Should Transgender People be Able to Change the Sex on Their Birth Certificates?

Should Transgender People be Able to Change the Sex on Their Birth Certificates?

...... ......
On SexIs today, Roland Hulme wrote an article titled "Devil's Advocate: Birth Certificates and Transgender"

His postion...."But I do not agree with letting them change the listing on their birth certificate indicating the sex with which they were born."

He gives a very strong argument. Not that I'm taking sides, I'm just saying he thought it through and did a great job explaining the reasons for his position.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with him?
04/04/2011
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El-Jaro El-Jaro
I completely agree with him in this article. Being sensitive to people around you and staying sex positive is one thing, going back and changing history is another.

His British/American comparison was spot on!
04/04/2011
Jobthingy Jobthingy
LOL i was just coming to see if anyone talked about this yet.

JR said :
"His British/American comparison was spot on!"

I so agree.
04/04/2011
LicentiouslyYours LicentiouslyYours
Quote:
Originally posted by El-Jaro
I completely agree with him in this article. Being sensitive to people around you and staying sex positive is one thing, going back and changing history is another.



His British/American comparison was spot on!
People who are adopted have their birth certificates changed to reflect the adoptive parents as their birth parents, erasing the record of who is actually the biological parent. This has been an established practice for decades ( I can only speak to knowing that it's been around since 1976 when my step-dad adopted me) and nobody really has any issue with changing history in that case. This can happen at birth or at a later date, as in my case, when I was four.

I don't know, I am somewhat "on the fence" with this issue because I know there are people who would benefit from being allowed to do this, but I also feel as if this record of history should be preserved as well.
04/04/2011
Champagne and Benzedrine (Roland Hulme) Champagne and Benzedrine (Roland Hulme)
Hi guys! This is Roland, incognito with my Eden identity as Champagne and Benzedrine. I just wanted to say that I really appreciated SexIs and Eden giving me the opportunity to write something controversial and generate discussion (and disagreement.)
04/04/2011
Ajax Ajax
He makes a lot of good points and I have to say I totally agree.
04/04/2011
Gogojojo Gogojojo
I disagree that birth certificates (or any historical document that reflects gender or sex) *needs* to stay the same for historical accuracy. A birth certificate has always been a malleable document. It is so for various reasons. @Laurel mentioned adoption is one of the reasons that this document can be changed. I haven't read the argument that Roland put forth yet, but I have had this opinion for a while now.
04/04/2011
Gogojojo Gogojojo
Quote:
Originally posted by Gogojojo
I disagree that birth certificates (or any historical document that reflects gender or sex) *needs* to stay the same for historical accuracy. A birth certificate has always been a malleable document. It is so for various reasons. @Laurel mentioned ...
I would add that (after skimming the article) I disagree with the author's positions the birth certificate as a definitive record of a person's sex history. I would suggest reading the work of Anne Fausto-Sterling Sexing the Body to see a thorough discussion of the ambivalent process of sex categorization at birth (and its history in the United States.) The only thing that a birth certificate records is the perception of sex by parents and/or medical personnel at the time of a person's birth. That perception can be invalidated by genetic testing and/or surgery.
04/04/2011
Champagne and Benzedrine (Roland Hulme) Champagne and Benzedrine (Roland Hulme)
Quote:
Originally posted by Gogojojo
I would add that (after skimming the article) I disagree with the author's positions the birth certificate as a definitive record of a person's sex history. I would suggest reading the work of Anne Fausto-Sterling Sexing the Body to see a ...
Hi Gogojojo! I think you have a valid point in the case of, say, somebody born with both sex organs - the doctor would have defined 'sex' at birth based on their judgement. But normally 'sex' is clearly defined at birth. Gender, which we all know is considered separately to biological sex, is discovered or realized later.
04/04/2011
Kat Shanahan Kat Shanahan
Well...okay. I don't know how birth certificates work in other countries, but here in Canada (or at least in my home province of Newfoundland), birth certificates list "sex", not "gender." And I mean..."sex" is what's between your legs, while "gender" is what's in your brain.

A birth certificate obviously reflects what is visibly observed at the time of birth, and as such (at least in my opinion) is accurate. I can certainly see why transgendered people would potentially want to change their birth certificates, but all things considered, I don't think it's....sensible? I don't know if I'm making myself really clear.

I guess it's just that, on a birth certificate, you can't really claim that what's in the "sex" field is wrong, really. That *was* the person's biological sex (and, in the cases of pre-op or non-op trangendered people, might still be their biological sex.) So really, if you look at it that way, changing the birth certificate wouldn't make any sense.

