Skip to main content

‘X’ Why? Gender Markers and Non-binary Transgender People

Part of the Ius Comparatum - Global Studies in Comparative Law book series (GSCL,volume 54)

Abstract

Jurisdictions increasingly recognize ‘X’ as a legal gender marker alongside ‘M’ and ‘F’, offering an alternative to those whose gender identity falls outside or in excess of the man/woman dichotomy. This chapter explores the justifications and limitations of ‘X’ as a gender marker, arguing that it does not place non-binary people on an equal footing to men and women since it serves as a single, catch-all option for a wide range of non-binary identities. The chapter the explores the possibility of expanding the availability of gender markers to reflect the full diversity of non-binary people but suggests that it would be rejected as absurd due to the ongoing role of gender markers in preserving cisnormativity. It concludes that abandoning gender markers may be the only fully inclusive option. For gender liberation to come within reach, we must imagine a future without gender markers.

Keywords

  • Gender markers
  • Gender
  • Sex
  • Legal gender
  • Non-binary people

Metaphorically a biorg witch with flowers in her hair. I am presently a doctoral student at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and Joint Centre for Bioethics. I wrote this chapter while at McGill University.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

Chapter
USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-68494-5_2
  • Chapter length: 16 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
eBook
USD   149.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-030-68494-5
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD   199.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book
USD   199.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)

Notes

  1. 1.

    The affiliation section of my first academic publication spoke of me as “[m]etaphorically, a cyborg witch with flowers in her hair” (Ashley 2018a). I keep a list of things I’ve called my gender over the years besides man and woman. In very rough chronological order it includes: transfeminine, demigirl, lesbian, femme, high femme, femme fatale, Patron of Evil Deceivers and Make-Believers, non-binary, Ø, queer, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, don’t know don’t care, aggressively don’t care, no, yes, fairie, alien, alienby, tired, so damn tired, agender, a gender, biorg, witch, bitch, Empressor, The Right Honourable Empressor Florence Ashley, Slayer of Looks and Men, gaygender, activiste insensée, rosebud, this (while pointing at various things), that (also while pointing at various things), good girl, CLiT, eyeroll, themme fatale, a ball of chaotic horny energy, feminazgûl, hot, grrl, shut up, trashgender, little shit, gender malcontent, shitposting, annoying, transgenderqueer, genderqueer, dick jokes, revolutionary nonchalance, spite, rage, hurricane, thirst, lavender smell, flower, flore, flora, force of nature, divine, transcendent, the unadulterated essence of the sublime, cutiegender, tenderqueer, tenderness, deception, tentacles, unfathomable swirling void, abyss, horny on main, Q3, and a gender not listed here. I regularly update the list.

  2. 2.

    Mx., pronounced “mix”, is a common gender-neutral alternative to Mr./Mrs. I personally favour Ind. and Ent. which are respectively short forms of “individual” and “entity”.

  3. 3.

    Yukon Bill No. 5 has received assent but has yet to come into force (Legislative Assembly of Yukon 2017). It will come into force at a time to be determined by the Commissioner in Executive Council.

  4. 4.

    By routine gender categorisations, I mean to exclude gendering that arise in response to sexist oppression, such as non-mixed feminist spaces. Unlike routine gender categorisations, such categorisations are typically not predicated on a view that gender is a natural category and would not retain their raison d’être in a fully egalitarian society.

References

  • Ashley F (2017a) Projet de loi du Parti Québécois : vers l’inclusion des personnes non-binaires? Ricochet

    Google Scholar 

  • Ashley F (2017b) Qui est-ille ? Le respect langagier des élèves non-binaires, aux limites du droit. Service Soc 63:35–50. https://doi.org/10.7202/1046498ar. Accessed 2 July 2020

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Ashley F (2018a) Don’t be so hateful: the insufficiency of anti-discrimination and hate crime laws in improving trans well-being. Univ Toronto Law J 68:1–36. https://doi.org/10.3138/utlj.2017-0057. Accessed 2 July 2020

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Ashley F (2018b) Genderfucking non-disclosure: sexual fraud, transgender bodies, and messy identities. Dalhousie Law J 41:339–377

