What if one day you went into work and your name on everything there is different, your sex on all your records was changed, and you discovered that although you had just gone to the trouble to get everything fixed, you find out that your employer had just gone ahead and changed all of that for you since they didn't agree with the way you went and did it?
What if they'd used a legal argument that held water, too -- so that they actually could do it.
Now let's look into it at a wider extent. Let's say that you followed all the rules your state has for all of the stuff you need to do to correct your sex and gender markers, your name and identification, managed to contact past employers, correct it all there, basically send a couple months putting your life in order, all to have your current employer decide one day they didn't like that and so they go to court and get it overturned.
And, in one fell stroke, your employer has just decided for you your name and sex.
Now, what if all this happened to you? How'd you like it?
Now the bad news. It's happened.
From The Dallas Voice comes this story out of Dallas, Texas, which describes events similarly to the above, and lays it out in a subtitle of
Judge reversed order after transit agency fought longtime employee's gender-marker change last year
For trans people to "come out" is one thing, to come out and then be accepted appropriately is another process entirely, and it's a long, emotionally distressful one where one of the most important milestones -- a trophy of triumph, if you will -- is getting that gender marker changed.
From the article:
According to court records, a transgender DART employee obtained a court order in February 2009 directing all state agencies to correct their records by changing her gender-marker from male to female, including on her birth certificate.
As Dallas Voice reported last week, many Dallas County judges have been routinely granting gender-marker changes to transgender people who meet set criteria -- including documentation from licensed medical personnel -- since the Democratic sweep of 2006.
This is actually not only common, it's been documented in multiple places at multiple times, and is fairly widely known in the trans community. Different places have information on how to change markers, policies and procedures that are otherwise unavailable to the general public (as an example, try to find the AZ government page that has the information regarding the policy to change drivers license marker). In some locations online, this information has even been monetized -- we'll let you know how to do this for a fee.
It is part of the massive information sub-network that trans people have carefully built up, usually through trail and error, over the last 15 years or so.
The article continues:
The DART employee, whose name is being withheld to protect her anonymity, later presented the court order to the transit agency's human resources department and requested that her personnel records be changed to reflect her new gender.
But DART's attorneys objected to the gender-marker change and responded by filing a motion seeking a rehearing in court. DART's objections prompted 301st Family District Court Judge Lynn Cherry to reverse her order granting the gender-marker change.
This is a very striking action on the part of an employer, and even more so on the part of a judge. This is an action that goes significantly beyond the reach of an employer -- it tackles your daily life and affects multiple things both governmental and personal well outside the eight hours a day or so the average working person has to deal with.
I bring this up for two reasons. The first is that all too often people try to gloss over issues like privilege, or racism, or sexism, or transphobia in the LGBT community. It's enough to make me feel as if I have a need to explain it, yet again, to an audience that already has an intimate understanding of one kind of privilege, and could, reasonably, be expected to have a better grasp on racial issues (given the parallels in discrimination) or sexism (given the nature of the discrimination they face).
I think it's already fairly well understood that transphobia is fairly common, and that there is a particularly virulent strain of it in the wider community.
So here's another example of a privilege that most readers here will have that most trans folk do not have. You do not have to worry about having your literal identity taken from you by an employer. Your name, your sex -- they are not the province of an employer in your case, and yet, through the magic of privilege and its intersection with sexism, with heteronormative social pressures, with people who get into their heads that they own you, body and soul, because you still have to go to them and apparently ask their permission to change your records about you.
And this is in the same week when a new UT-Austin/Texas Tribune Poll shows that 63% of Texas voters support marriage equality or civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.
I would love to make an open call for the readers here to take this case on. I would love to make a shout out to the larger orgs like NGLTF and various legal orgs to take on this issue, and find a way to correct the problem. I'd love to see an action item on this particular problem -- a problem that is not solved by ENDA, not affected by DADT, not easily taken care of at all, and yet is essentially required for every single transsexual and a lot of other kinds of trans people just to live their lives as themselves.
And there's the rub. As much as I'd like to do that, I don't think it'll happen. Not because I have doubts about the people here at Bilerico, but because I don't believe that the kind of sustained effort is possible, and that the issue is going to be old news by the end of the weekend, leaving one woman sans her identity, and one employer having decided to do this all on its own.
I feel that way because one thing that I've learned, and that many other trans folk have learned, the hard way, in millions of small personal conversations, is that no one believes that who we are is who we are.
No one "buys into" the whole name change for us -- I still get asked by people "what's your real name?" as if my name isn't my real name, or as if the name I used before that was the name I was born under (which it wasn't). And by a very wide margin, I get that more from within the LGBT than I do without it. And I give out my old name so rarely that tracking me down by it is almost utterly useless.
No one buys into the whole idea of us actually being the women and men that we are. And they say, out of the corner of their mouths, "Oh, but I support you and find your cause is as good as my own" while they say out the other side of their mouth "Well, you were a guy before, right?"
That's what we get -- especially open and out activists, who interact with many of you on a daily basis. Every day. We hear people listen to us, get up, and when they speak to LGBT they mean L and G and B and T, and then they step down and they do the same things to us they always have done.
It is not a game to us. It is serious stuff, and while I'm usually the last person to speak about Identity, this is one case -- one area -- where identity matters. This is who we are.
I will do one thing, one thing important to me, and that's thank John Wright at the Dallas Voice for covering this story, and the editors of the Dallas Voice for at least bringing it to light. I don't know them, never met them, but a couple weeks ago I was there at Creating Change, and there was a lot of talk about trans lives and the importance of trans people to the movement overall, and at least some of that message got through.
Because that's what creating change is about. And I believe in it. I know about it.
But some days, its really hard to believe that others do.