A Simple Request

I have a simple request, well maybe not so simple, but here goes. I request that the State of Texas change my certificate of birth to reflect my sex as female. I have recently passed a major milestone in my life. I have now lived longer since my corrective genital surgery than I ever lived mis-assigned at birth. Sounds simple enough, but the state of Texas continues to give mixed messages as to my identification.

I was born in a hospital in Dallas, Texas over a half a century ago. When I arrived in the delivery room the doctor counted ten fingers, ten toes and a very small, slightly deformed protrusion. He then ticked a box on a form, and hence I was assigned male. In Texas, that is the end-all and be-all of the sex determination process. You are labeled male for the rest of your days. I have to believe, even if I don’t know of anyone personally, that there are cases where babies born with indeterminate sex characteristics have been able to get the state to permanently change the certificate of birth to their preferred sex. These folks are the lucky ones and may whichever deity they ascribe to grant them peace and a happy life. I am not among these so fortunate.

Although my body would develop female secondary characteristics and lack most male secondary characteristics, the state of Texas continues to refer to me as a male on my birth certificate. I did transition completely to female early in life with the help of the kind folks at the Rosenberg Gender Treatment Clinic in Galveston, Texas. My reassignment surgery was performed by a Texas surgeon at the University of Texas Medical Branch also in Galveston. Of course, none of this means anything to the state of Texas. When I woke up after my surgery, the surgeon reached to shake my hand and say, “Congratulations, It’s a girl!” It did not make one difference, to the state of Texas I will always be the box that the doctor ticked when I was born. End of story.

Having physically corrected my body, I would even be willing to subject myself to the same-sex determination standard that applies to any of today’s new born babies. A doctor could exam me and find ten fingers, ten toes and the presence of labia, major and minor, and then tick a box on a form to assign me female. I am now a female bodied woman. I would like the state of Texas to recognize this.

I make the request of the state of Texas to change my certificate of birth for several reasons. First, the document is no longer accurate or truthful. Second, I would like to marry and stay married to a man. Lastly, I would like legal recognition and closure as the female bodied woman I am.

I am a woman, I have always been a woman and I will always be a woman. Though my body was categorized as male has really nothing to do with the fact that I am a woman. Science has confirmed that everyone has a mental body map. Mine is that of a female. When I close my eyes and picture myself if has always been of a girl and now a woman. I have gone as far as medical, technical, practical and theoretical science can go to match my physical body to my neural body map. If it were possible to grow or transplant ovaries and a uterus, I would. Had I been born two hundred years from now, I could possibly correct my chromosomes. Alas, I’m here in the twenty-first century and must be satisfied with our limitations.

I know that there are many in the transgender community who are now rolling their eyes, putting palm to face and exclaiming, “She’s pulling the ‘I’m more woman than you are’ card.” For those

who prefer to remain non-op (it doesn’t matter the reason) or those who claim that it doesn’t matter what is between your legs, I say run along. It does matter; and yes, I am more of a female bodied woman now than I was before the reassignment surgery. Females do not have functioning testicles and penises. Males do not have functioning ovaries and uteri. If they do, they do whatever it takes to correct this problem. This was true in ancient Rome, this was true in early eastern cultures and it is true today.

The second reason for making this request is for the right to marry a man, and remain married as husband and wife. The Texas courts have upheld the ruling that you are what you were assigned at birth; and the Texas constitution states that marriage is between a man and a woman. In 2009, Texas passed a family code to try to clarify its position on post-operative persons standing, but this has only confused the issue. One county will allow me to marry a man based on the Texas family code while another will not because it is a same-sex coupling.

Because of the state of Texas’ policy of you are what you were assigned at birth, I can only marry another person who was assigned as female at birth. On the face of this it would appear that Texas is okay with same-sex marriage, but that is not how they see it. It is still a union of a man and a woman. They could both be wearing the most elegant wedding dresses or the happy couple could appear in the most dapper of tuxedos and the state of Texas would see this as stunt.

I believe that person’s of the same-sex have a fundamental human right to marry. They deserve the same rights and privileges as persons of opposite sex couples to live a life of happy nuptial bliss. I do not want to have a same-sex marriage. I want to be able to marry a man of my choosing as a loving wife. Many LGBT activist including Lambda Legal have tried to discount my concerns by stating that once we have achieved marriage equality then the point would be moot. I disagree; I would still be recognized as a male marrying another male. Not the dream wedding I was planning.

In addition to the act of getting married, there is the problem of staying married. If my husband should decide that this marriage is not working for him, and if we are not in agreement, then he can easily file for an annulment claiming that I am not really a female and that same-sex marriages are illegal in Texas. Also, as discovered by Nikki Araguz, if my husband should pass away, his family can claim the same and discount and devalue the love and life that we had built together.

If the state of Texas would grant my simple request to change my certificate of birth to female and remove all references to a male past then the issue for women of transsexual history would be solved. I know that this would do nothing for the LGB’s and transgender of the state, but I would still be an ally and stand for what is right.

The last reason I make this request of my home state, though there are plenty that I could go on with, is for the hope for closure of this issue. I have been on a long, winding and costly journey to come into my own and this is one of the remaining items that hang over my head. The state of Texas had no problem in changing my driver’s license to female. The US government had no problem changing my Social Security or my passport.

When I request a copy of my current certificate of birth, it will arrive as a document in three parts. First the original document from the time of my birth; second, a document to append my record to reflect the name change to Marilyn, and lastly, a document to correct my record to change the sex from male to female.