    Google Scholar 

  • Ashley F (2020) L’In/visibilité constitutive du sujet trans : l’exemple du droit québécois. Can J Law Soc 35(2):317–340

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Ashley F, Ells C (2018) In favor of covering ethically important cosmetic surgeries: facial feminization surgery for transgender people. Am J Bioethics 18:23–25. https://doi.org/10.1080/15265161.2018.1531162. Accessed 2 July 2020

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Barker MJ (2014) 57 genders and none for me? Reflections on the new facebook gender categories. In Rewriting the Rules. https://www.rewriting-the-rules.com/2014/02/15/57-genders-and-none-for-me-reflections-on-the-new-facebook-gender-categories/. Accessed 2 July 2020

  • Bauer GR, Scheim AI, Pyne J et al (2015) Intervenable factors associated with suicide risk in transgender persons: a respondent driven sampling study in Ontario, Canada. BMC Public Health 15:525. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-015-1867-2. Accessed 2 July 2020

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Bettcher TM (2007) Evil deceivers and make-believers: on transphobic violence and the politics of illusion. Hypatia 22:43–65

    Google Scholar 

  • Bettcher TM (2012) Trans women and the meaning of “Woman.” In: Power N, Halwani R, Soble A (eds) The philosophy of sex: contemporary readings, 6th edn. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, New York, pp 233–250

    Google Scholar 

  • Bradford NJ, Rider GN, Catalpa JM et al (2018) Creating gender: a thematic analysis of genderqueer narratives. Int J Transgenderism 20:155–168. https://doi.org/10.1080/15532739.2018.1474516. 1–14. Accessed 2 July 2020

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Bulldagger R (2006) The end of genderqueer. In: Mattilda AKA, Sycamore MB (eds) Nobody passes: rejecting the rules of gender and conformity. Seal Press, Emeryville, pp 137–148

    Google Scholar 

  • Byrne J (2014) License to be yourself: laws and advocacy for legal gender recognition of trans people. The Open Society Foundations, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Cameron M (2005) Two-spirited aboriginal people: continuing cultural appropriation by non-aboriginal society. Can Woman Stud 24:123–127

    Google Scholar 

  • Carpenter M (2013) Ten years of ‘X’ passports, and no protection from discrimination. In Intersex Human Rights Australia. https://ihra.org.au/21597/. Accessed 2 July 2020

  • Collins S (2012) X marks the spot on passport for transgender travellers. New Zealand Herald

    Google Scholar 

  • Comité trans du Conseil québécois LGBT (2017) Politiques transversales: revendications pour un Québec trans-inclusif. Conseil québécois LGBT, Montréal

    Google Scholar 

  • Davis DA (2017a) The normativity of recognition: non-binary gender markers in Australian law and policy. In: Demos V, Segal MT (eds) Advances in gender research. Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp 227–250

    Google Scholar 

  • Davis HF (2017b) Beyond trans: does gender matter? New York University Press, New York

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Dearing R (2017) X marks the spot: Gemma Hickey breaks new ground with gender-neutral birth certificate. CBC News

    Google Scholar 

  • Ferguson JM (2017a) Why I’m applying for a non-binary sex designation on my Canadian birth certificate. Out Magazine

    Google Scholar 

  • Ferguson JM (2017b) I’ll keep fighting until I’m legally recognized as a non-binary Canadian. Huffington Post Canada

    Google Scholar 

  • Ferguson JM (2018) My non-binary birth certificate a victory for trans community. The Star

    Google Scholar 

  • Genderfluid Support Gender Master List. In Genderfluid Support Tumblr. http://genderfluidsupport.tumblr.com/gender. Accessed 27 Dec 2018

  • Genest E (2018) Quebec to be taken to superior court for alleged discrimination against the trans community. The Link

    Google Scholar 

  • Ghattas DC (2015) Standing up for the human rights of intersex people - how can you help? ILGA-Europe & OII Europe

    Google Scholar 

  • Gill J (2019) New Brunswick announces third gender marker for birth certificates. CBC News

    Google Scholar 

  • Grabish A (2018) “I feel like I’m showing a lie”: Time for X gender option on Manitoba ID, says non-binary advocate. CBC Manitoba

    Google Scholar 

  • Grabish A (2019) Manitoba must allow non-binary sex designation on birth certificates: adjudicator. CBC Manitoba

