Quebec recently published what might become the new legal gender change criteria, and these are highly problematic — and controversial — as they would introduce a new 2 year-long real-life experience as a prerequisite for legal sex change, to replace the now-inadmissible surgical criteria. Trans communities were incensed, as it just moves the problem around.
We ask for legal sex change procedures with no prerequisites, only a sworn declaration, a bit like what’s being done in Argentina. But some people don’t get that, and believe that changing legal gender should be a huge ordeal. However, since there aren’t any solid arguments for this, people will bring up various weak objections, which I will answer here.
Note that this is applicable to Quebec. Some of what I say will apply differently elsewhere.
If we don’t put limits, people will start change their identity every other week!
Unless other changes occur, each request will take about half a year of processing and cost a minimum of 134 $, independently from the critiera. That doesn’t count the effort (and potentially, the cost) of changing your name and sex marker anywhere else (on your ID, bank account, and so on). It is virtually impossible to change these more than two times in a year, and prohibitively expensive to do so anyway, so actual gender fluid people will probably stick to the strategies they have at the moment to deal with gender markers.
I don’t know why anyone else would do that and why, and I don’t see why a major advance for trans rights should be blocked to prevent a hypothetical situation that, honestly, will affect no one (at 134 $ a shot, it certainly pays for the administrative procedure itself).
Easier procedures will help criminals who want to hide from the police!
First, you have to swear on the declaration you send to the civil status director. Making a false declaration is perjury. It’s a criminal offense in itself. It’s illegal, just like many other ways one might try to forge a new identity, such as creating false ID or stealing someone else’s identity. It’s just less subtle, as you’d leave a huge paper trail in government records. So yeah, it’s already the case that they don’t have the right to abuse the procedure.
And even admitting that it would be easier than other ways of disappearing (and I would disagree on that), do you really think that someone who would want to keep a low profile would benefit from having non-matching gendered ID? I mean, trans people, especially trans sex workers, have enormous difficulties when they meet the police because of their ID and trans status. So if they do that, they’d better actually transition as well, which only trans people will probably do.
Bottom line is: If a suspected criminal goes through the legal sex change procedure, it’s probably because they are also trans. Trans people are not saints, they’re normal people, so it happens.
What if people change their minds? What if they didn’t think through their decision?
These sorts of objections assume that transitions are done on a whim, and that people might do things like ask for a legal sex change without understanding what it means. It’s fairly patronizing.
First, if someone really changed their mind the day after sending the form, or some weeks or months later, they can certainly warn the civil status director’s people of this and ask them to stop evaluating their case, or to reject it. So in practice, because bureaucracy is so slow, we have a waiting period of a few months before anything important happens. In truth, most people who are just plain not sure what they want will also wait until they are, if only because it costs 134 $.
Second, most trans people who will seek a legal sex change will do so because they want to have ID that matches their identity, i.e. because they are full-time, or working on it, or planning to transition in the immediate future. A trans person who has specific reasons to wait before transitionning will probably start the procedure so as to coincide with their transition — because as a trans woman presenting as a man, for instance, having female ID would create similar dangerous situations as having male ID while presenting as a woman.
When people ask for a new sex marker, it’s because they need it. They know what they are doing.
And if someone does change their mind after going through legal transition (I won’t deny it: yes, it happens, though it’s fairly rare, but no, it’s not necessarily because they took a bad or premature decision), well you just respect their new choice and grant them another legal sex change to help them live in their chosen identity. Why the fuss about making the procedure one time only? It’s just bits of paper and plastic.