Conservative MP Maria Miller, who chaired the recent Transgender Inquiry, has called for official documents to be degendered. She claims that gender markers have no place on identification such as driving licenses and passports as they serve no real purpose, and that they cause issues for the transgender community.
Miller has called for the government to ‘strip back’ discussions about gender unless it is absolutely necessary, saying that gender leads to biases in things such as job and university applications.
‘As a society and a government we should be looking at ways of trying to strip back talking about gender, and only do that when absolutely necessary.’ She said in an interview the the Time. ‘We need to understand that gender stereotyping can be as damaging for men as it can be for women.’
‘For people who have decided to transition but haven’t necessarily got the right documentation, it can cause problems. Why do we need gender on our divers license? Why do we have to have it on our passport if it really doesn’t add identification? It’s not relevant. Australia has decided to degender their passports.’
It should immediately be noted that Australia have not degendered their passports at all, but have added a third gender option of ‘X’ for those who do not wish their gender to be listed, or feel that they do not fit into the male or female categories. Whilst this does help transgender and gender non-conforming people, it is certainly not degendered as Maria Miller is trying to make people believe.
Since the news of Millers asking the government to scrap gender markers there has been a lot of debate around the subject already. Some people are supporting the proposal, agreeing that gender markers hold very little purpose on official documents. These supporters are even going so far as saying that you don’t need to include gender because you don’t include religion or sexual orientation on these documents either.
Whilst in a lot of cases gender means very little on ID’s towards proving you are who you are, for transgender people it can be extremely important to have these gender markers on your official identification.
There are many transgender people who will at one time or another face challenge over who they are, they will be denied recognition of their gender and their identity. For these people, being able to produce an official document that clearly states whether they are male or female can be a very easy way to bring any discussion over the legitimacy of their gender to a close.
Having their true gender listed on a passport or drivers license can help them in difficult situations, it can validate who they are, it can shut down naysayers and abusers. It can do a lot of good. Removing gender markers from these ID’s can actually take away these opportunities though.
Imagine if someone is trying to deny a trans woman access to a women’s only space, stating that they don’t believe that she is female. That trans woman can produce her passport or drivers license, show that she is female and hopefully defuse the situation. But, imagine if she produced these documents, but they do not list her gender, then it won’t help against that person denying her access at all.
The problem that transgender people face isn’t that they have ID’s with their genders listed on them, it’s that changing your ID’s so that they display your correct gender is so difficult for a lot of trans people. Which is something Maria Miller should have learnt through the trans inquiry.
If there are problems for trans people getting their correct gender on their ID’s because the system is too difficult or it’s stacked against them, the solution isn’t to scrap the whole thing, but to make changing gender markers easier for people.
There will be people who argue that scrapping gender markers is the best solution, that in the long run it will help trans people, but I personally think that having those gender markers are important tools for trans people to prove and justify their genders and that losing them will put trans people at a disadvantage.