I wouldn't want to say that a transgendered person shouldn't have the choice to do so, but I just don't see the point of doing it, especially when gender has absolutely nothing to do with biological sex.
04/04/2011
Gogojojo Gogojojo
Quote:
Originally posted by Champagne and Benzedrine (Roland Hulme)
Hi Gogojojo! I think you have a valid point in the case of, say, somebody born with both sex organs - the doctor would have defined 'sex' at birth based on their judgement. But normally 'sex' is clearly defined at birth. Gender, which ...
Hi,

I still disagree with you. I would suggest reading Fausto-Sterlings book again because of its discussion of the parameters within which 'biological' sex has been determined via medicine for the past century in the US. It is not as simple as having two 'obvious' (is what I think you're aiming for here) external sex organs. The definition for example of what is a clitoris and what is a penis has been struggled with by doctors and medical researches for several decades. It is only recently that a 'standard' was developed. This is irregardless of how many other 'sexed' orifices a person has. It is more likely that a person will undergo at birth sex assignment surgery because of the length of their clit/penis than any other characteristic. Therefore someone's sex is not 'clear' it is determined. That does not get into a wide host of discussion of what genetically determines sex.

What I am saying is there is a whole host of peer-reviewed and scientifically supported research to the fact that "Biological Sex" is as much a constructed category as "gender." And because neither of these things are 'real' to me I don't see the point in attempting validate at-birth sex assignment by not allowing people trans*/intersex/gender queer to change their assignments based on the sex/gender they would like to be perceived by.

The suggestion of maintaining the birth certificate as some kind of authentic record is to me an inherently failed project because there is nothing inherently authentic about a birth certificate or the sex assignment at birth.
04/05/2011
Gogojojo Gogojojo
Quote:
Originally posted by Gogojojo
Hi,



I still disagree with you. I would suggest reading Fausto-Sterlings book again because of its discussion of the parameters within which 'biological' sex has been determined via medicine for the past century in the US. It ...
And pretend like that was all grammatically correct because I'm not going back and editing it.
04/05/2011
Gogojojo Gogojojo
Quote:
Originally posted by Gogojojo
And pretend like that was all grammatically correct because I'm not going back and editing it.
Also wanted to recommend more on the biology of "sex" author Joan Roughgarden.

Roughgarden,an evolutionary biologist, trained in Biology (M.S., PhD) at Harvard U and now works at Stanford U. In case you want to look her up.

This is the book I that I think is most relevant to this discussion.

2004, Roughgarden, J., Evolution's Rainbow: Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People. University of California Press. Berkeley CA. 474 pp. Awarded 2005 Stonewall Prize for nonfiction from American Library Association.
04/05/2011
Darling Jen Darling Jen
I think they should be allowed to change their sex on their birth certificate. You can have your legal name on it changed, you can have your parents changed (in cases of adoption and the like), and when it comes down to it it's just a piece of paper made by a government to categorize and organize people and has no other historical significance. We don't judge present and past cultures based on their red tape and sorting system and how well they were able to separate people into boxes.

I think, especially as an American way of thinking, that your body, expression, and social identity belong only to you and it's not up to the government or a doctor that examined you after birth to decide who/what you are for the rest of your life. And a man that is born without his genitals or has some freak accident during his life is not less than a man, so why should a transman without genital re-constructive surgery be any less?

I also take it to another extreme by saying that not only is gender a complete social construct but that sex is not binary or static either. There are enough cases of intersexism and sex chromosomal mutations and trans-people to say that we merely choose to see only two types because it's easier to ostracize the different as an "other" to make everyone else feel "right". Besides, we see so many different cases in nature where some species can change their sex or two sexes not even being necessary for reproduction, etc. that we should open our minds up that we're not stuck in little box.

I know few people agree with me but I had to put my opinion out there.
04/05/2011
P'Gell P'Gell
Quote:
Originally posted by Gogojojo
Hi,



I still disagree with you. I would suggest reading Fausto-Sterlings book again because of its discussion of the parameters within which 'biological' sex has been determined via medicine for the past century in the US. It ...
She's right about a lot of this.

If you've ever been in the birthing or delivery room when a baby with "indeterminate gender" is born, you'd know. Some babies are born with what looks like a "penis" with no testes, or what looks like a clitoris (human infants have fairly large clitori when born) and no open vagina, or testes and what looks like a "regular" clitoris. The room gets quiet, the mom starts to freak out, the dad starts to ask questions and then yell. Often, the delivery doctor simply "assigns" a gender according to his whim.

Often, in these cases, unless the parents know enough about the subject, they will go along with the doctor's assignment, up onto the actual situation where the baby will be subjected to a surgical procedure, usually to "make the baby appear female." Often genetic tests are not even done.

