I hate it, every single time. Name, sorted. Then… clunk. Sex – M or F. Sod.
It seems like an easy question, right? For most people it is. For me, it should be an easy question. I live and identify unequivocally as female. I’m not a genderqueer person for whom the very either/or question is wrong. So why the rising sense of panic?
The problem is this, my birth certificate says I am male, my gender presentation is female. They do not match. Until I can afford expensive genital surgery, I cannot change the marker on my birth certificate. No matter what I put, in a cissexist world, I am situated as a liar.
A small example: Imagine you went to the hospital, with stroke-like symptoms (it was later found to be “complicated migraines”). Because you want to actually be treated, you do not out yourself as transsexual. When the triage nurse filled in the forms, he puts female, and you leave it there. All is fine, the doctor for once treats you seriously, possibly because of the presence of your mum, aunt and cousin (quick lesson you learn when dealing with doctors while trans: there’s safety in cis scrutiny. Bring your mum or your partner with you into the examination room).
Fast forward to a week later, and I’m (sorry, you) at a neurology department to see a specialist to organize an MRI, when one of the reception people comes out to see you and starts screaming that you’re a GODDAMN LIAR because your forms say I’m female but some quirk of the computer system has found your birthdate and surname and pinged up an old treatment from when you were six. Because of this, they decide that your name isn’t real either, and it takes three trips to different departments with your changed birth certificate (changed in name but not in sex). In the end, they put a post-it on your file, with your name, your legal bloody name, in quotation marks like it’s a fucking nickname. And these are the people who are supposed to help you.
Now imagine what happens in an emergency situation.
Imagine you’re me, six months before this, and you’re young and naïve and full of stupid, figuring that putting M will help them you treat you better (ha!), checking yourself in to see a doctor because you’re struggling to breathe. And the dude takes one look at your forms and your barely passing self, and refuses to enter the room. He just stands there at the edge, asking you to holler symptoms at him, and you sit there knowing that if you collapse, this man will pause and debate whether to save you or not. This is what happens when forms, bodies and cis prejudice collide.
Now imagine what you do in a Customs line when you enter a country. Imagine you’ve heard from acquaintances who’ve been turned away by the US, or that worst-case-scenario lurking at the back of your head about Homeland Security issuing a memo about “cross-dressed terrorists.” What do you put then? What do you wear then? How do you present?
Imagine how vulnerable you feel. Driving (what if a cop pulls me over). At the bank (what if they think I’m trying to scam my own money). At the doctors. At school. At work. At anywhere they want a piece of ID, anywhere they want you to tick a box that divides humanity into two. Anywhere they want you to fill out a form. Confess, little tranny girl, confess. Tell them what in their minds what you “really” are. Or else. And they’ll get you anyway.
Because it’s not likely to be a problem for most of y’all, this is something that I’d wager the average cissexual person has rarely to never thought about. That tiny little box is the epicenter of governmental interest, of laws, of bureaucratic guidelines. Lawsuits are fought over the right to change the letter in that little box.
This year, the State of Illinois refused to allow two trans women who’d had gender confirmation surgery in Thailand the right to change their documents, because it didn’t occur in the US. Last year, in Australia, one state refused to let two trans men change theirs because they hadn’t been sterilized (no more Thomas Beatties for us please!). This little box is a political battleground, one that we trans people are fighting on for the right to not be outed at every single crucial moment of our lives. In essence, to have our identifications treated as real, as worthy of respect as yours.
For those of you who “don’t believe in gender” (as I’ve heard some feminists say) – I’ve got news for you. Sex and gender are always with us, on every form, every piece of ID. And every confrontation where someone scrutinizes your ID is one where they measure your gender presentation against your legal sex, to check to see if they match. So sure, you can not believe in gender, and maybe if you clap your hands real hard, it’ll disappear, but I fear it will be with us for some time.
*note It’s sad that I need to do this, but after my first thread.. This post is not an excuse to ask any random question related to transsexuality that’s currently bothering you. Any such posts will be edited to say “I am a panda.”
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