Redefining Gender in Mexico City

I’ve always been ambiguous. Yes, I lived in a binary world, but I always pushed against the little boxes. I never went through a “girlie phase.”

When you see a person, how many seconds do you have to make a mental model? Immediately, the first thing you notice — man or woman? But I always had issues with my gender. And when people can’t understand, they get uncomfortable.

One time I was with my brother at some kind of student performance. I was around 10 years old, and there were two girls behind us, whispering, right? I said to my brother, “They’re going to ask me if I’m a boy or a girl.” This happened to me all the time.

My brother said, “O.K., let’s see what they ask.” They said, “What’s your name?” And I said, “Dani,” which is my brother’s name. They looked at me funny, because that name didn’t tell them anything! My brother and I, we left, laughing.

I’ve always been ambiguous. Yes, I lived in a binary world, but I always pushed against the little boxes. I never went through a “girlie phase.”

Gender is a spectrum. Nonbinary. No binario. This word doesn’t exist in many people’s vocabulary, much less in Spanish. Did I feel nonbinary as a kid? Well, no. I didn’t, because I didn’t have the words to explain it. You find a concept that describes you.

In Spanish there is no gender-neutral pronoun. Whenever you speak, you have to give yourself a gender. Estoy cansado. Estoy cansada. It’s very difficult to say, “I’m tired” without gender. You have to say, “I have tiredness.” Tengo cansancio. Sometimes I wouldn’t say the ends of words. I’d say, “Estoy cansad. … ” Or instead of using cansado or cansada, I’d say, “Estoy muy tired.”

At some point I discovered that people transitioned legally. I knew I wanted to change my name, and I said, “Well, if I’m going to change my name, I should change my gender too.”

But why would I do that if I didn’t identify as one or the other? Because I was very uncomfortable with the gender I had legally. Showing my ID, my passport, any legal transaction. . . . It outs you, right? They look at you, and they say, Ah, so that’s what you are. I never wanted to take out my ID. And so you hide and say, “Oh, maybe they won’t say anything, maybe they won’t notice me.” Because you aren’t a person.

In the U.S., you can change your gender on your passport without changing it on your birth certificate. In Mexico, your birth certificate is the root document for everything. To get a passport or driver’s license, you need your birth certificate.

Fortunately for me, I was born in Mexico City, where we have new laws, more progressive, let’s say. If you’re born in any other Mexican state, it’s very complicated, nearly impossible. Often, people establish residency in Mexico City. What you do is sue the Civil Registry. Not to change your birth certificate, but to correct it. You sue them, basically saying, “You made a mistake, a clerical error.”

You needed a lawyer and two medical experts to testify that you were under their care for a year, that you completed your transition. I had to write a life history for the doctors. Then the doctors produced a report, and you had a medical exam and a hormonal profile.

Then you went to a building in the center of the city. I was expecting a courtroom like you have here. No, it was literally in a hallway with desks. A judge, a secretary. I was dressed up, wearing a tie. The first doctor came in, and the judge began to interrogate him. Tell us about the patient. Is this true that he or she is this or that? In theory, there is no specific requirement for medical transition, but they wanted to know everything: Has the patient had hormones? Has the patient had a double mastectomy? Has the patient had a hysterectomy? They focused a lot on sterility, could I have biological children. What they didn’t ask is whether or not I had ovaries. Whether I froze my eggs or not. That doesn’t fit in their heads.

The judge asked: “What is gender? Is it something you feel, or something you perceive?” And I’m like, he’s playing philosopher? Fifty minutes with the first doctor, and only 10 minutes with the second. They didn’t care about him. And me, what do you think they asked me?

Nothing.

I never even opened my mouth. They never asked if I even wanted this. They printed the papers, and I signed them.

That was two years ago. The legal proc­ess I went through in Mexico City, over a year with lawyers and doctors, is obsolete today. Changing your gender on your birth certificate is just an administrative matter now. That’s the new law that passed last year.

My California driver’s license, my Mexican passport, my Mexican birth certificate, these things all changed. Now, do these documents perfectly reflect my identity or not? That’s another question.

Micah, 28, a transgender advocate whose last name was withheld for privacy, petitioned to have his birth certificate changed to reflect his transition. This story was told in Spanish and adapted from a Radio Ambulante podcast to be released on March 11.

New York Times |

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