It's a travesty when surgery is done without investigation. It used to be believed, and still is by some that the baby will "take on" any gender the parents raise the baby to be. We know this is completely false, and more effort should go into the care of intersexed and indeterminate gender babies than is at the present time.

Some doctors will be honest and say, "The baby's gender is not readily apparent at the moment." And leave the baby's genitals alone (as long as the child can urinate and stool in a healthy way) and do genetic tests and educate the parents to wait before doing anything, or even let the child determine what gender he or she feels is best later.
.
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04/05/2011
G.L. Morrison G.L. Morrison
It's no more appropriate for cis-gender people to sit around and talk about what legal hoops transfolk have to jump through and whether or not they should be ALLOWED the enormous privilege of paying psychologists, judges, and fees for new ID... than it is for an all white group to sit around and discuss what currently legal thing should be repealed or made more difficult for nonwhites.



I feel unclean from just happening into this discussion. Ick!



I won't be going to read Roland Hulme's article which appears to be why he thinks that a Dr or midwife's first glance is more historically relevant than an individual's life experience and how they present themselves publicly.



I'll save my web hits and attention span for reading Buck Angel and Sinclair Sexsmith.



Or maybe I'll write to a bunch of former Jews about how for historical accuracy their driver's licenses should be marked with little gold stars.
04/05/2011
G.L. Morrison G.L. Morrison
Quote:
Originally posted by Kat Shanahan
Well...okay. I don't know how birth certificates work in other countries, but here in Canada (or at least in my home province of Newfoundland), birth certificates list "sex", not "gender." And I mean..."sex" is ...
KittyKat522 said "I wouldn't want to say that a transgendered person shouldn't have the choice to do so, but I just don't see the point of doing it."



Surprise! Your legal sex/gender is not what's between your legs but how you present ie secondary sex characteristics: breasts, beard, etc. This is how we decide who goes where in a sexually segregated society. If your presentation does not jive with your intentional or assigned gender, expect to be: pulled out of a crowd, stopped from entering a woman's bathroom, excluded from the red hat society, a men's hiking group, church overnight retreats. You will also not be allowed to marry, board an airplane or obtain meaningful employment.



Your birth certificate isn't a quaint keepsake they gave your mom as a souvenir. It's a legal document. Changing your birth certificate clarifies for a number of lower level bureaucrats that someone higher up the pay scale has certified that you are legally male/female and it is therefore appropriate to issue you a Driver's License, Passport, Diploma, etc.

I know what a hassle it is to get a Passport with just a name change. I've considered going to the legal expense of changing my birth certificate to reflect my legal name change rather than having to submit a zillion supplementary documentation(s).
04/05/2011
El-Jaro El-Jaro
Quote:
Originally posted by Gogojojo
And pretend like that was all grammatically correct because I'm not going back and editing it.
ha! I totally understand writing up a whole post and then seeing a typo...frustrating!

I love how you site sources!

@P'Gell : I've heard of doctors doing this too, in some cases disastrously so. Too bad that situation is inherently high-stress and most parents wouldn't accept "It's a baby" instead of "It's a girl" or "It's a boy".
04/05/2011
LicentiouslyYours LicentiouslyYours
Quote:
Originally posted by G.L. Morrison
It's no more appropriate for cis-gender people to sit around and talk about what legal hoops transfolk have to jump through and whether or not they should be ALLOWED the enormous privilege of paying psychologists, judges, and fees for new ID... ...
It's a shame you think it's inappropriate for cis-gendered people to discuss these issues...since it's pretty much the only way people can learn or come to understand the point of view for which they have no reference.

I don't think anybody here was being intentionally disrespectful or willfully ignorant, but they are expressing opinion based on their knowledge and experience of the subject.

Perhaps instead of condemning us for it, you might change your tone and politely offer your opinion and contribute to making us less ignorant, rather than shutting us down for trying.
04/05/2011
Gogojojo Gogojojo
Quote:
Originally posted by G.L. Morrison
It's no more appropriate for cis-gender people to sit around and talk about what legal hoops transfolk have to jump through and whether or not they should be ALLOWED the enormous privilege of paying psychologists, judges, and fees for new ID... ...
I agree with you. It smacks of cis-privilege. That being said I (a ciswoman) commented because I didn't see anyone offering challenges to the author's argument and that seemed atrocious to me.

(Note: I don't know the gender history of the author (and could not find that information listed in the article, or his blog.) I assume that he is cis because he refers to trans*people as "they.")

