Here’s to Another Year of Legally Being a Man

This year marks my fourth year of being a feminine catastrophe. The society around me sees a statuesque young woman. Nice cashiers tell me my lip gloss looks cute. My girlfriend tells me I shouldn’t be funny because, “maybe you missed the memo, but girls aren’t supposed to be funny.” Everything is the way it should be.

Except my paperwork still claims that I’m some fucking guy. And convincing people otherwise is becoming increasingly difficult.

This guy and I have…a lot of history

I used to see him everywhere. His presence was keenly felt during dysphoric episodes about my self worth. But thanks to injections and social support, I’ve expunged him from my life. Nothing but an uncomfortable, fading memory.

No, I didn’t murder anyone.

Even though certain people claim that transition is tantamount to killing a past self.

And so what if it is. If my past self succumbed to feminist course readings, memes, and a flattering skirt (this happened), then he lacked the mental resilience for this fast-paced world. So, fine. I didn’t just kill my past self. I upgraded him. You’re welcome.

I’m moving on, but he still shows up

Not wearing some dude’s skin was great for my mental well-being. I was lucky enough to transition alongside loving friends and good healthcare. The world saw a bright woman named Summer after only a year and a half.

The only thing that lagged was paperwork. I’m South African. On a good day, our country can be (charitably) described as nearly functional. We’re gripped by rolling blackouts, water shortages, rampant corruption, and climate change. If it’s not E. coli in tourist beaches, it’s our public healthcare straight up dying. In my city, showering daily is considered a privilege.

If that’s not enough, let me tell you about our bureaucracy. Last year, we learned that our country of nearly 60 million people has a single machine to print driver’s licenses. How did we find out?

It broke.

It fucking broke and left a backlog of 350 000 licenses.

So, yes. I’m lucky to live in a place where my trans-ness isn’t a national ‘debate’ and I can transition. That’s a low bar, but still imperfect. When the country’s license printer (singular) is busy dying, gender marker changes aren’t high on the list of bureaucratic priorities.

That means the government and everyone who has my government paperwork (tax bureau, banks, landlords, health insurance…) still think I’m a dude. They live blissful lives using paperwork issued at my birth in ’94. I was barely born in ’94 (and I have the papers to prove it).

This leads to laughter and anxiety in equal measure.

Funny: Clerks have asked politely for my ‘husband’, Mr. Tao because they can only provide confidential info to him. My fault for signing my emails with ‘S. Tao’ and having a perky Chinese girl in my avatar. Emailing back with the old address and photo resolves it.

Scary: Checking into flights. I have to explain why one document shows a woman labeled ‘Male’ and another shows a guy who looks nothing like me. But they share a legal name and ID number. I’ve never met a ‘concerned’ enough clerk who’d hold up the queue to call a supervisor, but it’s a persistent fear.

Funny: Customer service reps often need to speak to ‘Mr. Tao’ directly. So I make a show of calling him over, and jostle some stuff at my desk. Then I hop back onto the call in my masculine voice… masquerading as the man I murdered (with love).

Scary: I had a routine traffic stop where the cop was flirting with me. Gross. Horrible. I sweated a river and hoped he was too busy hitting on me to notice the ‘M’ on my driver’s license (the fuck?). He was. I escaped without further issues. Now, I’m really afraid of routine traffic stops.

Funny: Someone checked my ID once and asked for clarification about the mismatch between my listed gender and my… me. I dropped to my masculine voice and asked, “Is this good enough verification?” He handed me my ID and let me pass without a word. Why strive to be part of the chaos when I could be chaos.

Scary: If I die in the near future — and being trans with a respiratory disability and eating disorder, it’s possible — I’ll be memorialized as a guy. And not just any guy. A guy who used to think that women only dated losers instead of ‘nice guys’ like ‘him’. That’s an awful legacy to leave, to say nothing about the disrespect of being memorialized incorrectly.

But he’s not a bad person, and he’s not the problem

Legally being him has been a learning curve unlike any other. I look forward to the day I can see alignment between my personhood and bureaucracy. I love paperwork and order. I’m a nerd. I want that congruence. But it’s out of my control. Living with this inconsistency has both been easier than expected, and more hurtful than I’d prefer. My chances of living a balanced life never began or ended with paperwork, of all things.

Still, it’d be nice if states and the people who make them cared a bit more about the girl mislabelled as a guy.

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Summer Tao

Summer Tao is a South Africa based writer. She has a fondness for queer relationships, sexuality and news. Her love for plush cats, and video games is only exceeded by the joy of being her bright, transgender self

Summer has written 40 articles for us.

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