Archive for August, 2015

Repeating Myself

 

There are a number of sadly typical recurring scenes in my life. For example, here’s one at random:

“Can I get your name?”

“Jane.”

“James?”

“Jane.”

Or here’s another one at random:

I exit a bathroom as a woman walks by. She goes back, looks at the door, and gives me a look again.

These both happen…more than you think. Or maybe as much as you think. That probably depends on your perspective. I could pick a number of other random examples. Most of them are relatively benign, like those. Though I’ve certainly had some experiences that have been outright hostile, most of what I experience feels benevolent in intention. They just want to get my name right. They just want to make sure I find the right bathroom or they are in the right one. That probably owes itself to the ways in which I experience privilege in conjunction with the ways in which I do not. Still, I find I spend a lot of time asserting my identity, always repeating myself.

Here’s another example at random:

I am finally updating my passport. I have a legally amended birth certificate. You’d think that’d be good enough to satisfy the Passport Agency. Changing the name on a passport isn’t all that difficult. After all, cis people do that all the time, so there’s a system built for that. Changing your sex on a passport, though? Since I got a passport with my original birth certificate which had my assigned sex at birth, I require a doctor’s note. At least as far as I can tell from the scant available information online and from someone I spoke to on the phone. Perhaps, after I go in to get that updated, they will tell me I never needed that. But I can’t tell based on the information available, and I don’t want to have to spend even more time dealing with them, so I’m in the process of getting a note from my doctor. The idea behind having a doctor provide that note is that it is inherently difficult for many trans people to update their legal documentation, so there needs to be a way for trans individuals to get accurate documentation. Which is great because that’s definitely true. The problem is that requirement is wielded in such a way that even when people have updated documentation, they still need that if they held a passport that previously had the incorrect sex on it. At least as far as I can tell. Hopefully I’m the exception. That rule should be making a lot of trans folks’ lives easier. That’s the intention. They hold to an interpretation so fastidiously that it ends up making mine harder. There’s a step beyond having those sorts of rules in place. That step is understanding why they are in place and having a more dynamic system, or better yet, not being in the business of acting as arbiters of ideas like sex and gender when no one can really give a good answer as to why they are.

These all come back to a central point. People don’t trust trans people to accurately speak for themselves. Many people only begrudgingly accept who you are once someone official signs off on it, once you’ve done enough to satisfy them, if there’s ever enough. This can’t be who you are unless a doctor agrees. You can’t get this gender-affirming procedure covered by insurance unless a couple doctors agree. You can’t update this document unless you have that gender-affirming procedure. You couldn’t have said that was your name. Are you sure you checked the right box? Are you in the right place? Is this for your spouse? There’s a thin veneer of politeness over some of this. After all, someone could not have just heard me. I could have just checked the wrong box. But it happens to me too much to just be that. And transphobia is so ingrained in the system that many people don’t think of it as inherently transphobic much of the time. But it’s not just direct actions that are transphobic. Transphobia isn’t just something you participate in actively. Like other forms of discrimination, a lot of it is systemic. It always takes a toll. It always takes more time and energy. Every interaction leaves a scar, everything has an extra step.

There are lots of trans people out there doing lots of amazing things despite much steeper barriers than those examples. Still, it’s hard not to wonder what we could do with all that time if we didn’t have to spend so much time repeating ourselves. I wonder how many more of us would still be around if we didn’t spend so much time repeating ourselves. I want to see that world where we don’t repeat ourselves not because we’re inured, but because we don’t have to. That’s a world where you trust us, you support us, you believe us. That’s a world I want to live in, that’s a world I keep pushing for and supporting in the ways I can, that’s a world I want others to live in. If I have to keep repeating myself to try and make that happen, so be it.

 
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