CA Legislature Passes Two Trans-Supportive Bills

by Sarah Gehring

Photo credit: Ryan Brisco/Unsplash

Last week, the California legislature passed SB 179, a bill establishing a non-binary gender marker option for state identity documents, and SB 396, a bill requiring employer training about gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. These bills provide practical relief for trans people living in California and important steps forward for the movement at large.

SB 179, the Gender Recognition Act, allows individuals to obtain non-binary gender markers on both driver’s licenses and birth certificates. The bill also ensures that any person who wishes to change their gender marker need only self-attest to their gender, replacing costly, inconvenient policies that require confirmation of gender by medical or mental health providers. California is doing through its legislature what the District of Columbia and Oregon did through their driver’s license agencies — allowing people to choose between male, female, and a third gender marker.

NCTE’s 2015 US Trans Survey found that 68 percent of trans individuals do not have a single ID document that accurately reflects their name and gender. For many, having accurate documents is not only a matter of acceptance and affirmation, but also of privacy and security. As the bill’s author, Senator Toni Atkins, noted, “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.”

California State Assembly chambers. Photo credit: David Monniaux

SB 396, the Transgender Work Opportunity Act, works on two fronts to improve employment rates among trans individuals. First, it would require employers with 50 or more employees to provide training and education for supervisors on harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation. Second, it would authorize workforce development boards to develop programs for trans workers specifically.

This is the first legislation of its kind in the nation introduced to address high levels of unemployment and workplace discrimination in the trans community. The unemployment rate in the trans community is three times the national rate. Nearly one-third of trans workers report having been fired, denied a promotion, or experienced mistreatment due to their gender identity or expression.

Congratulations to the California legislature and the hard work of the Transgender Law Center, Equality California, and the many other advocates who made these bills possible.

For more information about the gender change policies in your state, see NCTE’s ID Document Center. Learn more about your employment rights here.

Sarah Gehring is a legal intern at NCTE.

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