TfTM Blog: Legally Transitioning Part 2 — My ID Gender Marker by MKPosted: July 22, 2012
Continued from TfTM Blog: Legally Transitioning, Part 1 — My Name Change
With 4 months of gender therapy behind me and with my hormone letter (in which my therapist states I have no underlying mental illness and am ready for a doctor to prescribe me testosterone) in sight, I began the process of legally transitioning my gender marker from “F” to “M” on my identity documents. In some states this requires you to have proof of having gone through “sex reassignment surgery” — whatever that means. Usually just top surgery suffices … but I’ll save my rant on why this is an unfair way for the state and federal government to determine a gender transition “complete” (is it ever really over, in some senses?) for another post.
Anyways, in the state of Massachusetts you do not have to show proof-of-surgery in order to change your drivers license/state ID — all you need is for your gender therapist to fill out and sign a gender reassignment document to submit. For efficiency, I decided to change my legal name on my ID at the same time, which actually required me to change my legal name on my social security card first …cue frustration crescendo as the RMV rejects my initial attempt to get a new ID!
After I returned with a new social security card sporting my legal name, changing the gender marker on my state ID from “F” to “M” was one of the easiest legal procedures I ever went through. No one at the RMV even batted an eye and I walked away that day with a temp ID identifying me as male. Similar to legally changing my name, however, I felt unexpectedly thrust into a personal limbo that I had to acclimate to. As it stands, I am currently legally male to the state, but not to the federal government. My state ID shows an “M,” while my social security card, birth certificate, and passport all sport an “F.” To further complicate the gray area, I’m identified as “female” or “male” on the literally thousands of less formal documents, spanning backwards in a paper trail behind me, the most important being my on my college transcript and with my health insurance company. (FYI signing up as “male” with your insurance company will avoid the risk of being denied coverage for testosterone down the road … but might require a sit-down with your human resources department).
I think it would be impossible to go back and literally erase the “F” everywhere it has ever been, if I even considered that arduous task something I’d want to spend my energy on. I’d rather focus on the few areas that will affect my ability to be gainfully employed with benefits. Being able to show my former employers and my school administration the “M” on my new ID might be helpful, but in some sense I still feel like the “me” that exists on paper will always be between genders.
Knowing that I will never again be solidly recorded as either “F” or “M” again is sometimes a strange feeling. In an existential way, it’s made me question “who” I am, as one of the ways I define myself is through being legally identified. Honestly, it’s given me fresh eyes to look at our nation’s whole system of citizen documentation. Why do I even have to jump through so many hoops … can’t I just be me? Further, will it come back to haunt me years from now when I’ve established a life around my male gender? This is part of what will go into my assessment of each new job, degree, social interaction I enter into, and how stealth I need to be. At this point, I’ve personally decided to maintain the least amount of stealth in any given situation, in order to maintain my safety — and not just my immediate physical safety, but also my ability to obtain food, shelter, employment, and social/emotional interaction.
The next step will be to change my passport, which requires a letter from my physician once I have started testosterone, and in very specific language about my being in the process of a gender transition, and a long wait to receive a new one in the mail. Next I will consider the gender marker on my social security card, which cannot be changed until I’ve had a surgery or the law changes. However, because the Social Security Administration no longer issues Gender No-Match Letters to potential employers, I don’t feel a personal need to rush and change it, even though I do intent on top surgery. Lastly, I’ve decided to keep my name and gender marker on my birth certificate the way they were when I was born, in political acknowledgment that not every man was born male-bodied or socialized male.
Post updated on 7-26-12 to reflect my evolving understanding of the Social Security Administration’s Gender No-Match Letter policy.