Switching saves lives

Switching saves lives

It is really really sad that it is only now, in late 2014, that Malta is seriously considering the possibility of legally allowing people to change their identify documents to reflect the gender they identify with – which is not necessarily the gender they were assigned at birth.

The public consultation on a new Gender Identity Bill that would effectively allow a man who identifies as a woman and a woman who identifies as a man, to have their self-determined gender reflected on their identity documents, was issued by the government only last week and has had its first reading in Parliament.

If the bill goes through, which I wholeheartedly hope it does, it will be possible for transgendered people to make changes to their identity documents without having to go through gender reassignment surgery.

This new law will finally recognize a very fundamental and practical reality – that not all transgendered people want to have reassignment surgery, that most cannot afford it any way, and that their self-determined gender should still be respected regardless.

To date, transgendered people who have not had this incredibly invasive surgery so that their physiognomy reflects their psychological gender, do not have the right to request the Director of Public Registry to change the recorded gender on their documents.

This means that most are living in their self-identified gender, they are cross-dressing and doing their best to ‘pass’, but then having to show up their ‘condition’ every time they need to present formal identification.

Some years ago I lived very closely to this experience, and I can assure you that it’s no walk in the park. I saw how difficult it is for a transgendered person to even be tolerated let alone accepted, and especially those crossing from male to female, face violence and aggression on a regular basis. The last thing these people need is to be forced to go through an expensive and sometimes unnecessary surgery, just to be respected for whom they truly are.

If this bill goes through, the director of Public Registry will only require a notarial deed, including a clear and unequivocal declaration by the applicant that their gender identity does not correspond to their assigned sex in the act of birth, and that they are requesting a change.

Finally, with that, we will fast-forward to the 21st century and have the legal part covered.

Unfortunately though, even with the legal part taken care of, there will still be a long way to go for transgendered people to be fully accepted and included in society.

People tend to reject what they don’t understand, and because most of us never questioned our gender, most absolutely do not get why transgendered people feel and act the way they do.

Besides the legality of it all, the strongest resistance that transgendered people face is when asking others to switch pronouns.

Once they find the strength and the courage to come out, most transgendered people ask those around them to change the pronoun with which they refer to them – from ‘he’ to ‘she’ or from ‘she’ to ‘he’.

I’ve met people who have downright refused to switch because they don’t understand the request. Some blame their resistance on an ingrained habit that’s just too hard to kick.

But when we refuse, or stop short of making an effort to switch pronouns we invalidate that person’s identity – an identity they would have been struggling to let out for years. We’re also telling that person that we don’t respect them at all, that we don’t care enough not to hurt them, that we know them better than they know themselves and that we don’t care if we put them at risk or in harm’s way so long as they don’t inconvenience us.

So, please, if you know someone in this situation, make the switch, and make it today; believe me, it could save their lives.

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