I personally feel like trans*people would (and with good reason) stray away from entering this particular discussion space. To me it seems a hostile environment. Because I would not require, or expect my trans* friends to actually speak in this forum I thought I would offer some of my thoughts as a trans* community ally instead. (Note: I in no way claim to be speaking for trans* people.)

Ultimately I believe this about the issue:

Its really not anyone's business (now or in the future) what another person's gender history is unless they choose to disclose it (for personal and/or legal reasons.) All that maintaining at-birth sex assignment does is force that disclosure on some people.
04/05/2011
Champagne and Benzedrine (Roland Hulme) Champagne and Benzedrine (Roland Hulme)
Quote:
Originally posted by G.L. Morrison
It's no more appropriate for cis-gender people to sit around and talk about what legal hoops transfolk have to jump through and whether or not they should be ALLOWED the enormous privilege of paying psychologists, judges, and fees for new ID... ...
Hi G.L. Morrison - I'm sorry you feel that way. The benefit of being allowed to express opinions in SexIs is to have those opinions challenged - and often have them changed.

There are many things I felt about very strongly about at one point, but then discovered new points of view that made me totally change my mind about them.

Education can't begin without communication and if you feel that cisgender people shouldn't even be allowed to weigh in on the subject, then you've shut off the lines of communication from the beginning and all the cisgender people who have opinions different to yours will never see things from your point of view. Instead of changing things for the better, you've just helped make sure they stay exactly the same as they are now.
04/05/2011
Champagne and Benzedrine (Roland Hulme) Champagne and Benzedrine (Roland Hulme)
Quote:
Originally posted by Gogojojo
I agree with you. It smacks of cis-privilege. That being said I (a ciswoman) commented because I didn't see anyone offering challenges to the author's argument and that seemed atrocious to me.



(Note: I don't know the ...
Gogojojo, I really find it kind of upsetting that you'd consider this a hostile environment for transpeople. Just because I disagree with you on the logic of changing a bureaucratic document DOES NOT make me some kind of enemy of transpeople - and even if it did, there are plenty of people here criticizing my opinion and taking me to task for it.

I support transgender rights. I vehemently support the right of transgender persons to have ID that reflects the gender the identity as, not the sex they were born as, and be able to live as who they see themselves as; not who society SAYS they should be. My point about changing a birth certificate is more bureaucratic than anything else - and not intended to take away the rights and freedoms of any transgender person.
04/05/2011
Champagne and Benzedrine (Roland Hulme) Champagne and Benzedrine (Roland Hulme)
Quote:
Originally posted by G.L. Morrison
KittyKat522 said "I wouldn't want to say that a transgendered person shouldn't have the choice to do so, but I just don't see the point of doing it."







Surprise! Your legal sex/gender is not ...
While we're at it, it's worth pointing out that the people who make the legal decisions regarding the rights of transgender persons - politicians, lawyers and judges - are largely cisgender; so arguing that no cisgender person should be able to talk about the issue kind of ignores that many, many cisgender people ARE talking about the issue.

If you're not willing to communicate with and educate them, you might be very upset about what the end results of their discussions are.

Transgender people deserve equality and respect; and sadly that can't be achieved in a bubble.
04/05/2011
Emma (Girl With Fire) Emma (Girl With Fire)
Quote:
Originally posted by LicentiouslyYours
People who are adopted have their birth certificates changed to reflect the adoptive parents as their birth parents, erasing the record of who is actually the biological parent. This has been an established practice for decades ( I can only speak to ...
THIS. I think it should be allowed, but I think as far as their personal records are concerned, there should always be record of what WAS not only what is.

There are circumstances in which we are all required to supply a birth certificate, how would you like it if that resulted in your mistreatment (lost files, verbal abuse, people being uncooperative) solely based on your gender? This is not something that these people should have to deal with simply because they are trans. If they fear that they will be mistreated because their body does not match an m or f on their birth certificate, I think that they should have every right to change it.
04/05/2011
Champagne and Benzedrine (Roland Hulme) Champagne and Benzedrine (Roland Hulme)
Quote:
Originally posted by Emma (Girl With Fire)
THIS. I think it should be allowed, but I think as far as their personal records are concerned, there should always be record of what WAS not only what is.



There are circumstances in which we are all required to supply a birth ...
I've learned a lot from hearing people's opinions - one of the biggest things being an increasing feeling that the birth certificate is an inadequate document for what it's being asked to deliver on. I view it as a static record of events; but obviously there are things in people's lives (like adoption) that need to be recognized and recorded accordingly. It almost seems like the birth certificate should be concrete - and left to gather dust in a draw somewhere, or phased out entirely - and in addition people are given a 'Certificate of Identity' or citizenship; which is a malleable, living document that can be altered depending on adoptions, gender reassignment or any other event.

