15 June 2013

Documenting Us

Nearly all of us who are gender-variant have faced, at one time or another, this dilemma.

We apply for a job, to school or for benefits.  We have been taking hormones, living by the gender of our minds and spirits and have, in various ways, changed our appearance, style of dress and demeanor to reflect that gender.  And we've changed our names.

So we have driver's licences, passports and other IDs with our new names and photos of ourselves.  But there's one problem:  the "M" or "F" box still reflects what we presented to the world before our changes.

If we're lucky, the person who asked for our documents is confused.  If we're not, we face ridicule, discrimination and even violence. Either way, we've been "outed" and are forced to explain our stories to audiences that can be none-too-sympathetic.

A cisgender person does not have to so explain him or herself to go to school, get a job or benefits or even to rent or test-drive a car.  So why should we be expected to do that?

At least the author of this article seemed to understand, to some degree, our dilemma.  But the comments were full of people trying to sound snarky but who ended up looking stupid and/or hateful. I mean, who changes his or her gender to commit identity fraud, hijack planes or commit other crimes.  Because there is a "paper trail" (or, perhaps, digital footprint) of our transition, we would be easier to track than most other people.

Some states and municipalities--including, thankfully, the ones in which I live--have come to understand what I've just said, and have changed policies accordingly.  But there are still three states--Idaho, Tennessee and Ohio--that won't change the gender on a birth certificate, even after a person has had gender reassignment surgery. 

I can see that progress has been made even during the time of my own transition.  But, as I can also see, there is still much to be done.