Does Sex Matter?

     Does it really matter what sex you are?
     OK, I guess it does in a lot of situations, but should it matter when, say, you’re applying for a passport?
     Should you be disqualified from travel if you check the wrong gender box?
     I wouldn’t have thought so, but a person in Colorado had a hearing last week on his or her or its asserted right not to check a gender box on a passport application.
     It seems that the plaintiff, Dana Zzyym, claimed (s)he would be committing perjury if (s)he claimed to be either male or female because (s)he was born with ambiguous genitalia.
     Longtime readers of this column know that this is the kind of legal dispute that I absolutely love — expensive litigation over causes not worth fighting over for either side.
     On the one hand you have a plaintiff that could have just checked a box — any box — and gone on to international travel.
     I’m pretty sure TSA agents would not check his/her genitalia for accuracy. The court system is not clogged with gender identity perjury trials.
     On the other hand, we have a government that dearly loves to fight for rules, whether there’s any reason for them or not.
     This is from a government brief in the case: “Allowing passports with sex markers other than ‘F’ or ‘M’ would compromise the department’s efforts to prevent identity theft and passport fraud by upending the department’s long-established system for validating the identity and citizenship of passport applicants and requiring the department to rely on less reliable and less uniform identification documents.”
     Less reliable methods than, say, DNA testing, dental records, fingerprints or the really difficult option of examining faces?
     You wonder if they’ve considered looking at photos.
     And how exactly is this gender identity going to be verified? What happens after a transvestite checks the male box? Or a tomboy (or tomman?) checks the female box?
     If you have to strip at the airport to verify your genitalia, how do you decide whether male or female officers get to observe the results?
     Maybe TSA agents should strip first and let the passengers decide who gets to see them.
     You may want to leave a few hours early for your next international flight.
     I think we’d be better off if we stopped identifying people by gender. It’s not important for most jobs — as opposing to, say, being able to do the job — and I could stop writing “her/him” and “his or her.”
     (Quick geek aside: Go read the “Ancillary” series, starting with “Ancillary Justice,” by Ann Leckie, to see what happens when you stop worrying about pronouns.)
     A more sensible identifier would be a badge letting everyone know whom you’re willing to have sex with.
     You’d have an end to gay/straight awkwardness, and instead of arbitrarily banning transgenders or gay people from bathrooms, you could more usefully ban anyone with a badge saying “Turned on by people relieving themselves.”
     While we’re on the topic of identification, consider this sentence from the majority opinion in Veasey v. Abbott, the Fifth Circuit ruling on the Texas voter ID law: “(T)he evidence before the Legislature was that in-person voting, the only concern addressed by SB 14, yielded only two convictions for in-person voter impersonation fraud out of 20 million votes cast in the decade leading up to SB 14’s passage.”
     The court seemed to think this was evidence that in-person voter fraud is not a problem.
     But is it?
     After all, there’s another interpretation: Voter fraud could be so successful that no has noticed it. There could be millions of fraudulent voters — which would explain how all those weirdos keep getting elected.
     A few industrious shape-shifting aliens could change the face (literally) of American politics.
     Think I’m kidding?
     Note the ominous hint in footnote 30 of the Fifth Circuit ruling: “He testified that this fact made his analysis ‘stronger because it does not matter who is in charge of State politics or the political parties in power in Texas, whether they’re Republicans, Democrats[,] or Martians …'”
     It’s in a footnote because we don’t want the aliens to know we’re on to them.

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