    Google Scholar 

  • Green J, Denny D, Cromwell J (2018) “What do you want us to call you?” Respectful Language. Transgender Stud Q 5:100–110. https://doi.org/10.1215/23289252-4291812. Accessed 2 July 2020

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Hale J (1996) Are lesbians women? Hypatia 11:94–121

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Harrison J, Grant J, Herman JL (2011) A gender not listed here: genderqueers, gender rebels, and otherwise in the national transgender discrimination survey. LGBTQ Policy J Harv Kennedy School 2:13–24

    Google Scholar 

  • Herman JL (2013) Gendered restrooms and minority stress: the public regulation of gender and its impact on transgender people’s lives. J Public Manag Soc Policy 19:65–80

    Google Scholar 

  • Hunt S (2016) An introduction to the health of two-spirit people: historical, contemporary and emergent issues. National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health, Prince George, B.C.

    Google Scholar 

  • Iglesias M (2019) Ni femenino ni masculino: su documento dirá “femineidad travesti.” Clarín

    Google Scholar 

  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Change the sex on your passport or travel document. In: Government of Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/canadian-passports/change-sex.html. Accessed 27 Dec 2018

  • James SE, Herman JL, Keisling M et al (2016) The report of the 2015 U.S. transgender survey. National Center for Transgender Equality, Washington, DC

    Google Scholar 

  • Kassam A (2017) “The system’s violating everyone”: the Canadian trans parent fighting to keep gender markers off cards. The Guardian

    Google Scholar 

  • Katri I (2019) Sex reclassification for gender variant people: from the medicalized body to the privatized self. In: Haider-Markel D (ed) The Oxford encyclopedia of LGBT politics and policy. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  • Knight K (2012) Nepal’s third gender and the recognition of gender identity. Huffington Post

    Google Scholar 

  • Kouri RP (1975) Certain legal aspects of modern medicine. Sex reassignment and sterilization. Doctorat en droit comparé. Université McGill, Montreal

    Google Scholar 

  • Kupila S (2018) In Twitter. https://twitter.com/sakriskupila/status/1029442676003930112. Accessed 2 July 2020

  • Legislative Assembly of Yukon (2017) Bill No. 5: act to amend the human rights act and the vital statistics act

    Google Scholar 

  • Losty M, O’Connor J (2018) Falling outside of the ‘nice little binary box’: a psychoanalytic exploration of the non-binary gender identity. Psychoanalytic Psychother 32:40–60. https://doi.org/10.1080/02668734.2017.1384933. Accessed 2 July 2020

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Matsuda MJ (1989) When the first quail calls: multiple consciousness as jurisprudential method. Women’s Rights Law Rep 11:7–10

    Google Scholar 

  • Matsuno E, Budge SL (2017) Non-binary/genderqueer identities: a critical review of the literature. Curr Sexual Health Rep 9:116–120. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11930-017-0111-8. Accessed 2 July 2020

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • McKenzie-Sutter H (2019) People can choose “X” or opt out of including gender on N.S. IDs. CBC News

    Google Scholar 

  • McLemore KA (2015) Experiences with misgendering: identity misclassification of transgender spectrum individuals. Self Identity 14:51–74. https://doi.org/10.1080/15298868.2014.950691. Accessed 2 July 2020

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • McLemore KA (2018) A minority stress perspective on transgender individuals’ experiences with misgendering. Stigma Health 3:53–64. https://doi.org/10.1037/sah0000070. Accessed 2 July 2020

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Mertz E (2018) Albertans can now choose “X” gender marker on ID cards, documents. Global News

    Google Scholar 

  • Needham D (2011) A categorical imperative? Questioning the need for sexual classification in québec. Les Cahiers de Droit 52:71–106. https://doi.org/10.7202/1005512ar. Accessed 2 July 2020

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Neuman Wipfler AJ (2016) Identity crisis: the limitations of expanding government recognition of gender identity and the possibility of genderless identity documents. Harv J Law Gender 39:491–554

    Google Scholar 

  • OII Germany (2018) Geschlechtseintrag „Weiteres” Ist Kontraproduktiv. In: OII Germany. https://oiigermany.org/geschlechtseintrag-weiteres-ist-kontraproduktiv/. Accessed 2 July 2020

