A while back I ask my fellow bloggers here at ChicagoNow to ask me anything they wanted about being transgender. I was overwhelmed with the response. As time goes on, I will do my best to answer many of these questions.
Jenna Myers Karvunidis, author of High Gloss and Sauce, asked me “What are your thoughts on marriage rights? As a Christian, do you feel the "biblical relationship" espoused by Dan Cathy is right, or as a transgender person do you see yourself as something special, beyond just a regular Christian woman?”
I first want to thank Jenna for asking these questions. Before I answer them, I feel I need to do a little preliminary groundwork. These questions cover a few points. With absolutely no offense to Jenna or to anyone else for that matter, the question can show a common lack of understanding of what it means to be transgender. I have found in my own transition and discussions with friends; many people, Christian and non-Christian, believe that being gay and being transgender are in some way related or linked. What we as a society have to do is separate Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation.
I’m going to get really basic and truly don’t mean to offend anyone’s intelligence, but I have found that approaching these two topics in this way is the easiest for many people inside and outside of the LGBT community to understand the differences. Believe it or not, there are just as many in the LGB community as the straight community that have difficulty when it comes to understanding transgender individuals.
Gender identity is personal. It is who you are as a person, who we perceive ourselves to be. Is your identity male or female?
For far too long, I tried my best to hide who I was. As a guy, I dated girls, I married and father two wonderful children. For all that time, people identified me as male, though this was not the person I truly felt I was. It was not my true identity. It was a life long role I played to try to fit in. For nearly my entire life, I was never really comfortable playing that role of a guy. My brain kept telling me that I was female, not the guy I was pretending to be.
Sexual orientation on the other hand is who you are attracted to. Like a compass, it’s which direction your sexual attraction points. Are you attracted to males? Are you attracted to females? Or are you attracted to both? It doesn’t matter what gender you are to have an attraction to either men or women. Sexual attraction is totally separate from your gender. I know just as many transgender individuals in hetero relationships as I do in same sex relationships.
Now, on to the actual question – marriage rights. This has to be one of the hottest questions Americans and people around the world are wrestling with these days. The best way for me to approach this is from my own personal view and not try to answer this question for anyone else.
I consider myself a heterosexual Christian woman. Do I have dreams of being married again? YES! I dream of being married to an honest, upstanding, strong Christian man. I dream of walking down the aisle in a beautiful white dress. I dream of my daughter and my best friends standing at the front of the church in their lavender gowns. I dream of walking on the beach holding my husband’s hand. I dream of coming home from a bad day at work to the arms of a man that loves me.
But regardless of what my dreams are, they are subject to the marriage inequality that is found state to state in this country. Illinois marriage regulations state "You must show two proofs of age -- one must be a certified copy of the birth certificate (issued by the county, state or country of birth – no photocopies or hospital records) or a valid passport along with one of the following: valid driver’s license, state I.D., draft cards, firearms registration, application for insurance, military I.D. or other documents showing date of birth." Since I do not have a valid passport, which by the way I could have the gender marker as female according to the State Department, I would have to present my birth certificate. Since my birth certificate is from California and the state does not take Gender Identity into consideration and they require proof of corrective surgery prior to changing the gender marker, I would not be able to be married in my present ‘condition’ – regardless that the Illinois Secretary of States office shows my gender as female on my driver's license. Fortunately for those transgender individuals born here, Illinois does take Gender Identity into consideration when it comes to birth records. This state recently changed the laws concerning changing the gender marker on one’s birth certificate. Now if I had been born here, regardless that I have not had corrective surgery, I would be able to have had my birth records changed and thus be able to be married as a woman in Illinois.
It is a slow process of education and statute reform. It is something that needs to be done above the state level. There needs to be national criteria and laws concerning marriage equality. From Texas to New York to North Carolina to Iowa to Oregon to Illinois, the state-to-state menagerie of regulations on who is female or who is male, who can marry who – HAS to end.
My opinion is that everyone has the LEGAL right to marry whom ever they choose and all the legal rights that come with it; custody of children, estate rights, death benefits, etc.
I don't consider myself special. But right now, my future . . . . my dreams depend on these laws.