THAT is the document used to get a social security card, passport, driver's license and anything else needed; and it is always current to the person's identity at that time; not their birth. Therefore transgender persons could avoid the mistreatment you mentioned.

I still think a birth certificate should remain unchangeable - even, perhaps, in the case of adoption. My mother was adopted, and she considered her adoptive parents to be her 'real' parents - there was never any question in that. But for children who later want to find their biological parents, I think the information should be available to them on their birth certificate.
04/05/2011
Owl Identified Owl Identified
Quote:
Originally posted by Gogojojo
Hi,



I still disagree with you. I would suggest reading Fausto-Sterlings book again because of its discussion of the parameters within which 'biological' sex has been determined via medicine for the past century in the US. It ...
You are wonderful. I am all about you, and this.
04/05/2011
Gogojojo Gogojojo
Quote:
Originally posted by Champagne and Benzedrine (Roland Hulme)
Gogojojo, I really find it kind of upsetting that you'd consider this a hostile environment for transpeople. Just because I disagree with you on the logic of changing a bureaucratic document DOES NOT make me some kind of enemy of transpeople - ...
Well the great thing about being priviliged is not being able to see how environments that seem safe to you might not be safe to others. I know that when I as a Black woman see white men discussing issues that largely effect me personally, psychologically, and/or legally *I* feel that it is hostile. Why, because the people having that discussion have more social power than me (that is their privilege.) That power is operating within a conversation regardless of whether privileged people mean to or not. And the truth is that your opinion is not something widely different from opinions that have been used to subjugate and subordinate the lives of trans* people.

No, you might have the intention of harming a trans* person but you've written an article that is in a public forum saying that you don't believe that they have a right to change the sex on their birth certificate. That has significance. Some trans* people could see this as just another personal opinion expressed by one authors. Others could feel that this is expressive of a sentiment of this community more broadly. I didn't say that you hated trans* people or that you were intentionally being mean. I said that this could be a hostile environment. It could be.

This to me isn't merely a bureaucratic decision, you have the privilege to think of it as such because you are cisgendered and the changing of documentation for sex/gender purposes for you is a theoretical discussion. It will not affect the amount to which you are harassed or policed by your sex or gender. If arrested a corrupt police officer cannot stick you in a public cell (or worse be sentenced to a prison) with the opposite gender to which you define yourself as because its on your birth certificate, and that's your *real* sex/gender and open you up to physical and mental violence.

So yes, I think that this kind of conversation that pretends as if the answer to this question is simply a matter of bureaucratic semantics is a hostile one.

Ultimately to me your answer of having other kinds of social documentation to follow trans* people is a non-solution. If we still hold up the birth certificate as some sort of primary document of identity then there will always be those who will try to go back to it as a means of disrespecting and de-legitimizing trans* identity.
04/05/2011
Gogojojo Gogojojo
Quote:
Originally posted by Owl Identified
You are wonderful. I am all about you, and this.
Why thank you! :0)
04/05/2011
Gogojojo Gogojojo
Quote:
Originally posted by Champagne and Benzedrine (Roland Hulme)
I've learned a lot from hearing people's opinions - one of the biggest things being an increasing feeling that the birth certificate is an inadequate document for what it's being asked to deliver on. I view it as a static record of ...
Do you realize that if that document is lost, at least in the United States, a birth certificate must be produced to have it replaced? If said birth certificate still has the incorrect gender/sex on it then how would one go about 'proving' to a legal institution that the gender/sex that they live by/within? Especially if the institution that they are seeking documentation from is hostile towards trans* identity?

I have had my personal documentation stolen and lost at various points in my life and each time the process to get them replaced has been extremely difficult. I cannot imagine being a trans* person attempting to do the same (especially given that I am from an extremely conservative state that does little to recognize trans* people) with documents that do not match their gender/sex.
04/05/2011
Darling Jen Darling Jen
Quote:
Originally posted by Gogojojo
Do you realize that if that document is lost, at least in the United States, a birth certificate must be produced to have it replaced? If said birth certificate still has the incorrect gender/sex on it then how would one go about 'proving' to ...
I'd have to agree with Gogojojo and Sex & Lies. My anthropological/ sociological/ gender studies educated self just can't help but seeing the inability for them to alter their birth certificate as superfluously discriminatory. I've met, befriended, and dated transfolk so it's definitely personal to me.

You are quite eloquent with your words, though, Gogojojo!
04/05/2011
Total posts: 125
Unique posters: 56