Monday, September 12, 2016

Keep Your Government out of my Pants

I am gravely concerned about the outcome of the gender and sex information on government IDs and forms consultation, which closes on Friday September 16, 2016. Each of the three themes the consultation is organized around has the potential to enact 'solutions' that are in reality reorganized forms of discrimination. 

Theme 1: collection, use, retention and display
"We need to be more mindful about why information on gender and sex is collected and displayed. To address this, we’re proposing to collect gender information as the default, and sex information only if needed. For example, sex information is required for the Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP)."
In this theme, the ministry has made the mistake of assuming that gender is objective and static. Neither of these descriptions are true. Gender is a social context that has no place on any of our government identifications. I can wake up tomorrow with a different gender than I have today.

Gender is like religion; it is a private affair. You can have one, or more, or none. You can change your gender at any time needing no permission, and the only appropriate way to ask someone's gender is an open ended question, not a choice of predetermined options. Religion is not indicated on our government documents, and gender shouldn't be either.


Theme 2: third gender identifier
"For people who do not identify exclusively as male or female, we’re proposing the use of the letter ‘X’ on ID cards.
The use of an ‘X’ as a third gender identifier has been implemented by countries like Australia and New Zealand. Since Ontario could be the first province to use an ‘X’ as a third category, we will work with other provinces and the federal government to help them understand our policy."
The 'X' is an erasure of gender diversity and a marker of non-belonging. Man, woman, and other are not equal categories of citizens. As noted, gender has no place on any government ID.


Theme 3: consistency in change of gender and/or sex information
"We want to provide a consistent process for people with trans and non-binary gender identity who want to change their sex or gender information displayed on government IDs.
We also want to propose a policy where – once you change your sex information on your Ontario birth registration, you can use your birth certificate to change your sex information for any other government ID or service."
The third theme operates on incorrect definitions of both sex and gender. The idea that gender can be authenticated is false because of the social fluid reality of gender, and the idea that sex can be changed from male to female is false because of the physiological reality of sex. 

All gender identities are legitimate. Only personal consent is required to confirm a gender identity. 

Sex is a physiological designation describing bodies. All human bodies exist on a spectrum from male to female with infinite intersex possibilities in between. Intersex bodies are both born and created. People who chose sex transition use hormones and surgeries to slide their bodies down the sex spectrum, but a complete transition between male and female is impossible; genetic sex markers are present in every living cell of human bodies. 

The practice of redesignating bodies as "officially" male or female is entrenched in antiquated trans-essentialism, the idea that the world exists in men and women, and regardless of the body you were born into, you have the right to choose which to be. The point where "official" sex redesignation occurs is an arbitrary line after which the government considers bodies "man enough" or "woman enough". This point is the where health policy conflates sex and gender. 


In medical practice, human bodies exist in five sex categories: male, female, intersex, FTM, and MTF. FTM and MTF are specific types of intersex bodies. These terms are sexes, not genders. That bodies exist in these five categories is not an abstract argument; it is an observable fact.

The Ontario government has a duty to provide its citizens with healthcare, and to do so prudently, accurate sex designations are necessary. The social fact of gender and the physiological fact of sex lead me to make the following five recommendations to the Ontario government as it considers its administration of sex and gender:
  • Enact legislation requiring all public institutions and businesses operating in Ontario to define and administer sex and gender separately and accurately.
  • Remove sex/gender designations from all government processes unrelated to the provision of health services. Gender identification for statistical purposes should never be required for participation in any public service.
  • Administer five sex categories (male, female, intersex, FTM, MTF) across health policies and on health cards, and allow people who choose sex transition the option between intersex, FTM, and MTF reflecting the reality that sex transition need not affirm binary ideals of gender
  • Remove titles from all official government communications. Titles have gendered, classed, and colonial baggage indivisible from the politics of white respectability.
  • Create preferred pronoun spaces on all government forms. 
 Beyond health service provisions, keep your government out of my pants.

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