When asked to “pick a gender”, most people choose from two categories: male or female. But in California there may soon be “intersex.”
The Golden State—bastion of progressivism—is currently considering a new bill that would add a third gender option to all officials state documents requiring identification, including driving licenses and birth certificates.
If passed, it would be the first of its kind in the country.
According to a report by Sacramento’s CBS affiliate, CB3, legislators started mulling over the proposal over a year ago after a California resident made international headlines last September for becoming the second citizen in the United States to be granted the right to change her gender from “female” to “non-binary”.
She followed in the footsteps of a retired Army mechanic from Oregon, Jamie Shupe, who was the first person in the country to be granted this right.
Sara Kelly Keenan, who uses the pronouns “she/her” but identifies as intersex, says it is not just a matter of gender identification but a “medical reality.”
“My body looks quite different from other women,” she told CBS 13 at the time.
The Intersex Society of North America defines “intersex” as a “socially constructed category” that reflects a biological condition in which a person is born with genitalia that don’t fit the typical definitions of female or male (e.g. think a woman with female reproductive organs who also happens to have a penis.)
Keenan has now banded with other advocates at the California State Capitol to lobby legislators to pass the Gender Recognition Act of 2017, which would make it easier to swap one’s gender on official documents.
Jazz Shaw, a writer for conservative blog Hot Air is adamant that the effort is not driven by LGBTQ activists and has nothing to do with the “transgender rights” movement sweeping the country. In his eyes just like Keenan, the bill addresses the need to recognize and cater to a biological reality: people born with gender abnormalities.
However, as Breitbart pointed out, co-sponsors of the bill include LGBTQ rights groups Equality California and the Transgender Law Center. Transgender rights advocates have also cheered the bill, saying adding this option will help fight job discrimination and make people with mixed reproductive less invisible in society.
“It’s a daily minefield” a transgender health specialist told Mercury News about what it’s like to navigate society when you don’t fit in.
The timing of the bill is also significant for its supporters as the Trump administration begins to take steps towards protecting people and companies claiming religious exemption (it is expected to announce a new executive order on religious liberty this week), in a major rebuke to Obama’s policies protecting LGBTQ citizens.
As Jo Michael, legislative manager for Equality California, told Mercury News:
It’s even more of a reason for California to lead the way on these issues and to move forward in recognizing people from marginalized communities as full and complete members of society, which is unfortunately not happening in many other states and something that is at risk at the federal level.
Resistance to the bill is mounting, with critics arguing the public isn’t informed enough about genetic abnormalities and that lawmakers might be opening a can of worms by letting people decided which ‘sex’ to pick on their official documents.
“If you change sex to be a description of someone’s feelings, then anyone can claim to be a male or female,” Greg Burt from the California Family Council, a Christian group, said.
Several countries in the world already recognize a third gender option, including India, Pakistan, Australia and Germany.
Let’s hope California won’t follow in the footsteps of tech companies like Facebook or Tinder that offer users upwards to 37 gender options to pick from. One new one is probably enough—for now.