What does it mean to have your very identity denied not just socially, but legally? A new video from the Open Society Foundations lays out just a few of the costs.
Watch it below.
The two-minute short, titled “No Government Should Be Able To Decide This,” was released alongside the report “License to Be Yourself,” which documents some of the most progressive transgender rights laws in the world—and shares the strategies that pro-equality activists used to get those bills passed.
Near the beginning, the video’s narrator says that your identity is “the lens through which you process your reality, and nobody is capable of understanding your identity like you.
“So imagine what it feels like to have your identity denied, and to have somebody else assign you an inaccurate one.”
The video continues, “It’s not a hypothetical. It’s a reality transgender people face every day.” Perhaps even worse than the social aspect, though, is the legal issue: “When their birth certificates, ID cards, and passports don’t reflect the gender they live, those documents don’t work. And if those documents don’t work, it’s much harder to travel, to register to vote, to enroll in school, to get health care, to get a job, or even to open a bank account.”
In addition, living as one gender while possessing documents that identify you as another can give you away as transgender, which can lead to anything from job discrimination to being the target of violence. For many transgender people, that reality is one more reason to continue living a lie—or maybe not continue living at all.
Not every country allows transgender people to change their gender marker on all—or any—of their legal identification, and of those that do, the process is “a constant reminder that they can’t be recognized as themselves without someone else’s permission. In order to change their name and gender on legal documents, transgender people are forced to go to unnecessary, demoralizing, and often impossible lengths.
“In some countries, this process even requires psychiatric confinement or forced sterilizations. These extreme demands strip transgender people of their basic human rights and leave them labeled as something they’re not.”
Even among transgender allies, there are some controversies around the best ways to solve such dilemmas. The “License to Be Yourself” report notes that it “does not suggest that one size fits all,” but advocates that “no person should have to undergo surgery or accept sterilization” in order to be recognized as their true selves.
As the video states, “It’s impossible to condense the complex notion of identity into a single, unchangeable M or F.
“Allowing people to change that letter recognizes that they know themselves better than any government—or anyone else in this vast universe—ever could.”