Rosanna Gabaldon

State Rep. Rosanna Gabaldon

State Rep. Rosanna Gabaldón plans to bring another bill before the state Legislature allowing for a third gender option on driver's licenses and identification cards after a similar effort failed last year.

HB2492 stalled in the Rules Committee in 2019, but Gabaldón, a Democrat whose district includes Green Valley and Sahuarita, is bringing the issue back under HB2075. The bill would expand options on state IDs to male, female and non-binary. 

But the move has early opposition.

Mesa Republican Rep. John Fillmore is putting forth HB2080, which would require any state-issued document to indicate an individual's sex as male or female. Fillmore didn't return several messages for comment Friday. 

Fillmore plans to introduce two more bills tied to gender and sex. HB 2081 would require state birth certificates to reflect a person's sex as male or female. HB2082 would require school faculty and staff to use male or female pronouns according to what is listed on a birth certificate.

Gabaldón is also putting forward HB2074, a bill that would require state death certificates to reflect a deceased individual's gender. She said the bills are about how people identify themselves — gender — and not about a person's sex.

"At least 15 states have non-binary as an option on the driver's license and ID card," she said. "I'd like Arizona to be the 16th or 17th. I see this as something that is ongoing, not only in Arizona but in the United States."

Gender identification

Kendra Tonan-Lizzarago is president at Trans Spectrum of Arizona in Phoenix. The group provides peer-to-peer counseling and acts as a resource center for transsexuals. 

Tonan-Lizzarago, who was born male and identifies as a female, said Fillmore's first two bills on IDs and birth certificates are more of reinforcing the status quo. But his third bill on schools is the most detrimental. She said that bill could potentially remove a trusted confidant from a student's available resources who can help them with gender identity issues.

"Having that safety net of a really cool teacher or administrator you can talk to and will identify who you are and affirm who you are makes all the difference in the world," she said.

Removing that safety net is not only "asinine," she said, but can be dangerous considering the higher rates of suicide among trans youths.

A July 2018 study from Russell Toomey, Ph.D., at the University of Arizona reported higher attempted suicide rates among trans youths compared to youths identifying their gender as their birth sex. The study found 41.8 percent of non-binary youths ages 11 to 19 – those who don't identify as exclusively male or female – attempted suicide.

The numbers were also higher for those who were born female but identified as male, 50.8 percent, and those born male who identify as female, 29.9 percent. By comparison, 9.8 percent of males and 17.6 percent of females in the same age group who identified as their birth sex attempted suicide.

Getting it passed

Arizona might be primarily a red state, but Gabaldón and Tonan-Lizzarago said the bill stands a good chance of passing.

"It is a bipartisan issue and it is starting to cross the lines," Tonan-Lizzarago said. "People are starting to vote with their conscience and not with their party, which is great."

Gabaldón said the bills shouldn't be controversial and if it doesn't happen in this session it will work in a future session. Should the bill stall again or fail, Gabaldón said she would continue to reintroduce it in future sessions.

"I want to see a day when the state of Arizona can embrace diversity," she said. "And I want to see a day when Arizona looks back at this and says, 'Why did we have a problem with this?'"

For Tonan-Lizzarago, allowing people to identify their gender isn't about politics but accepting their right to present themselves according to who they are like everyone else does.

"We're all throughout society, we're Americans, and we're people who pay our taxes," she said. "We do the things that every other American does in this state, and we have the right to live our lives without persecution."

Jorge Encinas | 520-547-9732