When Californians are designated by gender on a driver\u2019s license, a birth certificate or any state identification, there are only two possible boxes to check: either \u201cM\u201d or \u201cF.\u201d But they may soon have a third option. A bill advancing in the Legislature would allow Californians to opt for a \u201cnonbinary\u201d gender marker on all forms of state identification. It\u2019s not yet clear which alphabetical abbreviation will be used, though \u201cX\u201d appears to be a leading candidate. That would make California the first state in the nation to fully depart from the rigid either\/or categorization of gender, embracing a more fluid understanding of the term \u2014 at least on paper. SB179, introduced by Democratic state Sens. Scott Wiener of San Francisco and Toni Atkins of San Diego, has already cleared the Senate and is set to be considered soon in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. The bill would also make it easier for transgender Californians to legally change their designated gender on state documents, including minors who receive parental consent. \u201cNonbinary\u201d is a catch-all category that includes those who are intersex \u2014 born with a combination of male and female biological characteristics \u2014 along with those who feel that neither male nor female reflects their gender. Should California adopt a nonbinary category, it will still lag far behind Facebook \u2014 the social media giant offers users more than 50 custom gender options, including nonbinary, bigender, gender nonconforming, genderqueer and gender fluid. In June, the state of Oregon\u2019s Transportation Commission agreed to issue a driver\u2019s license with a nonbinary designation for the first time in the United States. California law would go a step further by requiring nonbinary options on all state identification documents. In doing so, California would be the only state to provide this designation in the country, though it follows the lead of countries such as Germany, New Zealand and India. While \u201cbathroom bill\u201d legislation has placed statehouses in Texas and North Carolina at the front lines of the nation\u2019s culture war around the question of gender identity, SB179 has so far enjoyed a relatively peaceful passage through the state Legislature. Despite objections of conservative religious groups, the bill has so far glided through committees in both chambers with all Democrats, and some Republicans, voting in favor. Supporters of the bill say the nonbinary marker would allow those who do not identify as either male or female to more easily navigate the tasks of daily life \u2014 from making a credit card purchase to boarding an airplane to buying a beer \u2014 without subjecting themselves to embarrassment or misunderstanding. \u201cFor someone who has an ID that states a gender that doesn\u2019t match their gender presentation, things can get difficult \u2014 everything from a delay in completing what should be a mundane task to outright harassment,\u201d Atkins said on the Senate floor in May. But the bill is about more than convenience, said Dee Shull, who identifies as gender fluid (meaning gender identity varies over time) and uses the pronouns \u201cthey\u201d and \u201cthem.\u201d It\u2019s also a simple matter of having one\u2019s identity acknowledged and respected. \u201cIt\u2019s liberating to be able to say, \u2018Yes, this is who I am,\u2019 and, \u2018Yes, my state documentation matches that,\u2019\u201d Shull said. Shull is the communications specialist for the Intersex and Genderqueer Recognition Project, a California nonprofit that bills itself as the first organization in the United States solely focused on helping nonbinary people correct their gender designation on government documents. \u201cIt will take some Californians time to adapt to this,\u201d Shull said. \u201cI\u2019m not expecting miracles, but if I have an ID that accurately reflects who I am, then that\u2019s one less thing that I have to worry about.\u201d Under current law, anyone who wants to change the gender stated on official state identification documents must make a court appearance. They must also receive a doctor\u2019s note confirming they are undergoing gender reassignment treatment of some kind. That means transgender and gender-nonconforming Californians must rely on the availability and moral approval of a medical professional to change a letter on their driver\u2019s license or birth certificate. Nonbinary people, for whom neither letter applies, must petition the court directly and hope to find a sympathetic judge if they wish to receive nonbinary status. In the Legislature, opposition has come from Christian conservative organizations such as the California Family Council and church groups. They bemoan what they call a fundamental redefinition of gender, which they consider to be an immutable characteristic connected to biological traits. At an Assembly committee hearing in July, a lobbyist for the council brought along a copy of the American Heritage College Dictionary to recite the meaning of the word \u201cfemale.\u201d \u201cSince the dictionary has not been changed to accommodate this new gender definition, that should be an indication your constituents still believe that gender is based on biology,\u201d Greg Burt said. But the council has also raised logistical and legal concerns. These arguments have been echoed by some Republican lawmakers in committee as well. \u201cWith all the ID fraud ... it seems to me that it would be pretty simple to steal someone\u2019s identity down the line,\u201d state Sen. Mike Morrell, R-Rancho Cucamonga (Riverside County), said at a committee hearing in April. Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, an LGBTQ advocacy organization that co-sponsored the bill, calls that concern a \u201cred herring.\u201d \u201cIn some ways, you could say this bill strengthens procedures to make sure that people\u2019s identities are consistent with who they actually are,\u201d he said. \u201cIt\u2019s just about making sure that people\u2019s rights are respected.\u201d Ben Christopher is a contributing writer to CALmatters.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.