Gender Recognition Act (SB 179)

What is the California Gender Recognition Act?

The Gender Recognition Act (California Senate Bill 179) was signed into law and went into full effect January 1st, 2019. In brief, SB 179 streamlines the process for Californians to apply to change their gender markers, and creates a nonbinary gender category on California birth certificates, drivers' licenses, identity cards, and gender-change court orders (the letter "x"). This enables many in our community, including transgender, intersex and nonbinary people, to have full recognition in the State of California. The law was authored by Sens. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by Equality California and the Transgender Law Center.

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What does it mean for Cal Poly?

The Gender Recognition Act has implications throughout the campus, and in particular in areas where we organize by gender in binary ways. For example, many parts of employment processes, housing, sports facilities, payroll systems and recreational areas are designated by gender in a binary way (men and women). Our campus will need to change in order to serve students, faculty and staff who are transgender, intersex and nonbinary.

On September 25th, 2018, CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White sent a memorandum to all CSU Presidents highlighting the CSU Commitment to Inclusive Excellence and encouraged all campuses to examine language, labels, and procedures for compliance to the law. As such, each division, unit, and department here at Cal Poly has an obligation to review their processes, systems and physical / digital infrastructure to accommodate these changes. The Lead Coordinator for Campus LGBTQ+ Initiatives is available as a consultant to the campus to assist divisions, units, and departments as needed.

I think my department, unit, or division needs to make some changes to ensure we are in compliance with the Gender Recognition Act. What should we do?

First, assess places where your area uses gender in a binary way (i.e. male and female, or men and women). Then, determine what steps might need to be implemented in order to ensure inclusion of an "x" category into these systems. This might entail updating campus data systems, reformatting reports, including "x" in surveys and assessments, and addressing physical spaces and facilities. This may also require training for frontline staff to ensure appropriate implementation of inclusive policies and customer service practices. Once you've made an initial assessment, contact Lead Coordinator for Campus LGBTQ+ Initiatives, Samuel Neil Byrd, with your findings, and the Pride Center will work with you to support your necessary change efforts.

I don't understand the difference between transgender, non-binary, and intersex. What's the difference?

Transgender is an umbrella term used to describe people whose gender identity or gender expression do not match the gender they were assigned at birth. For example, some people who were assigned to be male at birth are female (trans women). Some people who were assigned to be female at birth are male (trans men). Some transgender people have medically transitioned, undergoing gender affirming surgeries and hormonal treatments, while other transgender people do not choose any form of medical transition. There is no uniform set of procedures that are sought by transgender people that pursue medical transition. Transgender people may identify as female, male, or nonbinary, may or may not have been born with intersex traits, may or may not use gender-neutral pronouns, and may or may not use more specific terms to describe their genders, such as agender, genderqueer, gender fluid, Two Spirit, bigender, pangender, gender nonconforming, or gender variant.

Nonbinary people have gender identities and/or gender expressions which fall outside of the dominant societal norm for their assigned sex, is beyond genders, or is some combination thereof. Some people use the term Gender Queer to describe this identity. Queer is a term that is offensive to some when used as a derogatory term. Others have reclaimed and self-defined the word as a form of empowerment.

An intersex person is someone whose sex a doctor has a difficult time categorizing as either male or female. It could also refer to a person whose combination of chromosomes, gonads, hormones, internal sex organs and/or genitals differs from one of the two expected patterns (i.e. male or female). Another way of thinking about it is Intersex refers to a series of medical conditions in which a child's genetic sex (chromosomes) and phenotypic sex (genital appearance) do not match, or are somehow different from the "standard" definition of male or female.

Have any other states or areas done this?

Yes! The laws for non-binary gender markers are changing quickly. As of 2018, nonbinary markers are allowed in some form in Arkansas, California, Colorado, D.C., Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington state. Bills are pending in Arizona, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. The first known Intersex birth certificate in the U.S. was granted in New York City.

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