Wednesday, March 17, 2010

gendered documents and third sexes

On May 13th Australia, after going through considerable bureaucratic red tape, changed an adult birth certificate to "gender not specified" and may well change their passports as well. In light of this development, and the US census this year, I think it is important to talk about gender on official documents. Pretty much every document in pretty much every country require us to check of one of two boxes, any variation on that is not an option. For intersexuals, this forces us to lie on these documents. To be recognized on these documents would be a major step forward for intersex rights and greatly legitimize our issues. It would also be interesting if we were counted in the census, the sheer numbers would show we are more frequent then most of the world realizes.

I'm not a huge fan of the term "gender not specified" since it sees intersexuals in term of lacking. This may not seem like a major issue, but the language we use to describe things shapes perception (for evidence of this look at African Americans and homosexuals reclaiming words that were used to hurt them, taking away their power, or the PC push for gender neutral wording for jobs traditionally seen as male).

Using the term "gender not specified" is a cop out. It allows for the existence of intersexuals, but doesn't take that to its logical conclusion, the existence of a legitimate third sex. I think most gender nonconformists would agree with me that a recognized, acceptable category to but them in would be a major step forward for them. I am not suggesting a major social reorganization or revolution, just an honest recognition and acceptance of reality. If it is in our documents, that is a good first step.

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