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California Just Became the First State in the US to Recognize a Third Gender

On Sunday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB179, a bill that makes the Golden State the first in the US to legally recognize a third gender.

Known as the “Gender Recognition Act,” the measure will allow residents of California to identify as male, female, or nonbinary on state issued documentation of gender identity. These most commonly come in the form of driver's licenses and birth certificates.

Additionally, the bill will eliminate laws requiring an in-person court appearance or statement from a doctor on behalf of individuals seeking changes to their legal gender status.

Read More: Why Canada’s gender-neutral IDs are such a big deal

Senate analysis of the bill notes that this is important for the many transgender people who lack access to transition-related healthcare.  

People took to social media to applaud the passage of legislation that enshrines more equal rights for the LGBT community.

In 2016, the World Health Organization released a report documenting the importance of legal gender identification for LGBTQ individuals. Their analysis suggested that the absence of such options left many in the LGBTQ community without equal legal access to resources like healthcare, education, employment, and housing.

However, in some countries outside of the US, the acceptance of nonbinary gender identification has been accepted much more readily. Indigenous cultures in Mexico, Samoa, and Madagascar have recognized the legitimacy of third-gender identification for centuries.

Related Stories June 27, 2016 Male, female, and muxes: Places where a third gender is accepted

Earlier this year, Canada took a big step in bringing legal status to this identification by allowing Canadians to label their gender as “X” on their passports. New Zealand, Pakistan, Australia, Denmark, Malta, and Australia also allow for this option.  

In the UK, activists brought the issue of nonbinary legal status to the high courts, challenging the Home Office to allow for the same passport gender options as Canada. The lawsuit was brought on behalf of Christie Elan-Cane, who campaigned for the last 25 years on the issue.

“Legitimate identity is a fundamental human right but non-gendered people are often treated as though we have no rights,” Elan-Cane told The Guardian. “The UK’s passport application process requires applicants to declare whether they are male or female. It is inappropriate and wrong that someone who defines as neither should be forced to make that declaration.’’

Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development, and achieving gender equality is goal number five. To take action toward that end, click here.

With the signing of the Gender Recognition Act, the California governor put the state at the forefront of the fight for LGBTQ equality in the US. No other state legally recognizes genders outside of female and male, although Oregon allows residents to identify their gender as “X” on their driver's license.

Read More: Love is love: NYC, the world celebrate LGBT pride

Many hope the action will inspire other states to do the same.