Gay Marriage and Gender Transition

I haven’t posted here in a while since most of what I’ve been working on must stay secret for the moment, however I tweeted a couple of things today that I think really deserve a fuller explanation. This post is deeply personal and not at all security-related so if you’re only here for the infosec stop reading now; if you’re still here let’s start with what I tweeted and go from there.

1/2 I now meet all requirements to change my legal gender in the state/country where I live (California, USA) and the country I’m from (UK).
2/2 If I did so, none of the three would allow my happy seven-year-old marriage to continue. I am required to divorce my wife first #crying

Where to start?

I started getting curious about the first point coming back from a doctors visit today. I had just ticked “F” on a form for the first time and was idly wondering when I could change my drivers license. As it turns out it takes a doctor to attest that both my “gender identification” and my “demeanour” are female; that gets me a court order (the same court order as my name change if desired) and everything goes from there. My green card is slightly different, in this case I must get my doctor to attest that I have “undergone clinical treatment” to become female; I actually now have several doctors who could complete this for me despite the short list of accepted specialties. The UK requires me to live as female for 2 years before I “qualify”, however they would likely defer to my US transition and grant it based on that alone.

This came as a real surprise to me. The idea of changing all my legal documents really snuck up on me – I remember reading about it all a while ago and thinking that it was a while before I’d have to worry about it; as it turns out “a while” has passed. This would have made me ecstatically happy if it weren’t for the second part of this.

In the UK there is one additional requirement before they will recognise my gender transition: I must provide the “gender recognition panel” with a copy of my divorce decree. You read that right, I am compelled to divorce my wife of almost 7 years before I can change the “M” to an “F” on my passport. California isn’t even that explicit – proposition 8 simply says “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California”. If I change my drivers license then it’s simply *poof*, my marriage isn’t valid any more. Federally I’m no better off; if I chose to drive across the country my marriage would go from valid to invalid several times along the journey – I guess the same thing happens at high speed when I get on a plane, and I don’t even want to know what the consequences are to any contracts that my wife and I sign given the complexities of where companies are “based” nowadays.

Nobody should ever have to feel like this. I’m upset that the government is forcing me to choose between my gender identity and my marriage; the “Defense Of Marriage Act” is a joke. I’m ashamed of my country, both the one I’m originally from and the one where I currently live – and I’m especially ashamed of California for passing Proposition 8. I’m angry that this is all driven by people’s hatred of each other; some crazy religious folks decided that the brightly-dressed people at Pride shouldn’t be treated the same as everyone else and suddenly my marriage is invalidated against my (and my wife’s) wishes. I’m confused as to how the world could have gotten so broken without anyone noticing, and I’m so very, very sad for everyone else who’s caught up in this ridiculousness.

Somewhere, deep underneath it all, I’m still ecstatically happy that I’ve reached this milestone. It’s been a long time coming and I’m *really* looking forward to being my sparkly-pretty shiny new self for Blackhat and Defcon this year; on a wider perspective I see gay marriage legalising in New York and it gives me hope for humanity after all.

Isn’t it time we fixed this?

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7 Responses to Gay Marriage and Gender Transition

  1. jodyfranklin says:

    I read these tweets last night, and it hit me pretty hard. Like you, it hadn’t even occurred to me that would be the case. Sitting at work this morning and I still haven’t been able to shake the feeling it gave me.

    While I’m not seeking to change my legal gender identity, as my actual identity is too fluid to seriously consider that, that level of complexity to the situation hadn’t even crossed my mind.

    While I can’t offer much more than my sympathies, and at the same time congratulations for making it to this point, you certainly have that, and a hug if we ever meet again. Though perhaps by then it won’t matter anymore, and we can all express ourselves how ever we are comfortable without someone else getting bent out of shape over it.

  2. Chris says:

    Thankyou :)

    I’m glad this had the effect you mentioned – that’s why I wrote it. Most people don’t think of the unintended consequences of things like Prop 8. I can’t blame people for not understanding, it’s all so confusing (even to me sometimes) that it’s usually easier just not to think about it. I have to wonder what the authors of the “DEFENSE of marriage act” would say if they knew how their law was working for me?

