(content warning: gender issues and gender-based violence, no specifics but still may be difficult for some)
Yesterday, the Washington State Department of Licensing held a public hearing for comments on the proposed legislation to add an ‘X’ gender marker option on state-issued ID’s. I chose to go and stand up for all the non-binary, intersex, and transgender members of my communities.
I was blown away by the stories that I heard, and, to be honest, a little surprised that not a single nay-sayer chose to speak up. At the very end a 16-year old high school student, who hadn’t planned to speak, bravely chose to stand up and tell their story …
I made it through all the other testimonies without tears, but to see a student facing the same struggle that I did as a teenager and having the language to understand it, support from adults, and the courage to speak out … Well, that student reminded me why I’m adding my voice to the chorus of change. I’m grateful for that reminder. I won’t forget it for a long time.
I’m also very grateful for the friends there to hold my hand while I cried, remembering the verbal and physical assaults I faced at that age – just for being different in ways that I had no context to understand.
One of those friends recorded my testimony, which I’ve uploaded below. Transcription follows.
I identified as other than the gender assigned at birth since I was very young, and faced discrimination, both when I was younger and as an adult, for that.
In that time, I’ve held senior and executive positions in the tech industry. I’ve seen how a lack of representation, of identification, even in the <hand wave> shining example of the tech industry. It’s affected friends. It’s affected peers. And it’s affected me.
As others have said, it also affects our ability to travel. I used to travel a lot for work [and] I’ve been questioned and challenged at the border because that border agent didn’t think I matched the gender marker on my documentation. I know that affects colleagues of mine.
There’s one more aspect of this that is not particular to the tech industry, but rather affects all of industry.
Because I hid that part of my identity at work for a while, I’ve seen how the fear of disclosure affects people. Imagine, if you will, being intersex or non-binary, knowing that the marker on your identification doesn’t match how you look or how you are, and the fear of that being disclosed to your employer without any legal protection. That potential, that fear affects people. It puts their jobs at risk, and it puts our companies at risk.
I unambiguously support this measure so that legal documentation in our state accurately represents the people that work in our state. This will reduce the stigma and reduce discrimination for intersex and non-binary people.