Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Am I Married?

The Legal Blackholes of Being Transgender

A friend of mine has been arrested and charged with perjury for "lying" about her gender on her marriage license. She has yet to undergo her surgery, though she lives fulltime in her desired gender. Thus physically - and legally - Mishell is male. And her application to marry Anita was fair and honest. The case continues and, thankfully, the ACLU is assisting her defense.

I'm not going to go into all the specifics of their case, but I raise the story as an example of how we create holes in the law in so many instances. I married in 2002, then transitioned in 2004 (with my wife's support) and had surgery in 2005. While most transitions result in divorce, many do not. Am I married? To whom will Mishell be allowed to marry? If not to Anita, then to Arthur?? We have witnessed marriage nullification in three different states - Florida, Texas and my neighbors of Kansas. In each case, the person had transitioned prior to the marriage. But in each case that came before the courts - Michael Kantaras in Florida for a child custody issue (which was later amicably resolved), Christie Lee Littleton for a wrongful death suit and J'Noel Gardiner for estate inheritance - the court found a tortuous way to declare the marriage invalid. Nevermind that, also in the eyes of the laws of those states (since all three allow transgenders born in their state to obtain "corrected" or "amended" birth certificates and driver's licenses in their desired genders) they were legally who they said they were.

Just how would you legally, authoritatively, prove your gender? Take a peek? Sorry...we have pretty nifty surgical techniques these days. Birth certificates? As I said most states (47 out of 50) allow post-surgical transgenders to fix that. Passport?? People who travel overseas for their surgeries can obtain a "temporary" passport in the desired gender prior to surgery to effect safe passage, then obtain a permanent one once they return following surgery. Ah..genetic test!?!?! Nope...we are not all XX females and XY males. In fact, there are XY women and XX men and any number of other genetic variations that result in what is called an "intersexed" condition. (Hmmmm...just who would they be allowed marry without perjury charges???).

Our legal identification - all lawfully accomplished - can identify me as BOTH genders. I am allowed to change my birth certificate - but not required to do so. If I don't change it, it will still say "Male" even though I've had surgery. I am allowed to change my gender designation with Social Security after surgery - but not required to do so. Thus it would be eminently possible to have lawful, legal identification in both genders. If I were to ever marry again, would I be allowed to marry a Man or a Woman - I can't be denied marriage completely. Our marriage laws - as restrictive as they are - only say One Man/One Woman. Fine (though I don't support this discrimination) I to be the "Man" or the "Woman" in the eyes of the small town District Attorney who is pursuing my friend? I don't want to face perjury charges - and possibly four years in jail - if I get it wrong.

Say a prayer for my friend.

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