you (yes you!!) should change your ID to X gender

Kirby Conrod
6 min readApr 18, 2022

Hey cis people! You should change your gender marker to X on your legal ID documents.

Uhh why do you say that, Kirby?

Well, the current thing that scares a lot of trans and non-binary people off of getting our ID genders changed to X is that, as it stands, if it’s only (or even mostly) trans and nonbinary people doing it, it ends up being essentially a government list of trans and nonbinary people. Can you guess why we might not want such a thing to exist?

a doodle of kirby (purple hair & glasses) holding up an ID-card with a big X on it, with rainbow squiggles around the card

Okay so how does me doing this help?

A couple ways! Let me enumerate some!

  1. If a whole bunch of cis people get their genders changed to X, then this dilutes the “registry” aspect of the X gender marker on IDs. Functionally, the X becomes more like a “decline to state” option (which it should be — read to the end for my utopian daydream about how gender on IDs should actually work ;). By strategically outnumbering us, you’d be keeping us safer from state surveillance and other ways that the X might single us out for harassment or problems.
  2. If a whole bunch of cis people keep going to the DMV and demanding to change their gender marker to X, then the DMV clerks are going to need to get way better about the whole process. A lot of the time, when we (transes) try to do some paperwork thing (like a gender marker or name change), we spend a lot of time talking to administrative workers who have never encountered this, don’t know how to do it, or don’t have the access and resources they’d need in order to do the thing. Significantly increased demand would force the systems to accommodate, and the process would get easier.
  3. Similarly, if a whole bunch of cis people keep getting their legal documents changed to X, then the sheer fact of “going to the DMV to ask for a X gender marker” will become less of a “let me go into a government building and explain transgenderism to 3–5 people” hellish hoop to jump through. Asking for an X gender marker will not be an indication of transgenderism, it’ll just be a thing that people do.

Um, I don’t want to, paperwork is hard and this sounds like more work than I feel like doing.

Um, okay, that sucks, but I’m not your boss. I wish you would at least spend ten minutes googling what would be required if you wanted to do it in your area, but like, I can’t make you do things. Just don’t do it then, I’ll save these fresh-baked ally cookies for someone more motivated.

I don’t want to get an X gender marker on my ID because I worry it will cause people to harrass me.

Yeah, uh, same! This is sort of a reverse prisoner’s dilemma: the more of us do the thing, the safer it will be to do the thing. We also don’t want to get harrassed and assaulted at TSA checkpoints, borders, doctors’ offices, schools, etc.! Again, I’m not your boss, and I can’t make you do anything. If you genuinely don’t feel safe changing the marker on your driver’s license, then don’t. But do like… meditate on why that is. What are the societal circumstances that make it unsafe to do this thing?

Isn’t this stealing trans valor? / Isn’t this taking away from trans people who need it?

No. It’s not a “transgender” marker on your license. That’s the whole point! Also, the government is not (yet) saying there’s a cap on how many X markers they’ll give out. You getting your X doesn’t take the X away from some poor trans person who needed it more. Quite the opposite!

Doesn’t this dilute the usefulness of X to let people identify how they want?

That’s not what government documents are for! Government-issued ID has nothing to do with “affirming” anyone’s “identity” — if it were, they’d be free to change and would require no more effort than editing your twitter bio. And the hair color on my driver’s license would say purple. Government-issued ID is for governments and institutions to track or account for people in some way. The categories they allow to exist are aimed at that. Trans people who want to change their ID markers to F, M, or X usually are trying to pick the option that we think will minimize the chance of transphobic harrassment or danger we’ll face.

Okay, so what’s the point of sex or gender on IDs at all then?

Good job, you got it! These things shouldn’t be on our IDs or birth certificates or social security cards or insurance cards or anything! If I had sufficient powers of persuasion, I’d be lobbying for everyone to change their ID gender/sex to X whenever possible, as a way of essentially making that information private by default.

Do you know anyone who’s actually done this?

Yeah, my friend and collaborator has! From what it sounded like, it was about the same amount of hassle as going to the DMV always is. I’ll edit this to include a quote or link from them if they say it’s okay :)

Edited to add some questions from readers:

[Why are you] fighting to have an X as an option, [if you] then want other people for whom X does not apply to use it?

→ I absolutely have not been fighting to have X as an option. Every single time someone has asked me about this, I’ve said that neither gender nor sex should be on IDs at all. I’ve gotten this response from a few different people, and I don’t really know where this is coming from, unless by “you” you mean “you people,” in which case I honestly don’t know what to say to that. Why do you assume that I, the author of this post, hold a position that is directly counter to the conclusion of this post?

Would it not be easier for people for whom X applies to select male or female? Hell, pick the one other than the one to which you identify as an act of subversion! Or toss a coin. That makes more sense than asking people to lie and use X even if it does not apply to them.

→ I think it’s fascinating that you say “trans/nb people picking at random or picking counter to their gender = good, subversive… cis people using X = lying, useless.” Why do you think that claiming an X is lying, but claiming something else isn’t?

Anyways, thanks for reading! This is a little bit of a short one because if I imagine any more hypothetical FAQs they’ll start getting either weirder or more depressing, and I don’t want to do that. Feel free to hit me up on twitter if there’s Qs that aren’t listed here that you want my answer to!

If you’d like to read more of my writing about gender stuff, you might like my other posts on medium! (A lot of them are about pronouns…)

  • pronouns 101 and pronouns 102 is about what to do if you’ve been trying for a while, but are still really struggling
  • a post about the phenomenon of implicit misgendering, which is when they/them pronouns and gender-neutral language can be used in a harmful way
  • a post on what to do if YOU want to try new pronouns, but aren’t sure you’re trans

This work is supported by my ko-fi tips. You can also follow me on twitter

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Kirby Conrod

Dr. Conrod is a linguist and scholar sort of at large. They write about transgender stuff, the linguistics of pronouns, and ways to work with your brain.