5 Ways For Trans People To Deal With The Gender Question

The following question recently turned up in the search terms.

being transgender when filling out paperwork wat do u put?

This is a good question, one I wrestle with on a regular basis. I’ve shared my thoughts before on how the gender question should accommodate trans people. But as a trans person faced with completing shitty paperwork, what do you do? A few options for how to answer the gender question.

1. Put what’s most comfortable. If you’re faced with the gender question and one option is more palatable to you, put that. For example, when I’m filling out a form and the options are just male or female, I put male. This works for me. So if a certain option works for you, go for it.

2. Put what matches your other paperwork. In some cases, it might not be an option to put down what you’d prefer. For example, if you are a trans woman whose legal sex is male, it might not be safe or feasible to put down female on official forms. You might not want your paperwork to out you, or it might even cause you problems if there is a mismatch. Sometimes, you just have to put whatever your other papers say.

3. Mess with the form. When you have to choose an option but none of them works for you, and when the form doesn’t carry legal implications, it’s not a bad idea to intentionally mess with the question. On a paper form, you might want to draw in a third box with the label of your choice and check that. One thing I’ve done with online forms that have a write-in option is use it for a comment instead of a label. For example, I’ve seen forms that ask you to choose one option: male, female, transgender or other (write-in). When this happens, I will check “other” and write, “Why can’t I choose male and transgender? As a trans man, I am both male and transgender. Your question implies that trans people aren’t men or women.”

4. Complain.
Once in awhile, it may be possible to speak out and even get the form changed. I was recently filling out a membership survey for a professional organization I belong to. They did the good old, “What is your gender identity? Male, Female, Transgender.” The survey had contact info at the beginning, so I wrote an email explaining why I wanted to be able to choose both male and trans. They sent me a very nice email and changed the form to allow people to check more than one option.

5. Walk away. If the form is not that important, and if you’re forced into choosing from crappy options, you can just walk away. As a grad student, I am always getting requests to participate in research, which often sound a bit desperate. If the study asks me to choose from stupid options for gender, I stop filling it out. I might or might not send an email about it. This is kinda mean, but I confess to deriving a tiny pleasure from knowing that, since they didn’t bother to do their homework on the gender question, they will have to work that much harder to get the sample they need, and they will get no help from me.

How do you deal with the gender question?

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11 comments

  1. Lesboi

    Unfortunately I’ve never had the opportunity to mark anything other than M or F yet on a form. My gym, however, did allow me to not specify gender and I chose that option. Since all my paperwork is still F, that is what I choose most of the time. In the online world where I can be anonymous I always choose M.

  2. johnmitchk

    I’ve done numbers 1, 2 and 5. I also leave the gender option blank, if there’s only two options but the info isn’t obligatory. Next time when I have to fill a non-official paper form, I’m going to mess with it, if it doesn’t have a third option, which I would prefer most.

  3. Clare Flourish

    I hate “Are you male, female or transgender?” It should be two questions: “Are you male, female, other?” and “Are you transgender, cisgender, or other?” If they really need to know.

  4. Kris

    I have getting come across a third option in this country that prides itself on its most inclusive constitution. Sometimes I even find blue forms for males and pink for females. And then I freak out, as my dysphoria flares up. And go with the flow. For now.

  5. genderneutral

    I am yet to get a form giving me a non-binary option of any sort. Historically, I have left it blank regardless of who the form is for. Now I have taken to circling both – M or F or MorF. I enjoy the implications of that and it requires some thought on the form readers part. Tho more often then not I am gendered finally in whatever way the “office staff” perceives me. Frustrating always in the end.

  6. silencecanbeviolence

    I do not consider myself trans, but I really hate seeing only male/female options on forms. I guess I would have to mostly classify myself as cis-female, but I definitely have a masculine side and enjoy gender bending and “playing boy” from time to time. I find it empowering and cathartic.

    I like to catch people off guard by using vague gender labels from time to time. My Facebook is set up to use “their” rather than “she” or “he” as a small form of protest against the gender binary, and again partially just to try and confuse people, I suppose. Is it acceptable to use trans-related gender terms when I don’t consider myself trans? I wouldn’t want to offend anyone of the LGBTQ community… but I DO want to offend the straight ones sometimes. ;)

    • rimonim

      Hi, silencecanbeviolence! Interesting question. What do you mean by using trans-related gender terms? Are you mainly talking using they/them/their pronouns on Facebook? Or something else as well?

      It’s cool to hear that other people are put off by the limited gender options on forms. :)

  7. Pingback: Is It Okay For Cis People To Use Trans Language? | Today I Am A Man

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