I never noticed that V in my passport. Which is strange, because that one letter determines a large part of my identity: I am a woman. Not very surprising in my case, because that letter fits my feeling. But not everyone gets off that easily. For example, some people are born in the body of a man, but feel female or non-binary. It is only logical that they want to change that letter on their birth certificate.
In the past, as a transgender you first had to see a surgeon; you were required to change your genitals and be sterilized. Transgenders with a desire to have children were left behind. And besides undergoing all kinds of major operations, only the judge could change your birth gender. Fortunately, in 2014 the sterilization requirement and going to court were abolished. A big step forward, but transgender people still depend on others to change the gender on their birth certificates.
To change your gender letter now, you need a statement from your psychologist. And you have to wait at least three months for that. That is not only annoying, but mainly results in unpleasant situations for transgender people. A small example. You’ve just discovered that you feel like a woman. You wear women’s clothing, make-up and have long hair. At Schiphol you get annoying questions from customs officers. That letter M does not correspond to who they envision. “Can you explain that?” So from now on you decide not to travel anymore. And so there are many other situations that you decide to avoid.
That is why it is such a good idea that our government wants to remove that expert statement as a requirement. You have to be able to get from M to V, without the need for such a patronizing piece of paper. The psychologists who have to have those kinds of conversations with transgender people often feel uncomfortable too. Who are they to determine who they have in front of them? Only you – and no one else – can determine who you are. In addition, the definitive change of your letter will only take effect after a 12-week reflection period. So any regrets can undo their change.
This change in the law would make life a lot more pleasant for transgender people. So what can you have against this? Yet critics say, for example, that this does not just solve the problems of transgender people. No shit Sherlock, but every problem that does get solved is one. Let’s deal with the other issues after that, deal? Other critics are concerned that this law could be abused by ‘evil men’. Men taking a V in their passport to harass women… Women’s facilities wouldn’t be safe anymore. These kinds of concerns may sound noble at first: men sneaking into women’s locker rooms, brrr. But those kinds of ghost stories have no basis in science or practice.
In countries such as Ireland and Norway, the expert statement has therefore long since been abolished. And apart from a few incidents, that has not led to a flood of abuse. Blowing up some incidents makes it seem like this is a common problem. Not so. Pretty naive by the way, to think that sex offenders are stopped by a letter in their passport. As if women are safe for this reason alone!?
Abuse must be monitored. And where necessary: intervene. But curtailing trans rights because sex offenders may abuse that right? It’s like denying people a cell phone because of WhatsApp fraudsters. Dishonest and stigmatizing.
It’s not that difficult: with this law, the lives of trans people will be a lot better. Opponents of this law are far from convincing with their irrational fears. Please let facts and practice rule the debate, rather than the gut. In the past, transgender people could hardly determine the course of their lives themselves. Fortunately, that has changed, but we are not there yet. When trans people are no longer dependent on doctors, they will finally regain their autonomy. They can best determine who they are themselves. Just like you and me.