Last summer I sent an email to the Transgender Law Center and asked for referrals to a trans-friendly immigration lawyer in San Fransisco. The lawyer I met with was very perceptive, super gay and trans friendly, and his secretary kept insisting on a discount for being “a part of the community” as she was transgender herself. (It is always very affirming to walk into a place and not be afraid of being completely honest, and moreover be respected for who you are.)
I was born in Mexico, and thus, were I to change my legal gender – or rather, when I change my legal gender – it would have to be done there. (Otherwise I would have done it in the US already, since I am ironically well acquainted with the laws here.) Afterwards, that change has to be reflected in all my US paperwork, which is everything a US person might have and more: passport and visas, social security, insurance, credit cards, work documents, driver’s license, cellphone records, and let’s not forget my precious airline miles program, in addition to all my international paperwork. Thankfully this is not the first time the lawyer has done this sort of thing, so he told me it was all very much possible. As far as I was concerned, that was good enough.
Wait – aren’t I forgetting the very first part? How the heck do I change my legal gender in Mexico? Off to do my research then.
Turns out it is luckily relatively straightforward, thanks to a new law, which is only valid for people born in the DF, the capital city. And lucky me, that’s where I was born. Otherwise I’d be really really screwed. The new law essentially states that neither surgery nor hormones are a requirement to legally change your gender; instead, the affirmed gender need only be validated by a psychologist or “sexologist.” But new law or not, I have had surgery, I have easy access to a trans-friendly therapist, and I’ve had some sort of HRT regimen to booth. So, legally, I have a damn good case. Very lucky me.
Legal gender change in Mexico: check. What happens next?
My situation is a bit complex. I also happen to be a citizen of Germany (long story…) with a German passport. Moreover, all of my legal US documents are tied to this passport, a mess I am trying to sort out. The catch is – well, have you read about Germany’s laws regarding a legal gender change? Yeah, that’s the catch. Essentially, Germany has one of the most outdated and, quite frankly, insulting and dehumanizing laws regarding legal gender changes.
For starters, your first name has to gendered – that is, you can’t be Alex, you must be Alexandra or Alexander. Until 2008, the person had to be over 25 and unmarried. Up until recently in 2011 (after I began researching this), you had to be sterile and have undergone genital surgery. Still in effect, your change of name may be voided if you conceive a [biological] child. Not to mention that in my personal case, I’ve only every been in the actual country for like 48 hours.
According to this and several others lawyers, my split nationality doesn’t matter. I can have two passports: one says female, one says male. Big deal!
The thing is, “legal gender” is a social construct, and only as valid as the piece of paper it is contained in. Moreover, each person has a plethora of pieces of paper legally declaring their gender, all of which employ different definitions of gender and follow different guidelines to effect a change of gender. Our very existence deconstructs the very fabric upon which society is supposedly built. So, like many transgender people, I will end up with disparate legal gender(s).
What about a legal name change? Well, I just need to decide on a name!