  • Pearce R, Lohman K (2018) De/constructing DIY identities in a trans music scene. Sexualities 22(1–2):97–113. https://doi.org/10.1177/1363460717740276. 136346071774027. Accessed 2 July 2020

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Regina Leader-Post (2019) Marking X for sex designation now an option on Sask. driver’s licence. Regina Leader-Post

    Google Scholar 

  • Rood BA, Reisner SL, Surace FI et al (2016) Expecting rejection: understanding the minority stress experiences of transgender and gender-nonconforming individuals. Transgender Health 1:151–164. https://doi.org/10.1089/trgh.2016.0012. Accessed 2 July 2020

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Roxie M (2011) Genderqueer history. In Genderqueer and non-binary identities. http://genderqueerid.com/gqhistory. Accessed 26 Dec 2018

  • Russell ST, Pollitt AM, Li G, Grossman AH (2018) Chosen name use is linked to reduced depressive symptoms, suicidal ideation, and suicidal behavior among transgender youth. J Adolescent Health 63:503–505. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2018.02.003. Accessed 2 July 2020

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Seelman KL (2016) Transgender adults’ access to college bathrooms and housing and the relationship to suicidality. J Homosexuality 63:1378–1399. https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2016.1157998. Accessed 2 July 2020

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Spade D (2007) Documenting gender. Hastings Law J 59:731–842

    Google Scholar 

  • Spade D (2013) Mutilating gender. In: Stryker S, Whittle S (eds) The transgender studies reader. Taylor and Francis, Hoboken, pp 315–332

    Google Scholar 

  • Spade D (2015) Normal life: administrative violence, critical trans politics, and the limits of law, rev edn. Duke University Press, Durham

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Starks K (2018) Gender markers on Government-issued identification in Saskatchewan: rights, reform, and jurisdiction in shifting legal landscape. Saskatchewan Law Rev 81:213–426

    Google Scholar 

  • Strong W (2017) Transgender N.W.T., residents can now change birth certificates to reflect gender. CBC North

    Google Scholar 

  • The Canadian Press (2018a) Saskatchewan to allow people to remove gender designation from birth certificates. The Globe and Mail

    Google Scholar 

  • The Canadian Press (2018b) P.E.I. becomes first province to offer blank space for gender on driver’s licences. CTV News

    Google Scholar 

  • Thomson Reuters (2019) These 11 US states are now issuing third gender IDs. World Economic Forum

    Google Scholar 

  • Tierney A (2018) This person just received Ontario’s first non-binary birth certificate. Vice

    Google Scholar 

  • Vipond E (2015) Resisting transnormativity: challenging the medicalization and regulation of trans bodies. Theory Action 8:21–44. https://doi.org/10.3798/tia.1937-0237.15008. Accessed 2 July 2020

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Yeadon-Lee T (2016) What’s the story?: Exploring online narratives of non-binary gender identities. Int J Interdisciplinary Soc Community Stud 11:19–34

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Zussman R (2013) Malta Declaration. In: OII Europe. https://oiieurope.org/malta-declaration/. Accessed 2 July 2020

  • Zussman R (2017) The Yogyakarta Principles plus 10: additional principles and state obligations on the application of international human rights law in relation to sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics to complement the Yogyakarta Principles

    Google Scholar 

  • Zussman R (2018) B.C. now recognizes ‘X’ gender marker on driver’s licence, birth certificate. Global News

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Avery Everhart for calling me a ball of chaotic horny energy; Margot Paquette-Greenbaum because she told me to thank her; Nic Rider for their emotional support; and Ido Katri, Zev Miller, River Shannon, and Isabel Cristina Jaramillo Sierra for their feedback and editorial help.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Florence Ashley .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2021 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this chapter

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Ashley, F. (2021). ‘X’ Why? Gender Markers and Non-binary Transgender People. In: Jaramillo, I.C., Carlson, L. (eds) Trans Rights and Wrongs. Ius Comparatum - Global Studies in Comparative Law, vol 54. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-68494-5_2

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-68494-5_2

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-030-68493-8

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-030-68494-5

  • eBook Packages: Law and CriminologyLaw and Criminology (R0)