Back in October, 2014 I saw this NY Times story pop up in my feed and given the current state of affairs in several states that are currently battling the “bathroom bills” where the box that’s checked at birth dictates what bathroom they use now, I wanted to explore this in further depth.
“Essentially, why should the gender-binary male/female even be an option when someone is born and, therein, virtually mandating how that child should be raised within the confines of that gender marker?”
One of the people discussing the issue suggested simply removing the sex/gender marker from birth certificates all together. Essentially, why should the gender-binary male/female even be an option when someone is born and, therein, virtually mandating how that child should be raised within the confines of that gender marker? Granted, more and more parents are opting to raise their children with either no gender preference or at least educating them about all the varieties of gender identification. Even if their child opts to remain comfortably within the specific marker assigned at birth they are still educating them to be accepting that there is more than just male or female in our world. But is it actually important to permanently mark a person’s gender upon birth? I can’t really think of a reason where it would be required. Undoubtedly there will be folks who would oppose the overall removal of that check box, but on what grounds would there be a legitimate reason to keep it? Why “brand” someone who hasn’t even developed yet? Even if the parents opt to fully identify the child as one gender and even if the child eventually decides they want to live comfortably as their “born” gender, what is the purpose behind marking it on the birth certificate?
This brings up the question of the necessity for the gender-binary male/female check box on any other form you may encounter in life. The only thing I could even possibly imagine where it would be somewhat important to know one’s “birth” gender would be for medical purposes, as there are different medical needs and risks depending on gender. If someone is MtF they should be treated just like every other female patient, but there are inherent risks such as prostate cancer. Please pardon my ignorance about the MtF process, but I believe a prostate is still present post-op and, if that is the case, wouldn’t it be important for a medical professional to know? An FtM pre-top surgery could be at higher risk for breast cancer or there may be ovarian cancer concerns. If a hysterectomy wasn’t performed then there’s even risk of pregnancy as we’ve seen come to light on a few occasions. Beyond some medical needs, I’m unable to see justification for that box existing and even in such circumstances one doesn’t need it on a form as it can be a conversation between doctor and patient.
“A more appropriate question would be simply “how do you wish to be identified” with a little line afterward to manually input your gender identifier.”
A more appropriate question would be simply “how do you wish to be identified” with a little line afterward to manually input your gender identifier. This could be done simply enough with the Mr./Miss./Mrs./Mx. option prior to writing your name, but for the sake of a world where most people don’t pay attention, a quick question about gender identity should be enough and forgo the male/female box entirely as it now becomes more gender inclusive.
Before I started HRT, I would periodically come upon this dreaded box. Most times I would skip over it entirely, but was never sure if someone would check mark it later. On some occasions I would scratch out the question in full, while in other instances I put male – AFAB since my insurance information insists on maintaining my gender as female despite my identity being otherwise. Despite my best efforts to illustrate that their questions are no longer fitting, too many medical offices (and insurance companies) still see only the male-or-female only options.
What are your thoughts? Does the world need to know your gender on a piece of paper or should it be restricted to just a conversation between you and your doctor? What valid reasons would there be to having a gender identifier on a form? I’d love to hear back from my readers, so make your comments below.