ID Documents and Employment

It's been a while since identification documents have been a source of stress for me, but I received an e-mail recently from the NIH informing everyone that our paperwork for employment is now being processed by human resources. This is only the second time since transitioning that I've gone through the employment process, and the first time around was a little bumpy. In a nutshell, my paperwork was flagged, and I discovered that it was due to having gender-incongruent identification. Meaning, my gender is male on my driver's license and birth certificate, but female on my social security record. This put me in a position where my trans status was disclosed without my consent and also significantly delayed my start date and first paycheck.

Fortunately, my employer isn't trans-discriminatory and I was able to sustain myself economically longer than I'd anticipated, but the whole ordeal made it clearer than ever how problematic identification documents can perpetually be in trans land.

I never planned to have gender-incongruent identification. When I began my journey, I did so to help my brain sex and body match, not to change gender. My identity isn't deeply embedded in the word "male" or the word "female", which means that I genuinely don't care which gender marker makes an appearance on my identification. I also don't understand why it's important that either is on there in the first place, but that's beside the point. I originally decided that I may as well keep the little "F" gender marker and my birth name, because going through all the court hoopla sounded like a headache.

But, the headache was inevitable. After about 6 months into my journey, various negative outcomes began to weasel in to my every day reality. Having that little "F" gender marker and my birth name on my state ID and debit card made it difficult to start a new job or to even purchase something. I recognized that it would become increasingly difficult to do other things also - like vote, travel, or open a bank account. And after an incredibly uncomfortable incident at a bar involving the contrast between my whiskery face and my state ID, I realized that I was also at genuine risk for harassment and physical violence here in some areas of Utah. I cracked and decided to go through the process of updating my records to switch to an "M" gender marker and a more masculine name (one that I've preferred and used in nerdy online gaming for as long as I can remember!).

I jumped through the hoops and successfully updated my birth certificate and state ID, but hit a wall with my social security record. Each state has different requirements to receive consistent ID, and these differ from the federal requirements - many of which can be incredibly intrusive and burdensome. While I fulfilled the requirements in Utah, the federal government required more than court orders - it wanted proof of surgery, also. This wasn't clearly defined (what kind of "surgery" qualifies? Bottom surgery? Top? Hysterectomy? WTF?), but given my financial barriers, I hadn't yet received any type of surgery. At the time, it was impossible for me to satisfy their requirements.

In turn, I ended up with gender-incongruent identification. Now that I'm presumably in a position to fulfill the federal requirements for changing my gender marker, I'm conflicted about doing so. It's bizarre to me that there are a gazillion institutional barriers that perpetuate the gender binary myth, and I feel uncomfortable playing in to it - especially when there are so many people who don't have that choice. Something doesn't feel... right about it. For me, anyway.

So now that our paperwork is being processed, there may be a problem when processing mine. I sent the organizers an e-mail letting them know that I do have gender-incongruent identification and that it was a slight obstacle when I was hired at my present job. Given that it's a time sensitive process, I hope that being completely transparent and letting them know in advance makes the process smoother and gives everyone time to plan accordingly.

Oh, adventures!


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