I first thought that the correction made on the third document would be enough to satisfy my request. Sadly, after consulting a Texas lawyer that is a transsexual legal expert, she informed me that this is not the case. In Texas, I’m still what I was assigned at birth – A male.

Texas is a state of rugged individualist. To this day we Texans pride ourselves on going it our own way and doing it without help. One would think that my journey would be embraced and supported. I have since left my home state for the liberal bastion of the northeast United States.

What am I going to do to enable this? I intend to continue to make this simple request again and again until things are made right. I intend to write several letters on the Transsexual Independence Day – a set to my representatives in my new home state and a set to the elected leaders of the Great state of Texas. I will continue to donate to transsexual legal defense and education organizations.

I also plan to start opening up about my history and speaking out where I can. I don’t think that I’ll ever be a leader for the cause, but I want to be more visible to let people know that a normal person with a transsexual history deserves to get respect and understanding.

The Reality of Passing Privilege

I want to state right here at the start of this that passing privilege is a real thing and it is something that one has or one doesn’t.  It is not fair nor is it something to be discarded.  It can be a tool to help transitioned individuals ease into a normal existence or a weapon used to alienate people with real pain and suffering.

Recently, there has been a hue and cry about the differences between those who claim the transgender identity and those who choose to restrict themselves to the transsexual identity.  There are political, social and personal merits to each sides leaning’s, and I’m not addressing the plus’ and minus’ of each argument.  I am going to attempt to address what I believe is the reality of passing privilege.

During some very heated online debate around the transgender/transsexual issues, there was a claim made that the transsexual contingent want separation from the transgender contingent because of a perceived passing privilege.  I search around different online resources and I found many varied descriptions, but none that I would call definite.  The main understanding I have of these descriptions was when a person who was “assigned a gender at birth” is successfully operating in social interactions as their target gender.  Whether that target gender is the same assigned at birth or after a transition to the opposite assigned at birth.  So, even a cis-gendered person would be considered to have passing privilege.

The claim of passing privilege hurled at transitioned transsexuals seems to imply that they are behaving with an air of superiority or elitism toward individuals who do not believe they have passing abilities.   While some transitioned transsexuals may indeed have an air of superiority towards those that may not pass so well, it is not due to a perceived passing privilege.  I believe that no one who has transitioned from an “assigned at birth” gender to a target gender has accepted a passing privilege.

The process of transitioning itself ingrains a deep sense of “otherness” which never dissipates or resolves.  To internalize a privilege and act socially as the benefit of that privilege, one must believe that the attribute of that privilege is real and permanent.  A transitioned transsexual, at least none that I’ve talked to, will never truly internalize the privilege of passing.  We are always at the alert for the possibility of being “clocked.”

Let’s look at the concept of privilege and compare a couple of privileges.  The ever popular online Merriam-Webster defines privilege as a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor.   Although, I’m sure that many other definitions can be found, let us stick with this one.  I like this definition because is states that privilege is granted.  It must be given, and therefore it must be accepted.   In the context of this article, privilege is seen to be cast as a haves and have not dynamic.  Either one has privilege and exercises it or one does not.

A couple examples of privilege that we can look at is male and white privilege.  I believe that this would be a right or immunity granted to males or white people as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor of their sex or race.  This particular form of privilege is seen as birth right, and the “assigned at birth” male baby or a white child was granted this by simply being born.  Whether this privilege is acknowledged or taken advantage of by the male or the white child is up to that child, but one thing is certain, a cis-gender male or Caucasian rarely questions their maleness or whiteness.

These individuals that I’ve described can happily move in and out of social interactions and conduct day-to-day activities and never stop to think about the dynamics of those interpersonal relationships.  Their privilege is ingrained and expected to help them set the expectation and roles for the interaction.  This is neither good or bad, but all parties must agree to participate.

I have a couple real world examples.  Imagine a person who is early in her transition from male to female.  This young woman has difficulty passing and is repeatedly questioned on her gender and sex.  She walks into a local coffee-house to purchase a hot beverage.  As she walks up to the counter the person behind the counter actually retreats.  The salesperson looks the customer up and down and with a sneer asks what she wants.  The rest of the interaction is stilted and awkward.  This person does not have passing privilege.  This person will continue to suffer the prejudicial and discrimination attitudes based on appearance and assumptions.

Now imagine this same person many decades after transition was completed.  It has now been many years since she has been questioned on her gender and sex.  She again decides to walk into a different local coffee-house still looking for that perfect hot beverage.  This time as she walks up to the counter she is greeted with a broad smile and a hearty willingness to serve.  This time she is granted passing privilege and the transaction is completed with ease and to a satisfying conclusion.

This now older woman certainly remembers the last time she entered a coffee-house many years ago.  She is still on her guard, and is expecting the same reaction she received.  She will always carry the pain of the previous encounter.  It is more than this transaction, she carries this reality on a daily basis.

This is the main point I’d like to get to (finally).  Even if we truly have a passing privilege, we can never expect or take advantage of that privilege.  If the person who has male or white privilege is ever put into a situation that his maleness or whiteness is questioned on a daily or hourly reality, they will never again be able to believe in that privilege.

This is the same with transitioned individuals, we may in fact have a passing privilege, but we can never truly believe that we completely pass.  So, in my opinion, it is wrong to hurl a claim of passing privilege at person who restrict their identity to transsexual.  We do not believe for a moment that we can pass completely, and we have all been at some time or another un-passable.

We all are in the same place.