” or “female.” The non-binary category may include transgender people, but not all non-binary people are necessarily transgender.

Intersexed people, those born with “a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male,” according to the Intersexed Society of North America.

According to the 2015 U.S. Transgendered Survey, nearly a third of people surveyed said they had a negative experience when having to show an ID that did not comply with their physical appearance. About 16 percent they were denied services due to the issue.


Starting Sept. 1, the law will streamline the process for people to change their gender on official documents, such as birth certificates. It will remove the requirement that an individual obtain a sworn statement from a physician certifying medical treatment for gender transition.

Instead, a petitioner will attest, under penalty of perjury, that the request is to conform the person’s legal gender to the person’s gender identity and not for any fraudulent purpose, the language of the bill states.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, the Department of Motor Vehicles will include the non-binary gender marker option on first-time or renewal driver’s licenses.

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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