Alex Blaze

In binary-deconstructing news

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 15, 2010 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics, Transgender & Intersex
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Last norrie.pngyear we saw Pakistan approve a new gender class on its ID's for hijras and India allow voters to declare themselves "O" for "Other." Now NSW, Australia, has changed its records on someone to identify hir as nongendered:

The 48-year-old, who was born a man and had a sex change operation 20 years ago, now lives in Australia and last week convinced authorities there to create a genderless option on all official documents.

Doctors recently declared that they were unable to determine whether Norrie's body was male or female because several years after the gender reassignment operation Norrie stopped taking female hormone pills.

This isn't the case of someone who identifies as tg/ts finding a creative way to work around paperwork and documentation; Norrie discusses in great detail hir androgyny and how ze's "psychologically hermaphrodite" (via Zoe):

When I joined the public service after uni, I faced serious discrimination for being androgynous, and had a nervous breakdown.

At this time, I was also doing drag shows in a gay hotel, receiving adulation for my femininity, rather than the disapprobation this received by those in the public service who sought to sack me for sissiness, and resolved to resolve my gender ambiguity by taking transsexual medicine and surgery.

Two years after swapping my penis for a vagina, I decided to go off hormones, so that I could experience my "natural" self, my body and mind without externally supplied hormones.

I also wanted to get in touch with those aspects of myself that had been labelled unladylike, such as the desire to climb trees. I devoured feminist therapeutic texts, liberated myself from sexist stereotypes, and discovered my uncensored unafraid self to be thoroughly androgynous.

I began writing and critiquing the sexist assumptions inherent in transsexual medicine, and identified as psychologically hermaphrodite.

That was nearly two decades ago, and I have become very comfortable being androgynous rather than female or male, and less tolerant of pretending to have a normative gender so as not to disturb others' preconceptions.

When I censor my being to please others, this causes violence to my soul. I have cut my penis and balls off; The cutting stops there; I don't want to cut another part of myself off to avoid conflict.

Allowing the cutting to continue, putting a normative gender on every form that only gives two options, is death by a thousand cuts to my soul.

Speaking out as an androgynous human, I have found much support, both from those who value diversity and humanity, and from those who also like to express themselves in androgynous or gender-bending ways.

Hir full narrative is worth reading in its entirety. There are parts that many of the trans people that I know would find problematic, including Norrie's statement that there are people who change gender identity based on the time of day, that "transsexual medicine" is inherently sexist, and that thinking that everyone identifies as either a man or a woman is "delusion."

Even if the vast majority of people are born with a gender identity that says that they are male or female, that doesn't mean that everyone's reality is quite that simple. And just because some people's reality is outside the binary doesn't destroy or render unimportant the categories within the binary, it just opens the system up.

But when it comes to public policy, it does make one wonder why we even have gender markers on ID. Is gender a piece of identifying information more important than a photo? Well, people can appear as they want to in their photo and in real life, with women with short hair and men with fine feature and full hair, it doesn't always work to help identify people more than a photo would. Especially considering that the gender marker on ID doesn't always match someone's lived gender identity or gender presentation....

The gender marker seems to function just as much as a social status, something that tells people where they fit in the grand scheme of things so that social order is simpler. I can't help but be reminded of this story from back when same-sex marriage was legal in California in 2008:

In May, after the California State Supreme Court ruled same-sex marriage legal, the courts mandated state officials to provide gender-neutral licenses and other marriage forms. "Bride" and "groom" became "Party A" and "Party B."

Bird and Codding have refused to complete the new forms, a stand that has already cost them. Because their marriage is not registered with the state, Bird cannot sign up for Codding's medical benefits or legally take his name. They are now exploring their options, she said.

[...]

And Rachel Bird described her position as "personal - not religious."

"We just feel that our rights have been violated," she said.

To some, the couple's stand may seem frivolous. But others believe "bride" and "groom" are terms that are too important for the state to set aside.

"Those who support (same-sex marriage) say it has no impact on heterosexuals," said Brad Dacus of the Pacific Justice Institute. "This debunks that argument."

Some people really do like having their identity approved of by the government on a sheet of paper, even if it isn't all that useful. That someone can even say something as outrageous as "our rights have been violated" because the government didn't say who the bride was and who the groom was shows how deep this all runs.

