Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stop Asking - Stop Answering -- Gender (M or F) on Forms

I just made a decision that I'm hoping you'll share.

I was asked to sign up for a listserv for a professional network of people working on international sexual and reproductive health. The form required me to give my gender, and the drop down box gave two options, M and F. I skipped the question, pushed submit, and got an automatic message that I had to answer that question.

I contacted the organization, who basically replied that it couldn't do anything. I told them I couldn't sign up. My gender has no relevance to my participation on this listserv, and I have no need to share it.

To stand with my friends and colleagues of transgender experience, I've decided I'm no longer going to answer gender or sex questions that don't provide another option to M & F. And when they are required, I'm going to write and tell the organization why I can't participate.

If enough of us do it, forms will change -- and people will be educated that the gender binary doesn't apply to all of us.

Will you join me?


voz said...

No, I won't, and here's why.

Cis people (and many white trans women) have the privilege of playing with gender like you do with fairly minimal consequences.

Some of us do not, as this woman who was trying to survive found out the hard way.

Other than flaunt your ability to escape the more severe consequences of such an action and pat yourself on the back, precisely what do you hope to achieve by doing this, and exactly who are it's primary beneficiaries?

I'm speaking here as a trans woman of color who would face consequences that you are immune to for pulling such a stunt, and I'd like to know more about what motivated you to not only do this, but broadcast it.

Richard said...

Hello there!

Would you be up for an interview at some point? You'd be perfect guest for my SEX WISDOM podcast series:

I would have sent this invitation via email, but i didn't find yours here.


Angel Eyes said...

Already have! (and a UU, to boot)

Anonymous said...

Great idea. I always thought that
this was a question that was only relevant in a doctors office. (and
if he/she couldn't tell-----wrong doctor.)

Desmond Ravenstone said...

Fetlife -- a social networking site for the BDSM/fetish community -- has the following options:

Transgender MtF
Transgender FtM
Gender Fluid

While I don't expect every questionnaire out there to include all these categories, it certainly shows what's possible.

Rachel said...

I have already started. Facebook has been trying to get me to identify my gender since I joined four years ago. (They also don't give me the option for my relationship, so I remain "it's complicated".)

BeckyMPH said...

I will. I agree -- there needs to be another option.

Anonymous said...

@Voz: Thank you for bringing up an important point.

Only people who were arbitrarily born into demographics that Western society assigns special privilege to will be safe enough to participate in this kind of protest. It's unfair but very true. I'm glad that you brought this up.

Still, I agree with the original author on some points. I believe that people who DO have enough privilege SHOULD use their special, unfair leverage to get this change made. Even if the means are unsatisfying, I still want the ends.

In the long run, trans people, intersexed people, genderqueer people and anyone else who either gives a damn or just wants a little freedom are all going to benefit from no longer being forced to self-identify as being either male or female in the professional parts of the Western world. It's a stupid thing to be forced to do.

Removing M/F checkboxes would be a step in the right direction, alongside gender neutral public bathrooms and the equal pay movement. I want to see these freedoms created so well that later generations can take it all for granted.