The legalities of gender variance in its most benign form can be a matter of tedium. This is what I have to cope with–an initial not insubstantial cost to request my first legal change to my name, and from there, just a long series of much smaller requests with much smaller fees. For the most part, my difficulty is discovering the sheer number of databases in which I exist–and in which I must request changes.
Compare that to this trans teacher in Wisconsin. State employees recently had a policy change instituted seemingly without warning on gender designation changes, and now it has suddenly erected onerous bureaucratic barriers that needlessly involve courts and doctors. Perhaps the most insidious requirement is “proof” of gender change–in this case, surgery.
Remember that the Affordable Care Act prevented discrimination from insurers against trans people, and that the provision was removed by a Trump order. Having had no direction to include trans people within their coverage, the State of Wisconsins’s health insurer reinstated the ban on transition-related surgeries. Now trans people have to pay between $15,000-$25,000 out of pocket to get bottom surgery, assuming they even want it in the first place (which most don’t).
On top of that, after yanking out coverage for surgery, Wisconsin is now implementing a requirement for the surgery they just denied coverage to in order to change your documents. Talk about sadistic!
Before I get to discussing the additional demands ETF is making, let me point out a very broad problem, and that is the idea that agents of the state can change one’s legal status retroactively at any time. Imagine, for example, if the state decided that it wished to make it harder for people to get married, and so it imposed a new requirement–that in order to have a marriage recognized, residents would have to provide DNA evidence proving they and their spouse are not related (an expensive prospect). Then imagine that all married state employees were informed that their status had been reverted to single in employment databases and systems, because they had not complied with the DNA test requirement when documenting their marriages. That’s not the way regulatory changes, mundane or shocking, operate–they are applied going forward, but not retroactively.
Now, as for the new procedures for gender transitioning, there are three requirements listed by ETF. The first is that the employee must notify ETF directly, providing their old and new names, old and new gender markers, ETF ID number, and a declaration that they are gender transitioning. Previously, employees notified HR at their place of employment, and employer HR staff changed the gender marker directly in the benefits system. But now ETF will centralize control over implementing transitions, and maintain a database of gender transitioners. In essence, we are being required to register with the state. As a Jewish person who lost extended family in the Holocaust, I find this extremely creepy.
The second thing trans people are required to do is provide “proof of identity,” such as a driver’s license or military ID showing the new name and gender marker. That’s what we had to do in the past, and my wife and I can easily produce our Wisconsin driver’s licenses showing our names and most correct binary gender markers. But now ETF is demanding more.
We are now being required to produce a third item, “proof of gender.” This is very strange, because a driver’s license already provides state-recognized proof of one’s gender. Requiring more serves no purpose other than to make it harder for people to get their identified genders recognized. And the new “proof of gender” items are difficult and intrusive items to get.
Let’s look at the options. One is a court order of gender change. To get one of these is difficult, expensive, and in many states, like Wisconsin, requires a doctor to testify that one has had surgical sex reassignment. Now, some people cannot have such surgery for medical reasons. Others do not want it–they desire social recognition of their identified genders, not a program of body modifications. And nonbinary gender transitioners often find they are denied access to surgeries. But let me underline that in any case, the very surgeries that ETF is making necessary in order to have one’s transition recognized it has also categorically excluded from insurance coverage. My wife and I have been waiting for years to access some surgical interventions that would make our lives easier on many levels, one of which is being able to access things like a court order of gender change. But we can’t afford them without insurance coverage. It’s a Catch-22, and seems deliberately cruel.
All of this contributes to a very roundabout “unpersonhood” of trans people. The retroactive editing of legitimately modified documents is un-fucking-believable and nothing less than a directed attack against us.