More power to Norrie. This seems to be the government of her state allowing in this situation after she put forth a good deal of effort instead of a statewide policy to let people get that marker erased from their ID, which is different from Pakistan and India which I mentioned before the jump.


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I can't help but laugh a little at the language "born a man". I think most males are born little boys, not men :D

While there should always be options for those who do not know themselves to fit under either the sex designations of male or female, or the gender designations of masculine/man or feminine/woman, there are many, many who are happy to keep their sex or gender designations, even if it isn't all that useful.

The impression from reading this site, and others, is that those who find themselves to fit under a more or less gender, and even sex, binary, is that there very existence oppresses those who would shatter it.

It would merely substitute one oppression for another to impose transgression as the norm--in fact, the imposition of any norm should be opposed.

Including transgressive ones.

battybattybats battybattybats | March 16, 2010 11:25 PM

Hi Jessica.

I was one of those arguing for the removal of sex markers on documentation alltogether and as a next-best option this sex-not-specified option in the Australian Human Rights Commissions Sex and Gender Diversity Gommunity Consultation.

The argument wasn't that anyone considering themselves male or female were oppressing those who don't merely by existing. It was that the sex markers on documentation serve but one single daily practical purpose:

Discriminating against people whose presentation does not match the sex-stereotype expectations of whatever official is reviewing the document and using their presentation to assess their genuine identity as the person in the document.

Once every few years it's also used to report to the U.N. on the status of women in the country.. but that data could be gleaned from the census so it's still not needed for that purpose to have an M or F on any identity document.

Then finally there's prisons which are sex-segregated for safety and to prevent relationships inside prisons.. and which ignores the existence of gay and lesbian and transgender and intersex people in that segregation each of which presence in a prison raises the same issues for those prisoners that having no sex-segregation would for the rest so even here there is intrinsic discrimination coming from the sex-marker policies. Now that ones a messier one but maintaining the current system is untenably discriminatory and harmful too. And again that sex segregation if continued in prison could be based on medical tests and not sex markers on identity documents so the harm of them needn't be maintained for the sake of prisons.

As for security and fraud, not only do sex markers weaken security since the advent of female suicide bombers but again being male or female cuts out at best half the entire population so as an identifier it's terrible at saying one individual is who they claim to be.

But if the document says M or F and in the eyes of the official you don't look enough like what they think one should then you suffer undue extra preocess harassment and denial of essential services.

Surely you can see that oppresses everyone based solely on how they look?

Ok so then imagine that if thats bad for effeminate looking and/or dressing men, masculine looking and/or dressing women imagine how bad it must be for bi-gendered and androgynously self-identified people!

And then on top of that remember 1 in 60 people is intersex to some degree! And that some of those are seen as such at birth then forced into one of the two catagories on pretty much a flip of the coin! Now surely those Intersex kids should be the ones to decide for themselves if they are male or female? Or both or neither? And decide for themselves what surgical alterations if any should be made to their own bodies?

And if we expect those kids should make choices about surgery when old enough to be considered legally able to make such decisions what do we do about their birth certificate and other legal documents with sex markers on them?

So for the sake of those kids you can see why at the least there needs to be a 3rd catagory for them to use if they want to right?

And why getting rid of sex-markers on documentation won't actually destroy the existence of men and women just stop the misstreatment of those who don't look like the stereotypes of either to the officials involved right?

This development does not threaten you or anyone else. It's a simple cut-and-dried matter to erase sex markers on documentation alltogther and harming no-one at all.

Well, some think feminism is oppressive. And some also think same-sex marriage is oppressive because, as Alex pointed out, it makes marriage essentially genderless.

That doesn't mean anyone's gender expression is oppressed, it just means it doesn't matter as much. And really your gender would still be designated socially based on your expression. I mean, people can still tell what gender most people are even if it's not on their license.

Interesting. I went to the article and then via a link I went to her site. Other than the fact that she has Yin and Yang traits reversed (I guess that might be on purpose) I found it likable and fairly well written.

i support ALL people in the Gender and Queer communities.i would however, EXPECT them to SUPPORT ME(us)TOO.
this IS troubling.
as is all of the "community" breakdowns of late. but good for GQ people, in getting some of their rights.....!

........"Hir full narrative is worth reading in its entirety. There are parts that many of the trans people that I know would find problematic, including Norrie's statement that there:

' people who change gender identity based on the time of day, that transsexual medicine
is inherently sexist, and that thinking that everyone identifies as either a man or a woman is "delusion." '