“One Official Document”

This article on transitioning and surgery. Go read it. If you haven’t got time to read it just now, read this paragraph (CN: Mention of suicide):

The latest research shows that it’s discrimination and stigma, not surgery itself, that causes the high suicide and attempted suicide rates. A study published in Ontario in 2015 revealed that those who have a supportive social environment (the most important social support being parents) were far less likely to seriously consider suicide. Other factors, like having one official document properly identifying your sex, also correlated with lower suicide attempts and rates. [emphasis added]

We have such a long way to go in making the world a better plans for trans people. And it kills me that it’s just simple things that can mean the difference between life and death. One document. Just one. Why can’t we manage just one?

I want the cis folk reading this to open up your wallets and look at the cards that identify your gender. Imagine all of them being wrong. Imagine having to present an ID that identifies you as someone you’re not every time you buy booze, go out to the bar with friends, apply for a job. Imagine having nothing affirming what you know to be true about yourself, and finding it damned near impossible to change any of it. Now imagine what a difference it would make if just one of those cards reflected who you truly are.

I’m cis, but thanks to my trans friends, I notice shit now. When I’m filling out surveys and forms, I notice how many forms and dropdown menus give me exactly two options: male or female. I think about what would happen if who I am on the inside didn’t happen to match the genitalia I was born with, and if I’d been saddled with the wrong gender, and had to choose between picking a descriptor that isn’t me, or picking what I am and then having to explain why it doesn’t match the gender listed on my driver’s license. And what if I wasn’t binary? What if there was no choice I could make at all that wouldn’t be a lie? I can imagine how that would make me feel, and I don’t want anyone to have to feel that. Not once, much less on a constant basis.

It’s ridiculous. It doesn’t have to be this way.

I don’t know why we as a society are so attached to outdated notions of gender that we can’t just fix this. Why we can’t accept that there are many genders, not just two. Why we can’t allow people to be who they are. Why we can’t accept that genitals aren’t gender, that gender can be fluid or rigid or anything in between, that there can be women with penises and men with vaginas and people of either or no gender who can have any sort of set. This is not that hard. Adding more choices to the official set, allowing people to pick what matches, should not be such a struggle.

We’re so obsessed with matching junk to gender that we even sometimes force people to go through some pretty intense surgery before we agree to flip the letter on their official ID, and why? Why should it matter? Why do we act as though society would fall apart if we allowed people room to officially be themselves?

It’s the 21st century. Surely we can come up with better ways. Surely we can start with just one official document.

And for those of you who have control over databases and forms, please remember to give people more than a binary choice that’s required to match documents that may not reflect a person’s truth. You can provide that one bit of validation in a world that’s trying so very, very hard to deny a person’s identity. It may seem like such a small thing, but it’s a part of that supportive social environment that’s so urgently needed to bring down the number of deaths. This is one thing we can do.

Image is a drawing of an open wallet with an accordion-fold of cards falling out. The wallet is brown, the cards green.

“One Official Document”

2 thoughts on ““One Official Document”

  1. 1

    I, too, am a cis person who notices the pervasive binary of male/female gender choices, as though those are the only two options… and I see them in places where noneOfYourBusiness is a perfectly reasonable option, because whatever I’m signing up for is gender-neutral.

    I’m a fat older woman with very short hair who tends to casual pants and polos as clothing options; more than once I’ve been addressed as “sir” from behind, turned, and found a blushing person apologizing for addressing me with the wrong salutation. I’m mostly amused by those encounters, but what if they were almost always wrong… and when I turned they WEREN’T embarrassed by the error? That has to be the kind of thing that trans people face, only to a much greater degree.

    I’m no stranger to the Depression Dragon who, at times in my life, has whispered thoughts of suicide in my ear. But my problems are based on brain chemistry and personal history. People whose gender isn’t binary or doesn’t match secondary sexual characteristics have a huge raft of outside influences, in terms of confusion/rejection/ridicule/threats, that give their Depression Dragons a LOT more fuel. The notion of such a dragon stomping around in anyone’s head is frightening.

  2. 2

    Thanks for speaking out for trans and non-binary people! Updating all my ID documents was indeed a huge pain, and as I’m non-binary I’m still erased at every turn. (I transitioned from female to male for legal and medical purposes, but I identify as agender.) I’m actually giving a talk at a conference this weekend (http://whidbeyinstitute.org/event/intersectional-justice/) where I will talk about making forms and spaces more welcoming and inclusive of people of all genders.

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