Local Issue

Posted by – January 26, 2009

Within a few weeks of me arriving in Appleton, a transgender person named Sierra Broussard filed a lawsuit against a local club for not allowing her in. They checked her ID which still has an M & didn’t let her in. The Post Crescent, the local paper, covered the story.

There were so many comments left on that story that they wrote another story about the lawsuit for Sunday’s paper. The reporter asked for people who were willing to be interviewed, and me and Lynne volunteered.

I wanted to thank Cheryl Anderson, the journalist on the story, for getting across what I had to say. Sadly, however, she called Betty “he.” Unfortunately for Betty, there is enough evidence for me using “he” – from when she had a multi-gendered identity – that I can understand how that happens, even if I said “she” and “partner” throughout the interview. Of course if she met Betty that “he” would never seem appropriate.

I don’t know Ms. Broussard personally, but I do know that the whole “it” thing is unacceptable (as Lynne says in the interview) and that a person who lives as female 24/7 should use the ladies’ room. The legal hocus pocus is what people don’t necessarily understand: that a penis is not really a penis once it’s been on estrogen for even a few months; that genital surgery is not covered by health insurance *and* that it’s very expensive, and to plenty of people it’s just unnecessary surgery – and who wants to have surgery that they don’t have to have? That’s what I meant by education & tolerance; that maybe the average Joe doesn’t know all that’s involved, and that if they knew more, they might not be so quick to criticize the decision not to have genital surgery.

The problem is the legal requirement for genital surgery to change a gender marker on an ID. We have to come up with another way for trans people to change that, because surgery is a ridiculous requirement.

6 Comments on Local Issue

  1. Renee says:

    Interestingly, changing those requirements isn’t something we hear that much about in the community.

    It’s been a personal issue of mine for some time now. Despite living and working fulltime, my employers – who have been wonderful in every other way – still balk at the idea of me using the women’s restroom. They’ve come out and said that when my legal ID says female, that stipulation comes off. I’ve argued that I’ve never seen anyone else carded to use a restroom, that in all my experiences using women’s restrooms genitals have never become a factor, that the state of everyone’s else’s genitals is a private matter so why should mine be so public, and ultimately the difference between me now and me after srs as far as outwardly observable physical characteristics that might impact someone sharing a restroom with me is absolutely zilch. You can see, I’m a bit blue-faced about it, and it’s gotten me no where.

    So, how do we go about affecting this particular change?

  2. SusanK says:

    You raise a good question about the requirement of surgery for changing documents, normally the birth certificate which allows changes to all the other local, state and federal documents. The only common exception is changing drilver’s license, which some state allow changes with less but more states are changing to the birth certificate mandate. And some states still prohibit changing the gender marker.

    But the question which many in the transcommunity support is what you said, lesser standards for changing documents, but no one can define a standard that everyone agrees with and all states will accept into law. The medically established surgery (SRS) is the common demoninator of any standards which establishes the requirement to be female.

    To some that’s morality into law, but what else is there? Where do you draw the line between a legally recognized person as male or female? I won’t argue that being a woman is more than a vagina, and is the whole person’s appearance, behavior, expression, etc. as well as their own identity, but reality expects women to be physically female by birth or surgery.

  3. chicagobree says:

    I think that the mere fact that someone would go to the trouble of wanting to permanently change the designation on one’s drivers license from male to female is probably filter enough. Making such changes would probably not be undertaken lightly, since there is a fair amount of hassle and paperwork involved in permanently changing one’s documentation, names on credit cards, bank accounts, birth certificate, social security card, etc. Think about the piles and piles of identifying information you have. Add to that any associated expense in changing those documents in both time and money and you’ve got a fairly solid guarantee that nobody is going to go to that level of trouble without some serious motivation to do so. Most people are not going to undertake something like that lightly.

    Two objections that typically surface surrounding this issue are the possibility of changing ones identity to commit fraud and the possibility of changing ones identity to female to commit some other violent crime against women, say by exploiting restroom privilege as a female. Regarding the potential for fraud, I believe it is far easier to avoid detection (and thus evade creditors, for example) by simply changing identities to another male identity instead of trying to pull of a concomitant gender change. Transitioning for the sake of “blending in” in the target gender merely for the sake of commiting fraud under a new identity is a fairly ridiculous notion, as you will probably increase the potential for being caught. Regarding changing gender designation to enable commission of some crime, I do not think that the average pedophile is going to go to the effort of changing his gender simply to enable his behavior, and again, the mere process of doing so would call more attention to would-be criminals than they want. The whole idea of commiting a crime in a restroom is to avoid detection.

    So where do we draw the line in the sand? What difference does it make! I say if a person wants to change gender designation on his/her driver’s license, let them.

  4. Jude says:

    SusanK said “You raise a good question about the requirement of surgery for changing documents, normally the birth certificate which allows changes to all the other local, state and federal documents. ”

    Just a small bit of clarification. As someone born in NYC, the requirement for changing my birth certificate (including such things as a post-transition psych evaluation, physical examination by a doctor who was not my surgeon, a detailed surgical report vs. a simple letter) were just too annoying, capricious, and expensive.

    However, I was able to get all my other documentation (passport, SSA marker, state ID, etc.) changed without getting my birth certificate changed. While the state requirements vary from state-to-state, there is no need (at this point) for a modified birth certificate to change federal ID. There is, however, the little bit about surgery for these documents…..

  5. SusanK says:

    Jude, you’re right. The legal standards for f2m’s are different than m2f’s. The former don’t need any surgery, just letters of being and living. Top surgery is an option but usually done for personal reasons. Only m2f’s are required to have bottom surgery for legal recognition and designation as female. I should have clarified this, but most f2m’s don’t usually get into the argument of standards, because it’s rarely an issue.

    I would argue though that the SSA, State (Dept), DOD, and other federal agencies do require a birth certificate (BD) to change the marker. Anything less is a gift by the clerk and outside the regulations. I have heard a number of stories of m2f’s submitting erroneous or false documents to get their BC and federal documents, but that doesn’t change the laws, only their circumvention of them. And when they’re discovered only makes it look worse for the rest of us who have followed the laws.

    I just don’t understand why a woman would want a penis. That’s a personal issue but it seems a walking contradiction when our society expects a woman to have a vagina and I would say most, if not almost all, m2f’s want a vagina to be and feel whole as a woman. I would also argue that SRS should be covered by health insurance and allowed early in the transistion so the issue of gentalia isn’t the problem in their transistion as it is made by the medical community. This would also solve the legal standards issue.

    But that’s my view of things.

  6. SusanK says:

    A followup rereading my post, and some notes. The federal agencies do require a birth certificate to get documents, but can change documents with the proprer documentation, usually a surgeon’s letter, court judgement (gender not name change, etc.) of a change without a new birth certificate, but may request it as verification.

    But I don’t know of any state to date that allows BC’s to be changed for m2f’s without the letters and maybe a court judgement to ensure everything was legal and proper. Again, anything less was either disingenuous by the person or a gift by the clerk, both of which have happened as people want the new documents without going through the whole transistion.

    But that said, my original question, where you draw the legal line everyone will agree with and abide by? While we want it to fit our personal needs and life, we need to see the larger picture of everyone in the community and the even greater world outside who we life and work with everyday. They also have to agree.

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