  3. diannad says:

    Thanks for posting, you are right, it is all from a bunch of religious people, who express their hatred for others by taking our rights away. Gigantic hypocrites who selectively quote texts that agree with their hatred. They always overlook adultery – it made the top 10 list, but you do not see them going out taking away rights of adulterers. I can’t wait for our country to get back to its roots of separation of church and state.

  4. metablue says:

    One part of me says this is awful and unfair. Another not particularly nice part of me wonders why on earth you’d want to be a woman. Why would you take this on willingly? If I could be a man I’d switch in a heartbeat, as long as I knew I’d retain the knowledge of what it is to be something other, so I that could truly understand what I have to be thankful for.

  5. Chris says:

    I can’t honestly imagine why anyone would go through this unless they absolutely had to. It’s really not a choice – it’s who I am and there’s nothing I can do to change it; everything that comes after that realization is pretty much inevitable.

  6. stevelord says:

    Made an account just to comment here. I think you’re absolutely right that the situation is messed up. Unfortunately your suffering is worse because it comes under several jurisdictions. I have to say that I really find your strength inspiring. If you’ll pardon the obvious unintentional pun, it takes real balls to find out that you don’t want them, and it’s a terrible journey to go through with all of these stupid obstacles, but I hope you make it to the other side. Someone somewhere on one side of the pond said, “Marriage is this”, and on the other side someone said, “Marriage is that”. It really sucks that you’re being forced to choose between marriage and gender identity, it’s something no-one should have to do. It’s blatantly obvious that 5 minutes of someone looking at it could see you obviously love your wife and after so many years of marriage anyway, why should you need to annul just to become a legal woman? Does that mean you don’t love her, don’t cherish her, don’t want to spend every waking moment with her? I’d be absolutely livid in your position.

    Anyway, apologies for the rant. I only heard about you because of my co-conspirator over at 44con. He went to watch you at shmoo and rated you pretty high so I thought I’d check out the blog. I have to say after doing so that I’m glad that I did and that I hope that whatever happens you find the things in your life that make you happy. If you’re forced to make the choice I’d say make the choice, but don’t feel bound to an institution forcing you to make that choice – if you have to choose gender identity or marriage, and marriage is a status conferred by the organisation forcing you to make the choice I’d be inclined to no longer recognise that institution as an authority, go with the gender identity and whatever ‘substitute’ that institution has. At the end of the day in your hearts you’d both still be married and still love each other just as much, and the absurdity of it all just highlights that however forward transgender rights have come, there’s still a long way to go.

  7. Kris says:

    Thanks for the reply, Steve. It’s folks like you who reinforce my belief that I’m fundamentally making the right decision with my gender transition, and that it’s the crazy old right-wing nutjobs who just want an excuse to hate somebody that make it difficult for everyone in my position and similar.

    Things have actually progressed a fair bit since I posted this – most importantly I spoke to a *wonderful* lawyer at ACLU who pointed out that I don’t actually have to choose between marriage and gender identity. Essentially I’m in the process of changing my (California) driving license to say female while leaving my green card and other federal ID as male; there’s no rule saying that I *have* to pick one or the other and apply it universally, so instead I can pick and choose as needed. So, when I get on a plane, check into a hotel, or do any of a million everyday practical things I can use my (female) driving license for comfort; when I file my taxes, sign a contract, get healthcare, or do any other “legal” things that could potentially be impacted by any questions on my marital status I use the “male” ID and sidestep the issue.

    It’s not an ideal solution since I’ll still have to be “Mr Kristin Paget” in many situations for the forseeable future, but it’s a nice little loophole that gets me 90% of the way there and certainly solves most of my potential day-to-day issues. Fingers crossed that we get a good federal ruling in one of the many gay marriage cases over here soon; the UK has also pledged to “fix” gay marriage soon so there’s hope on the horizon :)