For most intersex and trans people in the US today, the very process of governmental recognition is simultaneously a process of erasure. This was true even before the Trump administration’s latest threat to narrowly define gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, and it will only be exacerbated if the proposition moves forward. In partnership with the Department of Education and the Department of Human and Health Services, the Trump administration seeks to genetically test trans students and require this documentation for college and federal student aid applications.
Our lived experience as Black nonbinary transmasculine people illustrates this process of erasure. We both elected to change our gender markers from female to male, which was not only expensive, tedious and time-consuming, but required us to discard core parts of our narratives in order to become “legitimate” to the state. Our experience is not uncommon, as many trans people must jump through similar bureaucratic hoops to be recognized by the state.
Trans people must present linear narratives before courtrooms and state and federal officials in order to obtain the necessary documents to participate in public life. Yet the US government has never fully recognized trans people, particularly those without proximity to wealth and whiteness. The trans rights movement’s conflation of tolerance and limited state recognition with liberation has prioritized the most privileged members of our community and left the most marginalized trans people vulnerable.
As working-class students at the nexus of Blackness and transness, our decision to change our gender markers was not a desperate appeal to the government for recognition, but a necessary safety measure. The police state has a track record of surveilling Black and trans communities, and as members of both, we know the threat of state-sanctioned violence only increases when “outed” by identification documents that do not…